Biological effects of essential oils – A review

Review

Biological effects of essential oils – A review

F. Bakkalia, b, S. Averbecka, D. Averbecka, , and M. Idaomarb

aInstitut Curie-Section de Recherche, UMR2027 CNRS/IC, LCR V28 CEA, Bât. 110, Centre Universitaire, 91405 Orsay cedex, France bUniversité Abdelmalek Essâadi, Faculté des Sciences, Laboratoire de Biologie et Santé, BP 2121, Tétouan, Morocco

Received 29 December 2006; accepted 21 September 2007. Available online 29 September 2007.

Abstract 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.

Corresponding author. Tel.: +33 169867188; fax: +33 169869429.

Food and Chemical Toxicology Volume 46, Issue 2, February 2008, Pages 446-475

doi:10.1016/j.fct.2007.09.106

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