Things to know about Effective Microorganisms (EM)


Sharon Ingersoll

Try to memorize the odor of EM while it is still fresh. As the dormant microbes awaken from exposure to air, heat and light, they gradually become active and their composition is compromised. 

You will see two things happen in this process:
The lactic acid is the first to become active and will create a white film at the top of the liquid. This is OK. But other microbes awakening follow this process.
The photosynthetic bacteria are the last to awaken and when they become active your EM will take on a sharper, more pungent smell. This happens anywhere from 3-4 weeks up to 6 months depending upon storage.

Store in the coolest environment available (preferably about 50 degrees), in a closed container away from light. Of the three elements that awaken the dormant microbes, light is the most influential, then heat, then air. I like to store the bulk of my EM in a bladder where the air can be expelled, and place this in a cool, dark environment. I keep a 2-4 oz bottle of EM beside my kitchen and bathroom sinks, and a small halve oz bottle in my purse (great to add to restaurant water). I prefer amber glass bottles with eyedroppers so I can see inside.

Add just enough EM to barely tint the water. When administering to food, start with 1-2 drops and increase up to 1 tsp daily.

Add EM to watering (with or without fertilizer) at the ratio of between 1:500, 1:1000 or 1:10,000 depending on how frequently you use EM and if it is being mixed with fertilizer. EM may be used with every watering.

75 drops = 1 tsp
225 drops = 3 tsp = 1 Tbs
1350 drops = 18 tsp = 6 Tbs = 1/3 cup
24,300 drops = 54 tsp = 18 Tbs = 1 cup

Approximately 1 drop per cup = 1:1000
“ 2 drops per halve cup = “
“ 3 drops per cup = “
“ 4 drops per 1 cup = “
“ 64 drops per 1 gallon = “
“ 2 Tbs per 7 gallons = “

Dear Friends,

I am always pleased to find new uses for EM, as it is a joy to use a product that is not only safe, but actually has beneficial advantages. Although I am not a doctor or scientist and can not validate with any authority that the ways in which I use EM are not harmful, I do know with certainty that the ingredients in EM are benign and without danger. This is not so with our many household ingredients such as detergents, bleach, ammonia, tile and toilet cleaner, and even personal care products such as shampoo and toothpaste (did you know that toothpaste contains a warning not to swallow)? The more ways in which I find to use EM the less I have to rely on chemicals. My goal is to have a toxic-free home and EM has made this goal much more attainable.

EM does not do everything, but it does enough to allow me to store all of the ordinary household chemicals in the garage where their fumes are not polluting the air within my home. According to a study conducted in 1995, the air in every house tested showed many times more toxic than the air outside, regardless of how pure or polluted the outside air. We need 3 things to live – air, food and water. EM can help make these essential elements less toxic. I have found dozens of uses for EM around my house.

soak plastic dishes and wooden utensils and bowls
wipe counters
rinse dishes (dishwasher or by hand)
as soak for any cooked or caked on containers
clean produce or meat (especially fish, seafood and poultry)
in the cooking water
clean refrigerator

clean toilet
clean shower

clean carpets
mist onto carpets between cleaning to reduce animal smells
mist onto stuffed furniture to reduce dust mites and odors
use in laundry (in wash or rinse cycle), especially for musty rags or forgotten washer loads (CAUTION – the microbes may break down dyes faster)
for cleaning any foul smelling messes
deodorize EVERYTHING (urine, vomit, garlic/onion)
diffused in the air to rid odors in house (steam works best, but misting is effective too)
to rid puddles of mosquitoes
to clean rust of tools
in wells
in septic tanks
in paint (but check with company about this because I have never tried it, and I suspect that you have to use the paint IMMEDIATELY before it is broken down – but it is suppose to have incredible benefits)
on wooden decks
poured onto roof for moss control
as a rinse after bathing (reduces doggy-odor and leaves their coat soft)
in their ears for mites & ear infections
mist onto coat of animal that has ‘rolled’ in something smelly (great for skunk-sprayed animal)
in their water and food
in the kitty litter box – pouring straight EM on wood shavings and placing this at the bottom works best, but misting straight EM onto the litter box is useful too

in bath water (with baking soda to soften)
to brush onto teeth
breath control
as a hair rinse
to remove unwanted fragrances from hair and skin products
to clean wounds and sores
in itchy ears
for insect bites or other skin irritations (stinging, burning or itchy)
athlete’s foot or other fungal problems
a cleansing enema or douche (mildest solution)
under-arm odor (instant bath)
in drinking water

Some of the benefits I have witnessed in the kitchen are readily observed when EM is placed in water. Usually, tiny bubbles can be seen within seconds of placing a few drops of EM into tap water. This tells you that the little microbes are busy digesting pollutants and creating oxygen as a by-product.

I feel safe using EM for cleaning all of my food. It effectively reduces fishy odors and I can rely on its safety to clean my produce, unlike the vegetable cleaning products now on the market.

I really appreciate the job EM does in cleaning toilets and other fixtures and counters. Porcelain seems to shine better with EM and I know that it won’t eat away the finish like cleansers do. Also, I don’t like using those ‘blue’ toilet cleaners ever since I learned how bad they are for the environment.

Wherever I smell odor I use EM. I have an elderly lady friend whose old dog is incontinent, so her house wreaks of animal urine. I took some EM in a spray bottle and misted the entire carpet, which reduced the odor immediately and was still effective 3 weeks later!

I also found that one of my cats seems to be a mite-magnet. She has 3 favorite chairs that cause us to itch whenever we sit on them. Repeated use of EM on her and the furniture has gotten rid of this problem.

I found a simple solution to animal odors and cooking odors. I simply put a pot of EM-water on the stove and simmer until gone. EM is activated by heat, released in the steam and cleanses the air. I would imagine this is good for anyone who is ill, or with lung problems, or for babies and children.

I read something in Dr. Higa’s book that made me try EM in my curbside gutters that were a breeding ground for mosquitoes. I found a little EM once a week keeps them from laying eggs!

I also read how EM removes rust and decided to try it on an old horseshoe before subjecting any of my tools to the treatment. I made a strong solution and placed half of an old rusty horseshoe into the solution. After 24 hours the rust was gone, even inside the nail holes. That was over a year ago and the shoe remains rust-free today. I then felt it was safe to subject my tools to a rust-removing dip.

Did I mention that animals who are totally surrounded with EM have odorless shit? My dogs never got totally smell-less but it did decompose into what looked like wood shavings within a couple of days and it didn’t draw flies.


Don’t under estimate the power of these microbes.
Don’t use EM straight on your houseplants.
Don’t consume large quantities of EM without building up slowly that goes for animals as well as people.
Don’t expect miraculous changes in your body, just KNOW good things are happening.
Don’t expect to get full benefits from using a living product like this without investing some time reading and learning about it. There are videos and books available from the company.

Notes from EM seminar, Vacaville, 7/00

Received medal of accomplishment from ministry of agriculture by Japanese government for reducing compost density by half and increasing harvest by 50%.

EM grows green onions that are the size of a shovel handle

Mammoth chives – yields increased 3 fold

Hog farm threatened to be put out of business due to stench. School next door now claims to smell nothing.

Copenhagan Denmark – Lake had clarity of 8 cm from surface and after treated with EM went to one meter

Pakistan – Dung put in open trench then delivered to field…. Brackish water now able to grow rice in Pakistan, 30% of land irrigates with salt water.

Chickens fed a diet of 50% EM treated dung had increased egg production.

Pigs will eat EM chicken dung that has fermented as Bokashi

Indigenous bananas which are normally halve finger long are now several fingers long.

In Japan oranges clustered on trees like grapes and myco-cosmin disease remediated.

North Korea. – EM fertilizer increased corn production two times.

North Korea – 9-10 kilogram cabbage heads were unheard of before EM.

1 hectare of land now produces 9 tons of rice – twice it’s normal harvest.

Fifteen hectares can now support 20 times its normal land use because the entire land can be used rather than needing to allow land to rest, and because the yields have increased.

CHINA – 3 meters of snow pack does not stay on EM field which produces enough heat to keep ground from freezing.

North Korea can now grow wheat in winter because EM increased soil heat by 10 degrees Celsius

EM is being used in incinerators to remediate dioxin

One application of EM in pond water will remediate 50% of the dioxin

Cotton grown in Arizona grew balls that were 50% normal size.

Growth regulators are used in plants to encourage bottom buds to open. The use of EM caused bottom buds to open on even very tall plants.

“Agriculture is the foundation of the nation.” – Teruo Higa

I wrote this as I read ‘An Earth Saving Revolution’, probably back in 1997-8. I think there is still a lot of good points to this 3 part informational document.

Part 1 

I have had the good fortune to have been exposed to what I believe is the most revolutionary discovery of this century. It comes by way of Japan, through the 14 year serendipitous course of events of one Professor of Horticulture, named Teruo Higa. Prof. Higa has brought to the world such an extraordinary breakthrough for the benefit of the world at large and every creature there in, that I can not contain myself. You will, if you read these pages, find some of the most interesting facts about our world, how it works, and the facts that substantiate my enthusiasm. I promise you will at least marvel!

The basis of my new education comes from Prof. Higa’s book, ‘An Earth Saving Revolution, a means to resolve our world’s problems through Effective Microorganisms – EM’. The cost is $18 and includes shipping. Professor Higa describes how he was a “dyed-in-the-wool” follower of modern chemical farming. At his post at the University of the Ryukyus, he had the opportunity to assist another professor in some studies using microorganisms. Some of the results they were getting were stupendous, causing fruit to excel in size, flavor and yields, while other studies reaped disappointing results.

Eventually Prof. Higa returned to Okinawa where he worked directly in the field with the farmers, forgetting his work at the laboratory and returning to the tried and true form of agricultural practices he believed to be reasonable. More and more he felt his health diminish and inevitably asked of himself the pivotal question, “Could this be a result of chemical exposure”? Upon his return to the laboratory he resumed the study into how microorganisms benefited plant production, believing this to be the clue to non-chemical farming techniques. His research yielded inconsistent results until sometime in 1982, when through his less than immaculate and proper disposal of microorganisms, he tossed a batch of ‘mixed’ test material refuse out onto the lawn. He was ready to throw in the towel, but within a week he found that the area of the lawn where he threw this benign refuse had grown taller and darker than the areas surrounding it. He learned that it was the MIX that made the difference, not any individual strain.

This formed the basis of an incredible technological discovery that promises to feed the planet (because per acreage yields more than double every known record), to make us healthier (because produce grown with EM have more nutrients and yield high levels of anti-oxidants), revitalize our soil and cleanse our water, clean up toxic waste (from chemicals to heavy metals and radio-active compounds), heal our bodies as well as the bodies of our animals (by ingesting EM), and benefit so many other areas that you wouldn’t believe me if I told you!

In the Prologue of the book we get an appreciation of the value of Prof. Higa’s discovery as he explains in elementary terms the properties of some of these organisms. One basic distinction is between regenerative organisms (those that support life) and degenerative organisms (those that breakdown life, decomposes and pollutes). You might think as I did that the degenerative organisms are needed to bring about the eventual decay necessary to the cycle of ‘growth, death and re-birth’. We learn, however, that the regenerative organisms do a much better job of breaking down elements and so they are come to be thought of as the ‘good guys’, or as he calls them – Effective Microorganisms (EM).

One strain of microorganisms belonging to the EM group is anaerobic, consisting of photosynthetic bacteria, yeasts, lactic acid and fungi. These have the desirability of producing large amounts of nutrients including amino acids, polysaccharides, vitamins and more. It’s not hard to imagine already, that by supplying more of these microorganisms to the soil, plants not only benefit, but the creatures who eat those plants benefit. Plants growing in soil treated with EM do not have to use as much energy to convert the very difficult chemical fertilizers into a digestible food, so they in turn use this surplus energy to produce increased yields and better tasting produce. For instance, in optimal conditions, a rice farmer in Japan can hope for nine bales (or 1,200 lb.) of rice per 10 acres using conventional methods. Nevertheless, only a few years of EM use yields increase harvests to 15 bales (1,800 lb.) per 10 acres, and longer experimental plots have yielded 28-30 bales/acre! These kinds of results drove Prof. Higa further into his research while demonstrating without a doubt the efficacy of his discovery. The best is yet to come, as my report will continue.

Part 2

In one portion of Dr. Higa’s book we learn about the results of increased rice yields with continued use of EM. Prof. Higa then turned his focus to other crops and found similar unprecedented results. In tropical fruit that was characterized as having only a single bloom, the use of EM resulted in multiple harvests of many times normal yields. In cucumbers, which typically produce only one cucumber per node, 4-5 cucs per node became the norm. Corn increased to as many as eight ears per stalk and cherry tomatoes produced 10x’s their normal yields, going from 30 per plant to 300 per plant!

The more Prof. Higa mused on the importance of these tiny creatures, the more convinced he became of the powerful effects they could influence. He began to investigate the significance their presence played in creating the world we inhabit today. Knowing that there are aerobic and anaerobic organisms, he recalled a strain of photosynthetic bacteria capable of enduring temperatures in excess of 700 degrees C. These creatures currently live in the bowels of the earth, but once they thrived on the surface of the planet when it was just a ball of fire. Anaerobic bacteria produce nitrogen and oxygen as a waste by-products. As the theory goes, these bacteria proliferated to the point that they “polluted” the planet with oxygen and lowered the temperature, causing condensation to precipitate in the form of rain, creating the oceans. Many of the anaerobic bacteria evolved into aerobic organisms, while the remainder retreated deep into the earth and can be found today around the hydrothermal mineral vents on the ocean floors.

Whether you agree with this theory or not, the important thing to know is the circumstances in which anaerobic bacteria thrive. Imagine a situation of carbon dioxide, ammonia, methane gas and hydrogen sulfide, a virtual cornucopia of good things for these tiny creatures. Upon consuming this buffet our friendly microbes produce oxygen as a ‘waste’ product! These critters are so effective at their job that even during early experiments, they were able to produce pure drinking water from raw sewage after only 24 hours! This technology allowed the public library in Gushikawa, Okinawa to reduce their waste-water costs by 95% at a time when there treatment costs were soaring.

The same principles are in effect when EM is used on compost, and can be applied to banish malodors in the bathroom, or used in septic tanks, and poured down drains. There are even applications in cooking because the zymogens necessary for fermenting are present in EM, making it ideal for breads and Japanese fermented pickles. When used in water it extends the life of produce, enhances the growth of houseplants and can extend the life of your natural-fiber garments when added to your wash. The household applications are endless. And Prof. Higa maintains that these products will never be out of the financial reach of the common man.

EM is a combination of over 80 varieties of microorganisms, drawn from 10 genera belonging to 5 different families and include both aerobic and anaerobic species. The most amazing thing about EM is the symbiosis in which they all co-exist. This has never before been believed possible because it was assumed these species would be incompatible. But Dr. Higa discovered that they not only coexist, they thrive! Two among the EM team of microorganisms, photosynthetic bacteria and azotobacters, function as nitrogen fixators. One is of the anaerobic nature and the other is of the aerobic nature. Nitrogen fixation is what is needed to take place before plants can make use of the nitrogen in the air, by changing the gaseous nitrogen into nitric acid and ammonia. They co-exist because the waste matter for one is food for the other, and vise-versa, as long as certain criteria are maintained.

A single gram of soil contains billions of these tiny creatures. Most, however, are ‘opportunistic’ and display a ‘follow-the-leader’ tendency. In other words, there are a few dominant strains who ‘fight it out’ for supremacy. The millions of other microorganisms wait for the victor, then adapt to those characteristics. Depleted and contaminated soil favors the victory of ‘degenerative’ strains of microorganisms, so the benefits of the ‘regenerative’ strains seem utterly amazing because we have never before created a favorable environment for their proliferation. In our own intestines, the bacteria known as lactobacillus bifidus is the only dominant strain. So by maintaining adequate amounts of this organism, our digestive tract will generally remain healthy while the other hundred or so strains adapt to ‘the good guy’. Herein lies the power of EM. By introducing sufficient quantities of ‘good guy’ dominant organisms, the entire microorganism eco-system is swayed to these characteristics. And the added joy is that these organisms are found virtually everywhere, in every type of soil, and will not negatively impact an eco-system as they die off when their job is done.

Part 3
In parts 1 & 2 we learned about some benefits of using EM in crop production and some of characteristics of these Effective Microorganisms. This time we are going to explore how these creatures selectively kill ‘bad’ insects while allowing ‘good’ insects to thrive. 

It is incredibly brilliant! Let’s take the common fly which everyone, at one time or another, has encountered in non-desirable quantities. (I wish I had EM when I raised pigeons and horses!) When flies lay their eggs in EM treated organic matter, the eggs fail to mature into maggots. Similarly, maggots fail to mature into larva. The reason for this is that there is a particular kind of substance found in putrefied matter which allow them to produce necessary hormones needed to mature through the pupa stage and become adult flies. This substance is unavailable when EM is present, and without this substance NO FLIES CAN MATURE! Does this trigger your thinking cap like it does mine? I mean, if the presence or absence of a substance can totally eliminate the production of a hormone in flies, what about people? Yes, yes, I know what some scientists say, that ‘we’ aren’t ‘flies’. Yet, of the scientists who publish articles for the layman, I find an unusual number of them claiming that humans have more likenesses than differences to other species. After all, everything came from the same primordial soup. If the production of fly hormones is dependent upon a certain food substance, then I believe it highly probable that people have similar food-hormone reliance’s.

There are other pesky pests besides flies, but all the commonly recognized destructive species of insects have the same preference for oxidized substances. Because EM procures for the plant vast amounts of anti-oxidants, these pests are deterred. Even the eggs that are laid on plants tend not to develop for the same reasons that fly larva do not develop.

You are probably wondering about ‘beneficial’ insects. Generally good insects are carnivorous, making for themselves a diet of bad insects. Since bad insects are herbivores, they are the only ones affected by the antioxidating effects of EM.

Ants are a species that is difficult for the scientist to categorize into ‘good’ or ‘bad’. But Prof. Higa admits that most people find them to be pests and so he has done some experiments with EM on them. What he found was that the ant has the habit of treating all their food with a type of zymogen unique to their species. This allows them to store their food for later use. The zymogen in EM destroys the benefits of the ants zymogen and causes their food to ferment. Basically, repeated use of EM throughout your property will eventually run all your resident ants away.

I did a little test on the effectiveness of EM as a mosquito abatement treatment. There is an annoying puddle in the front of my house which accumulates from my neighbors run off water. This puddle always has mosquito larva swimming. I placed a few drops of EM into the water and within a few hours went back to check the progress. The first thing I noticed was there were no more adult mosquitoes hovering over the area. Presumably, because they no longer recognized this as a desirable place to lay eggs. After several days passed the activity around the pond was that of ants, presumably cleaning up the carcasses of the dead mosquito larva.

I’d like to return for a moment to the subject of antioxidants in the soil. When you find a rotting potato or you start a compost pile, the offensive odor you encounter (the odor vermin are drawn to) is caused by degenerative strains of microorganisms. When regenerative organisms are added to this organic matter, the resulting smell is rather a pleasant smell. Plants grown in soil where antioxidants are present grow strong roots that are capable of easily absorbing more nutrients. However, when the soil is laden with oxidation plants must labor in order to withdraw adequate nutrients. Amino acids and organic acids are important elements needed by plants. When predominantly oxidized soil conditions exist, these substances are changed into highly toxic amide (a substance somewhere in-between an amino acid and ammonia). In wet farming, as in rice production, they are further broken down into ammonia; in dry farming the resultant substance is nitric acid. Both of these substances are forms of inorganic nitrogen which requires that the plant heavily depend on sugars (organic acids) produced in it’s leaves due to photosynthesis, to synthesize protein from the inorganic nitrogen. This is a terrible waste of plant energy. By contrast, antioxidized soil allows these amino acids to absorb straight away without going through any chemical changes to be utilized. This accounts for the increased crop production which is an earmark of EM use.

(I don’t know if I wrote this or not, but it is interesting)

Microorganisms – Keepers of the Biosphere
Amazingly, we owe everything to the tiniest creatures on the planet. There is no form of life that does not owe allegiance to the microscopic organisms that live in vast numbers throughout of every eco system. They have been found in the molten lava and at the deepest level of the ocean. There are trillions of microorganisms on one square inch of our skin. They are responsible for the air we breath as well as our genetic make-up.

Ninety percent of our DNA can be traced as coming directly from prehistoric microorganisms. All life emerged from these genetic codes. It is believed that it is due to microbes that our planet became inhabitable. When the world was a ball of hot noxious gas, tiny microorganisms flourished on this ‘cornucopia’ of good things to eat. As they multiplied they exuded a by-product of oxygen. This in turn influenced the atmosphere and gradually the planet cooled, the poles froze leaving exposed islands of land. Today about 80% of oxygen in our atmosphere comes from microorganisms, and only 20% from trees and plants. Isn’t it time for us to take a closer look at this mighty force of nature?

We are all familiar with the terms ‘intestinal flora’ and ‘probiotics’, another way to refer to the microbes indigenous to our human system. Acidophilus is the star of this group, known to exist in predominant numbers and assumed by many to be the most important intestinal bacteria. This could be compared to a large family of 12 kids. Are the children the most important members because they are the most numerous? What we’ve learned is that bifidus is the only true ‘leader’ much like the parents in a large family. The direction of the entire colony is decided be the leader-type bacteria. In our own intestines, if parents bifidus are too weak or absent, then the intestinal-family flora will look elsewhere for a surrogate leader. From this perspective, Bifidus may rightly be considered our most important probiotic.

In the way that families of bacteria are divided by followers and leaders, and can, with relative ease, merge with the forces of a competitive family, is at the core of so much alarm about super bugs. This adaptability is what allowed us a world of diversity. They are only predictable when their environment remains stable; otherwise they adapt and change so that even ‘beneficial’ bacteria will take up ‘degenerative’ action when given sufficient stimulus.


  1. Fantastic resume of the uses of EM.

    I am interested to create a Bokashi Network in Miami Florida,where I live. Can you support us with your EM Technology experiences ?
    maybe after gaining more experience. I will like to set up a company to distribute this product.
    Please let me know.

  2. WAW… being environmentalist this information is really worth for me… i got one innovative idea to control pollution in my Country…. i will definitely apply this technology…

  3. Hello,
    Thank you so much for your thorough reply the other day!
    I understand that once EM is activated, I have to use it within 30 -45 days. I have an old bottle of activated EM, and when I used the pH measurement, it was 3.2. Does this mean it’s still good? The activated EM must be very old, like a year old… Maybe the pH stays low even if it’s not effective any more. Please let me know.

    • Hello Aiko,

      No problem, glad we could help out.

      We have used activated EM which has been a year or a few years old without a problem. The best reference in this case would be the smell. If it doesn’t smell rotten or ‘off’, but you experience a rather sour smell it’s still good to use. Maybe the activity has decreased, and the effectiveness might be less, but it’s still good :).

      Good luck! Sattwa

  4. Hello Aiko,

    I’m just learning about EM. It’s potential is amazing. Do you Know where I can buy the book “An Earth Saving Revolution”? It’s not available on amazon.


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