Effects of Essential Oils and Monolaurin on Staphylococcus aureus: In Vitro and In Vivo Studies

Toxicol Mech Methods. 2005;15(4):279-85. doi: 10.1080/15376520590968833.


The antimicrobial properties of volatile aromatic oils and medium-chain fatty acids derived from edible plants have been recognized since antiquity. To give examples, Origanum oil, used as a food-flavoring agent, possesses a broad spectrum of antimicrobial activity due, at least in part, to its high content of phenolic derivatives such as carvacrol and thymol. Similarly, lauric acid, present in heavy concentrations in coconuts, forms monolaurin in the body that can inhibit the growth of pathogenic microbes. Using Staphylococcus aureus in broth cultures and a microdilution method, comparative efficacy of Origanum oil, and a constituent carvacrol, other essential oils and monolaurin were examined. Origanum oil was the most potent of the essential oils tested and proved bactericidal in culture to two strains of Staphylococcus aureus (ATCC #14154 and #14775) at 0.25 mg/mL. In vitro, monolaurin's effects mirrored Origanum oil. The combination of both was bactericidal at the 0.125 mg/mL concentration of each. In two separate In vivo experiments, injected Staphylococcus aureus (ATCC #14775) killed all 14 untreated mice within a 1-week period. In treated mice, over one third survived for 30 days when given oral Origanum oil daily for 30 days (6/14). Fifty percent of the mice survived for 30 days when receiving daily vancomycin (7/14) and monolaurin (4/8). Over 60% of mice survived when receiving a daily combination of Origanum oil and monolaurin (5/8). Origanum oil and/or monolaurin may prove to be useful antimicrobial agents for prevention and therapy of Staphylococcus aureus infections.