Antimicrobial effect of essential oils: a systematic review

Document Type : Research Paper


1 Associate Professor, Department of Food Science and Technology, School of Public Health, Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences, Kermanshah, Iran

2 PhD Student in Environmental Health Engineering, Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences, Kermanshah, Iran

3 MSc Student in Environmental Health Engineering, Kermanshah University of Medical Sciences, Kermanshah, Iran

4 BSc Department of Nursing, Songhor city health center, Songhor, Iran


Regarding the harmful effects of chemical foods preservatives on human body, it is crucial to find out safe antimicrobials among essential oils and herbs. This study aimed to address the effects of different essential oils on various bacterial species through a systematic review. A wide range of published papers in national and international data bases have been searched for the relevant articles. For this reason, the keywords used in searching were: "essential oils in food", "antimicrobial effect" and "vegetable oils". Among 462 retrieved articles, 76 papers were selected for further reviewing based on their title and abstracts. Based on results, the antimicrobial effects of different essential oils on pathogenic and spoilage organisms were compared. Moreover, the most effective as well as the least effective essential oils on microbial growth were identified. It was concluded that essential oils are more effective on gram positive bacteria rather than gram negatives. Besides, it was evident that some essential oils negatively affected the useful organisms such as lactobacilli. 


• A Hsani1, A., Mahmoudi, R., Zare, P., and Hasany, A. (2011). Biochemical properties and antimicrobial effects of Allium ascalonicum and Pimpinella anisum essential oils against Listeria monocytogenes in white brined cheese, Journal of Food Reserch, 21(3): 328-317. [in Persian]
• Aberouman Azar, P., Zamani Hargelani, F., Laryjani, K. and Tayebzadeh Gamsari, Z. (2013). Measure and typology element selenium in some edible and medicinal plants to three extraction methods, Lournal of food Thecnology and Nutriation, 10(2): 84-75. [in Persian]
• Abouhosseini Ttabari, M., Youssefi, M.R., Ghasemi, F., Ghias Tabari, R, Haji Esmaili, R. and Yousefi Behzadi, M. (2012). Comparison of antibacterial effects of eucalyptus essence, mint essence and combination of them on staphylococcus aureus and escherichia coli isolates. Middle-East Journal of Scientific Research, 11(4): 536-540
• Ahmadi, Z., Sattari, M., Tabaraee, B. and Bigdeli, M. (2011). Identification of the constituents of Achillea santolina essential oil and evaluation of the anti-microbial effects of its extract and essential oil, Arak Medical University Journal, 14(56): 1-10. [in Persian]
• Al-Dhaher, Z.A. (2008). The antibacterial activity of aqueous extract of cinnamon and clove against staphylococcus aureus. al-nahrain university, 11(2):131-135.
• Angienda, P.O., Onyango, D.M. and Hill, D.J. (2010). Potential application of plant essential oils at sub-lethal concentrations under extrinsic conditions that enhance their antimicrobial effectiveness against pathogenic bacteria microbiology research. African Journal of Microbiology Research, 4(16): 1678-1682.
• Ansari, M., Larijani, K. and Tehrani, M.S. (2012). Antibacterial activity of Lippia citriodora herb essence against MRSA Staphylococcus aureus. african journal of microbiology research, 6(1): 16-19.
• Broomand, A., Hamedi2, M., Emamjomeh, Z., Razavi, S.H. and Gholmakani, M.T. (2008). Investigation on the antimicrobial effects of essential oils from dill and coriander seeds on Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella typhimuruim, Iranian Food Science and Technology Research Journal, 4(7): 68-59. [in Persian]
• Burt, S. (2004). Essential oils: their antibacterial properties and potential applications in foods-a review. International Food Microbiology, 94: 225-253.
• Cowan, M.M. (1999). Plant products as antimicrobial agents. clinical microbiology review, 12: 564-582.
• Dadashpour, M., Rasooli, I., Sorouri Zanjani, R., Sefidkon, F., Taghizadeh, M. and Shakiba Darvish Alipour, A. (2011). Antimicrobial, nitric oxide radical scavenging and cytotoxic properties of Thymus daenensis essential oil, Scientific Research Quarterly: Pathobiology Research, 14(1):47-37. [in Persian]
• Daneshyan Mogadam, A.M. (2000). Study of antibacterial effect of essential oil of basil (Ocimum basilicum L) on Staphylococcus aureus, Fifth National Conference on New Ideas in Agriculture, Islamic Azad University Isfahan: 3-1. [in Persian]
• Darderafshi, M. Bahrami, G. Sadeghi, E. Khanahmadi, M. Mohammadi, M. Mohammadi, R. (2014). The effect of Ferulago angulata essential oil on Staphylococcus aureus during the manufacture and preservation of Iranian white cheese, Iranian Journal of Nutrition Sciences & Food Technology. 8(4): 13-20. [in Persian]
• Dupont, B.F., Dromer, F. and Improvisi, L. (1996). The problem of resistance to azoles in candida. journal of medical mycology, 6(2): 12-19.
• Ekhtiarzadeh, H., Akhondzadeh Basti, A., Misaghi, A., Ebrahimzadeh Mousavi, H., Bokaee, S., Taherkhani, P. et al. (2011). Effect of Zataria multiflora Boiss. Essential Oil on the Growth of Listeria monocytogenes in Salted Fish. Journal of Medicinal Plants, 4(40): 89-96. [in Persian]
• Farhangfar1, A., Tajik, H., Razavi Rohani, SM., Moradi, M. and Aliakbarlu, J. (2011). Combined Influence of the Clove Essential oil and Grape Seed Extract on the Spoilage Related Bacteria of Buffalo Patties during the Storage at 8 °C, Journal of Food Research, 21(1): 116-105. [in Persian]
• Fazlara, A., Sadeghi, E. and Rostami Soleimani, P. (2012). Study on the antibacterial effects of Cuminum cyminum essential oil on Listeria monocytogenes in Iranian white cheese, Journal of Food Science & Technology, 35(9): 44-35. [in Persian]
• Gandomi Nasrabadi, H., Misaghi, A., Akhondzadeh basti, A., Khosravi, A., Bokaei, S. and Abbasifar, A. ( 2008). Effects of Zataria multiflora Boiss. Essential Oil on Aspergillus flavus. Journal of Medicinal Plants, 3(27): 45-51. [in Persian]
• Ghasemi Pirbalouti, A., Rahimi, E. and Moosavi, S. (2010). Antimicrobial activity of essential oils of three herbs against listeria monocytogenes on chicken frankfurters. Acta agriculturae Slovenica. 95(3): 223-219.
• Ghesmati, M. (2008). Survey of Antibacterial Activity of Sambucus Ebulus Extracts Against Staphylococcus Aureus Atcc 1341 and Pseudomonas Aeruginosa Atcc 2785, Journal Of Biology Science, 1(3)(3): 73-82. [in Persian]
• Hakimi Maybody, M.H., Afkhami Aghdai, M. and Mirjalali, F. (2003). An investigation into biological activities of A. persica’s essential oil, Pajouhesh & Sazandegi, No.61: 5-2. [in Persian]
• Hanafi, G.M., Darvishi, SH., Darvishi, N., Sayedin-ardabili, S.M. and Mir-ahmadi, F. (2012). Antibacterial effect of essential oil of mastic resin on Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and Clostridium sporogenes, Kurdistan University of Medical Sciences, 17(1): 10-1. [in Persian]
• Hoseini, H., Handali, S., Parishani, M., Ghezelbash, G. and Ameri, A. (2010). A Comparative Study of Antibacterial Effects of Aqueous Extract of Oxalis corniculata L. with Antibacterial Effects of Common Atibiotics in Staphylococcus aureous and E. coli Infections. Journal of Medicinal Plants, 1(33): 103-107. [in Persian]
• Imelouane, B. (2005). Chemical composition and antimicrobial activity of essential oil of thyme (thymus vulgaris) from eastern morocco. International Journal of Agriculture & Biology, 11(2): 208-205.
• Izadi, Z., Esna-Ashari, M., Ahmadvand, G., Davoodi, P. and Piri, KH. (2009). Chemical Composition and Antibacterial Activity of the Essence oil of Peppermint (Mentha piperita L), Armaghane danesh, 14(3): 45-54. [in Persian]
• Jafarzadeh Khaledi, K., Aghazadeh Meshgi, M., Sharifan, A. and Larijani, K. (2010). Investigation of effect of the Rosemary essential oil on growth of Staphylococcus aureus in commercial instant soup, Journal of Comparative Pathology, 7(2): 264-255. [in Persian]
• Jalali, M., Abedi, D., Asghari, G. and Rezaie, Z. (2007). A Study of Anti-Microbial Effect of Pycnocycla Spinosa's Fruit Extracts. Journal of Mazandaran University of Medical Sciences, 17(59): 76-86. [in Persian]
• Kazem Alvandi, R., Sharifan, A. and Aghazadeh Meshghi. M. (2011). Study of chemical composition and antimicrobial activity of peppermint essential oil, Journal of Comparative Pathobiology Iran, 7(4): 364-355. [in Persian]
• Khanjari, A., Akhondzadeh Basti, A., Dahr Rokni, N. and Soltani, M. (2011). Effect of zataria multiflora Boiss. essential oil on log p% of Vibrio parahaemolyticus in BHI broth, Journal of Food Science and Technology, 8(28): 46-37. [in Persian]
• Khanzadi, S., Razavilar, V., Basti, Afshin and Jamshidi, A. (2006). Effects of Zataria multiflora Boiss. essential oil, acetic acid, temperature and storage time on probability of growth initiation of Clostridium botulinum type A in Brain Heart Infusion broth, Iranian Food Science and Technology Research Journal, 2(2): 31-23. [in Persian]
• Mahboubi, M. and Feizabadi, M. (2009). The Antimicrobial Activity of Thyme, Sweet Marjoram, Savory and Eucalyptus oils on Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium, Aspergillus niger and Aspergillus flavus, Journal of Medicinal Plants, 2(30): 137-144. [in Persian]
• Mahmoudi, H., Rahnama, K. and Arabkhani, M. (2010). Antibacterial Effect Essential oil and Extracts of Medicinal Plant on the Causal Agents of Bacterial Canker and Leaf Spot on the Stone Fruit Tree, Journal of Medicinal Plants, 4(36): 34-42. [in Persian]
• Mahmoudi, R., Ehsani, A., Tajik, H., Akhonzade Basti, A. and Khosrowshahi, A. (2010). Antimicrobial effects of Mentha Longifolia L. Essential oil and Lactobacillus casei against Staphylococcus aureus in Iranian White Cheese, Journal of Food Research (University Of Tabriz), 20(1): 160-147. [in Persian]
• Mashak, Z., Moradi, B. and Moradi, B. (2012). The Combined Effect of Zataria multiflora Boiss. and Cinnamomum zeylanicum Nees. Essential Oil on the Growth of Bacillus cereus in a Food Model System, Journal of Medicinal Plants, 2(42): 62-73. [in Persian]
• Mashreghi, M. and Momtazi, F. (2012). Comparison of the antibacterial effects of various concentrations of alcoholic extracts of Rosmarinus officinalis, Hypericum perforatum and Carthamus tinctoriuson the growth phases of Esherichia Coli O157, Journal of Rafsanjan University of MedicalSciences and Health Sservices, 11(2)(43): 103-114. [in Persian]
• Moghtader, M., Iraj Mansori, A., Salari, H. and Farahmand, A. (2009). Chemical composition and antimicrobial activity of the essential oil of Bunium persicum Boiss. Seed, Iranian Journal of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, 25(1): 27-20. [in Persian]
• Mohajerfar, T., Hosseinzadeh, A., Akhondzadeh Basti, A., Khanjari, A., Misaghi, A. and Gandomi Nasrabadi, H. (2012). Determination of Minimum Inhibitory Concentration (MIC) of Zataria multiflora Boiss. Essential Oil and Lysozim on L. monocytogenes, Journal of Medicinal Plants, 4(44): 70-77. [in Persian]
• Mohammadi, Kh., Karim, G., Hanifian, Sh., Tarinejad, A. and Gasemnezhad, R. (2011). Antimicrobial effect of Zataria multiflora Boiss. essential oil on Escherichia coli O157:H7 duringmanufacture and ripening of white brined cheese, Journal of Food Hygien, 1(2): 78-69. [in Persian]
• Mojab, F. Vahidi, H., Nickavar, B. and Kamali-nejad, M. (2009). Chemical Components of Essential Oil and Antimicrobial Effects of Rhizomes from Cyperus rotundus L., Journal of Medicinal Plants, 4(32): 91-97. [in Persian]
• Momeni, L. and Zamanzad, B. (2009). The antibacterial properties of Allium cepa (onion) and Zingiber officinale (ginger) extracts on Staphylococcus aureus, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Escherichia coli and Candida albicans isolated from vaginal specimens, Journal of Shahrekord University of Medical Sciences, 11(2): 87-81. [in Persian]
• Moosavy, M.H., Akhondzadeh Basti, A., Misaghi, A., Zahraei Salehi, T., Karim, G. and Mostafavi, E. ( 2007). Effects of Zataria multiflora Boiss. essential oil and nisin on the Growth of Salmonella typhimurium in a Commercial Barley Soup, Eighteenth National Congress of Food Science and Technology, Institute of Food Science and Technology Mashhad: 25-21. [in Persian]
• Moradi, B., Mashak, Z., Akhondzadeh Basti, A., Moradi, B. and Barin, A. (2012). The Survey of the Effect of Cuminum cyminum L. Essential Oil on the Growth of Bacillus cereus in a Food Model System. Journal of Medicinal Plants, 1(41): 93-102. [in Persian]
• Moradi, M., Tajik, H., Razavi Rohani, S., Oromiehie, A., Malekinejad, H. and Saei-Dehkordi, S. (2011). Antioxidant, Color and Antibacterial Properties of Edible Chitosan Film Incorporated with Zataria Multiflora Boiss ٍEssential Oil against Listeria Monocytogenes. Armaghane danesh, 15(4): 303-315. [in Persian]
• Morris, J.A,. Khettry, A,. Seitz Ew., (1979) Antimicrobial activity of aroma chemicals and essential oils. Journal of the American Oil Chemists's Society, 56(5): 595-603.
• Nakhaei moghadam, M. (2009). In vitro antimicrobial activity of methanol extract of orange (Citrus sinensis) peel against Helicobacter pylori clinical isolates, Journal of Microbial Biotechnology, 1(2)(2): 37-43. [in Persian]
• Nascimento, G.G. (2000). Antibacterial activity of extracts and phytochemicals on antibiotic resistant bacteria. brazilian microbiology, 31(4): 245-256.
• Noori, N., Tooryan, F., Rokni, N., Akhondzadeh, A. and Misaghi, A. (2010). Preservative effect of Cinnamomum Zeylanicum Blume. essential oil and storage temperature on the growth of E .coli O157:H7 in hamburger using Hurdle Technology, Iranian Journal Of Food Science And Technology 7(4) : 42-35. [in Persian]
• Palmer, A.S., Steward, J. and Fyfe, L. (2001). The potential application of plant essential oils as natural preservatives in soft cheese. Journal Food Microbiology, 18: 463-470.
• Pourmand, M.R.. Yazdi, M.H.. Baya, M. and Shahinjafari, A. (2008). In vitro antimicrobial effects of Zataria multiflora Boiss., Myrtus communis L. and Eucalyptus officinalis against Streptococcus pneumoniae, Moraxella catarrhalis and Haemophilus influenza, Iranian Journal of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, 23(4): 483-477. [in Persian]
• Radmehr, B., Khamda, K. and Rajabi Khorami, A. (2011). Sumac (Rhus coriaria L.) essential oil composition and its antimicrobial effect on Salmonella typhimurium, Food Hygiene, 1(2): 9-1. [in Persian]
• Rahdari, P., Dehpour Jouybari, A. and Roudgarkouhep, M.A. (2010). Identification and antimicrobial effect of essential oil components Consolida orientalis, Journal Management System, 1(1): 90-85. [in Persian]
• Rahnama, M., Razavi Rohani, S., Tajik, H., Khalighi Sigaroodi, F. and Rezazad Bari, M. (2009). Effects of Zataria multiflora Boiss. Essential oil and Nisin, Alone and in Combination Against Listeria monocytogen in BHI broth. Journal of Medicinal Plants, 4(32): 120-13. [in Persian]
• Rana, B.K., Singh, U.P. and Taneja, V. (1997). Antifungal and kinetics of inhibition by essential oil isolated from leaves of aegle marmelos. Journal Ethnopharmacology, 57(1): 29-34.
• Rasoli, E., Rezayi, M.B. (2000). A study on antimicrobial activity and chemical compositions of essential oils from flowers of Lavandula Angutifolia and Salvia Officinalis, Journal of Kerman University of Medical Sciences, 7(4): 181-173. [in Persian]
• Rasooli, I., Gachkar, L., Yadegarinia, D., Rezaei, M.B., Taghizadeh, M., Fakoor, M.H. and Allameh, A.M. (2008). Relation of antioxidative property and free radical scavenging capacity to the antimicrobial characteristics of essential oils from Mentha spicata L. and Chenopodium ambrosioides L. , Iranian Journal of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, 23(4): 503- 492. [in Persian]
• Saadatmand, S., Alaediny, A. and Salehy, M. (2009). Antibacterial Effects of Dionysia Revoluta Essence on Staphylococcos Aureus and Determinatin of Biochemical Component by GC-MASS Metthod, The Quarterly Journal of Animal Physiology and Development (Quarterly Journal of Biological Sciences), 1(2): 57-63. [in Persian]
• Sadeghi, E., akhoundzadeh basti, a., Misaghi, a., Zahraei salehi, T. and Bohlouli osgouei, S. (2010). Evaluation of effects of Cuminum Cyminum and probiotic on Staphylococcus aureus in feta cheese, Journal of Medicinal Plants, 9(34): 131-141. [in Persian]
• Sadeghzadeh, L., Sefidkon, F. and Oulia, P. (2006). Chemical composition and antimicrobial activity of the essential oil of zataria multiflora, pajouhesh-va-Sazandegi, 19(2)(17): 52-56. [in Persian]
• Saderi, H. Oulia, P. and Hashemi, S.R. (2007). The Effect off Essential Oil of Matricaria Chamomilla L. on Biofilm Formation of Pseudomonas Aeruginosa, Iranian Journal of Medical Microbiology, 1(2): 9-14. [in Persian]
• Saharkhiz1, M., Sattari, M., Goodarzi, Gh. and Omidbaigi, R. (2008). Assessment of antibacterial properties of Tanacetum parthenium L. essential oil, Iranian Journal of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, 24(1): 55-47. [in Persian]
• Saikia, A.K. and Sahoo, R.K. (2011). Chemical composition and antibacterial activity of essential oil of lantana camaral. Middle-east Journal of Scientific Research, 8(3): 599-602.
• Sarabi jamab, M., Nyazmand, R. and Abedynia, A.R. (2008). Thyme essential oil effect on the activity of Lactobacillus acidophilus, a probiotic yoghurt starter bacteria, Eighteenth National Congress of Food Science and Technology, Institute of Food Science and Technology Khorasan Razavi, : 25-21. [in Persian]
• Sefidkon, F., Askari, F., Sadeghzadeh, L. and Owlia, P. (2009). Antimicrobial effects of the essential oils of satureja mutica, S. edmondi and S. bachtiarica against Salmonella paratifi A and B, Iranian Journal of Biology, 22(2): 258-249. [in Persian]
• Shahandeh, Z., Molana, Z. and Farzivvash, T. (2006). Extraction and Study of Descurainia Sophiaextract on Inhibition of Groeth of E.coli and Staphylococcus aureus, Journal of Babol University of Medical Sciences, Vo. 8 , No. 5 (33): 26- 30. [in Persian]
• Shareef, A.A. (2011). Evaluation of antibacterial activity of essential oils of cinnamomumsp.and boswellia sp. Journal of Basrah Researches (Sciences), 37(5): 60-71.
• Sharifi, A. Naghmachi, M. and Bahrami, S. (2011).Antimicrobial Activities of Dorema Auchri, Armaghan Danesh , 15(4) (60): 378-386. [in Persian]
• Soltan Dallal, M.M., Ghorbanzade Mashkani, M., Yazdi, M.H., Agha Amiri, S., Mobasseri, G., Abedi Mohtasab, T.P. and Harat, F.A. (2011). Antibacterial effects of Rosmarinus officinalis on Methicillin -resistant Staphylococcus aureus isolated from patients and foods, Scientific Journal of Kurdistan University of Medical Sciences, 16(1): 80-73. [in Persian]
• Soltani Nejad, SH., Setayi Mokhtari, T. and Rahbaryan, P. (2010). study on the antibacterial effect of essential oils and methanol extracts of berries on some pathogenic bacteria Ziziphora clinopodioides, Journal of Microbial Technology, 2(5): 1-6. [in Persian]
• Soltani Nejad, SH., Setayi Mokhtari, T. and Soltani Nejad, M. (2010). Evaluation of the antibacterial activity of methanol extract of Eucalyptus leaves against Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli and Streptococcus pyogenes in vitro, Journal of Microbial Technology, 2(4): 27-21. [in Persian]
• Soltani poor, M.A., Rezaee, M.B. and Moradshahi, A. (2004). Study on antimicrobial effects of essential oil of Zhumeria majdae Rech. f. & Wendelbo, Iranian Journal of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Research, 20(3): 277-289. [in Persian]
• Soltani poor, M.A., Rezaee, M.B., Moradshahi, A., Kholdebarin, B. and Barazandeh, M. (2007). The Comparison of Constituents of Essential Oils of Zhumeria majdae Rech. f. & Wendelbo at Flowering Stages in Various Parts of Hormozgan Province. Journal of Medicinal Plants, 1(21): 42-47. [in Persian]
• Srinivasan, D., Nathan, S., Suresh, T. and Lakshmana Perumalsamy, P. (2001). Antimicrobial activity of certain indian medicinal plants used in folkloric medicine. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 74(3): 217-220.
• Taleei, Gh.R., Meshkat alsadat, M.H., and Mousavi, S.Z. (2008). Antibacterial activity native medicinal plants extracts in Lorestan, Iran, Journal of Gorgan University of Medical Sciences, 10 (1)(25): 31- 35. [in Persian]
• Tassou, C., J.E, N.G., (1995). Antimicrobial activity of essential oil of mastic gum (pistacia lentiscus var. chia) on gram positive and gram negative bacteria in brith and in model food biodeterioration and biodegradation, 12: 411-420.
• Tserennadmid, R., Tako, M., Galgoczy, L., Papp, T., Vagvolgyi, C., Gero, L., et al. (2010). Antibacterial effect of essential oils and interaction with food components. central european Journal of Biology, 5(5): 641-648.
• Xianfei, X., Xiaoqiang, C., Shunying, Zh. and Guolin, Z. (2007). Chemical composition and antimicrobial activity of essential oils of chaenomeles speciosafrom china. food chemistry, 100(4): 1312-1315.