The increasing resistance of microorganisms to conventional chemicals and drugs is a serious and evident worldwide problem that has prompted research into the identification of new biocides with broad activity. Plants and their derivatives, such as essential oils, are often used in folk medicine. In nature, essential oils play an important role in the protection of plants. Essential oils contain a wide variety of secondary metabolites that are capable of inhibiting or slowing the growth of bacteria, yeasts and moulds. Essential oils and their components have activity against a variety of targets, particularly the membrane and cytoplasm, and in some cases, they completely change the morphology of the cells. This brief review describes the activity of essential oils against pathogenic bacteria.