Among compounds of natural origin, biological activities have been shown by essential oils from aromatic and medicinal plants and have received particular attention because of their radical-scavenging properties [De Sousa Barros A, et al]. Plant extracts and essential oils possess antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties and have been screened on a global scale as potential sources of novel antimicrobial compounds, agents promoting food preservation, and alternatives to treat infectious diseases [Safaei et al 2010, Astani et al 2010]. Essential oils have been reported to possess significant antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral, antioxidant, anti-parasitic, antifungal, and insecticidal activities. Therefore, essential oils can serve as a powerful tool to reduce the bacterial resistance [M.K et al 2013].
Essential oils (also called volatile oils) are aromatic oily liquids obtained from plant materials (flowers, buds, seeds, leaves, twigs, bark, herbs, wood, fruits and roots). They can be obtained by expression, fermentation or extraction but the method of steam distillation is most commonly used for commercial production. An estimated 3000 essential oils are known, of which 300 are commercially important in fragrance market. Essential oils are complex mixers comprising many single compounds. Chemically they are derived from terpenes and their oxygenated compounds. Each of these constituents contributes to the beneficial or adverse effects [Vande et al].
In the research about antimicrobial activity, the action mechanism and potential use of volatile plant oils have received prominence in recent decades in parallel with advances in traditional approaches to protecting the health of humans, animals and food against the presence of pathogenic and spoilage microorganisms. Thus, investigations on the antimicrobial activity of plant extracts against different pathogens have been performed worldwide (Dorman and Deans 2000).
The study conducted on four commercially available essential oils (Eucalyptus, peppermint, tea tree and Lavender) revealed that their antibacterial properties vary depending on the concentration used and the presence of secondary metabolites. The highest activity was observed with Eucalyptus on Staphylococcus spp at 50% concentration. This result is in accordance with the work of Traoré et al., who tested the antimicrobial activity of essential oils of Eucalyptus citriodora and Eucalyptus houseana by agar diffusion method. They found that they have some activity against Staphylococcus aureus and Escherichia coli; in addition, they are active against Candida albicans.
Therefore, Essential oils have great medicinal benefits as they contain the essence of herbs and flowers in concentrated form. The aroma molecules are very potent organic plant chemicals that make the surroundings free from disease, bacteria, virus and fungus. Their versatile character of antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory nature along with immune booster body with hormonal, glandular, emotional, circulatory, calming effect, memory and alertness enhancer, is well documented by many scientists. It’s known to everyone that most antibiotics no longer work; infections are getting harder to cure. Hence, it is high time to find alternative to antibiotics from natural sources.
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Ms. Maryam Muhammad, is a Lecturer II at Skyline University Nigeria. She has an MSc. in Medical Microbiology from the Bayaro University Kano.