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      Biological Activities of Essential Oils: From Plant Chemoecology to Traditional Healing Systems

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          Essential oils are complex mixtures of hydrocarbons and their oxygenated derivatives arising from two different isoprenoid pathways. Essential oils are produced by glandular trichomes and other secretory structures, specialized secretory tissues mainly diffused onto the surface of plant organs, particularly flowers and leaves, thus exerting a pivotal ecological role in plant. In addition, essential oils have been used, since ancient times, in many different traditional healing systems all over the world, because of their biological activities. Many preclinical studies have documented antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer activities of essential oils in a number of cell and animal models, also elucidating their mechanism of action and pharmacological targets, though the paucity of in human studies limits the potential of essential oils as effective and safe phytotherapeutic agents. More well-designed clinical trials are needed in order to ascertain the real efficacy and safety of these plant products.

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          Essential oils: their antibacterial properties and potential applications in foods--a review.

          In vitro studies have demonstrated antibacterial activity of essential oils (EOs) against Listeria monocytogenes, Salmonella typhimurium, Escherichia coli O157:H7, Shigella dysenteria, Bacillus cereus and Staphylococcus aureus at levels between 0.2 and 10 microl ml(-1). Gram-negative organisms are slightly less susceptible than gram-positive bacteria. A number of EO components has been identified as effective antibacterials, e.g. carvacrol, thymol, eugenol, perillaldehyde, cinnamaldehyde and cinnamic acid, having minimum inhibitory concentrations (MICs) of 0.05-5 microl ml(-1) in vitro. A higher concentration is needed to achieve the same effect in foods. Studies with fresh meat, meat products, fish, milk, dairy products, vegetables, fruit and cooked rice have shown that the concentration needed to achieve a significant antibacterial effect is around 0.5-20 microl g(-1) in foods and about 0.1-10 microl ml(-1) in solutions for washing fruit and vegetables. EOs comprise a large number of components and it is likely that their mode of action involves several targets in the bacterial cell. The hydrophobicity of EOs enables them to partition in the lipids of the cell membrane and mitochondria, rendering them permeable and leading to leakage of cell contents. Physical conditions that improve the action of EOs are low pH, low temperature and low oxygen levels. Synergism has been observed between carvacrol and its precursor p-cymene and between cinnamaldehyde and eugenol. Synergy between EO components and mild preservation methods has also been observed. Some EO components are legally registered flavourings in the EU and the USA. Undesirable organoleptic effects can be limited by careful selection of EOs according to the type of food.
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            Biological effects of essential oils--a review.

            Since the middle ages, essential oils have been widely used for bactericidal, virucidal, fungicidal, antiparasitical, insecticidal, medicinal and cosmetic applications, especially nowadays in pharmaceutical, sanitary, cosmetic, agricultural and food industries. Because of the mode of extraction, mostly by distillation from aromatic plants, they contain a variety of volatile molecules such as terpenes and terpenoids, phenol-derived aromatic components and aliphatic components. In vitro physicochemical assays characterise most of them as antioxidants. However, recent work shows that in eukaryotic cells, essential oils can act as prooxidants affecting inner cell membranes and organelles such as mitochondria. Depending on type and concentration, they exhibit cytotoxic effects on living cells but are usually non-genotoxic. In some cases, changes in intracellular redox potential and mitochondrial dysfunction induced by essential oils can be associated with their capacity to exert antigenotoxic effects. These findings suggest that, at least in part, the encountered beneficial effects of essential oils are due to prooxidant effects on the cellular level.
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              Butterflies and Plants: A Study in Coevolution


                Author and article information

                Role: Academic Editor
                Molecules : A Journal of Synthetic Chemistry and Natural Product Chemistry
                01 January 2017
                January 2017
                : 22
                : 1
                [1 ]Phytochemistry Research Center, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, 981991953381 Tehran, Iran; javad.sharifirad@ (J.S.-R.); razieh.sharifirad@ (R.S.-R.); majid_ayatollahi@ (S.A.A.)
                [2 ]Research Group on Community Nutrition and Oxidative Stress, University of Balearic Islands, E-07122 Palma de Mallorca, Spain; tosugo@
                [3 ]CIBER: CB12/03/30038 Fisiopatología de la Obesidad y la Nutrición, CIBERobn, Instituto de Salud Carlos III (ISCIII), E-07122 Palma de Mallorca, Spain
                [4 ]Department of Pharmacy, University of Naples “Federico II”, Via Domenico Montesano, 80131 Napoli, Italy; giancarlo.tenore@
                [5 ]Department of Drug Sciences, Medicinal Chemistry and Pharmaceutical Technology Section, Pavia University, Viale Taramelli 12, 27100 Pavia, Italy; maria.daglia@
                [6 ]Department of Medical Parasitology, Zabol University of Medical Sciences, 61663335 Zabol, Iran
                [7 ]European Herbal and Traditional Medicine Practitioners Association (EHTPA), 25 Lincoln Close, GL20 5TY Tewkesbury, UK; marco.officinalessinia@
                [8 ]Department of Pharmacy, Health and Nutritional Sciences, University of Calabria, 87036 Rende (CS), Italy; rosa.tundis@ (R.T.); mr.loizzo@ (M.R.L.)
                [9 ]Department of Chemistry, Faculty of Science, University of Zabol, 98615-538 Zabol, Iran; marzieh.sharifirad@
                [10 ]Functional Foods, Nutraceuticals and Phytomedicine Unit, Department of Biochemistry, Federal University of Technology, 340001 Akure, Nigeria; ademiluyidayo@
                [11 ]Departament of Biochemical and Molecular Biology, Centre of Natural Sciences and Exatas, Universidade Federal de Santa Maria, 97105-900 Santa Maria, RS, Brazil
                [12 ]Department of Pharmacognosy, School of Pharmacy, Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences, 981991953381 Tehran, Iran
                [13 ]Department of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Milan State University, via G. Celoria 2, 20133 Milan, Italy
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondences: mehdi_sharifirad@ (M.S.-R.); marcello.iriti@ (M.I.); Tel.: +98-543-22-51-790 (M.S.-R); +39-2-5031-6766 (M.I.)
                © 2017 by the authors.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (



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