Influence of essential and fatty oils on ciliary beat frequency of human nasal epithelial cells

Am J Rhinol. 2008 Mar-Apr;22(2):130-4. doi: 10.2500/ajr.2008.22.3137.


Background: In alternative and complementary medicine, the use of essential and fatty oils has become more and more popular. In addition to conventional medical therapies, self-medication is showing increasing popularity, using agents with unclear compounds and poorly controlled dosages. Among other disorders, these alternative treatments are used in bronchitis and rhinitis, including some topical applications. Thus, the influence on ciliated epithelia should be evaluated, because a disturbance of the ciliary function can lead to recurrent sinusitis and chronic rhinosinusitis. The aim of this study was to test the influence of fatty and essential oils on the ciliary beat frequency (CBF) of nasal mucosa in vivo.

Methods: The influence of sesame oil, soy oil, peanut oil, Miglyol 840, thyme oil, lavender oil, eucalyptus oil, and menthol on the ciliary activity of nasal brushings was evaluated by digital high-speed imaging.

Results: The presence of most fatty oils resulted in an increase in CBF, the effect being highest for peanut oil. Miglyol 840 had no significant influence on CBF. The essential oils were tested at a concentration of 0.2 and 2%. Thyme oil did not affect CBF, whereas the presence of all other essentials oils resulted in an increase in CBF; the effect was higher at 0.2% than at 2%.

Conclusion: Except thyme oil and Miglyol 840, all tested oils caused an increase in CBF. Interestingly, the 0.2% concentrations of essential oils resulted in stronger effects when compared with the 2% concentrations.

MeSH terms

  • Cilia / drug effects*
  • Fatty Acids, Essential / pharmacology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Nasal Mucosa / drug effects*
  • Plant Oils / pharmacology*


  • Fatty Acids, Essential
  • Plant Oils