The present paper reports the chemical composition, antioxidant and antibacterial activities of several essential oils and their components. Analysis showed that three oils (Carum carvi L., Verbena officinalis L. and Majorana hortensis L.) contained predominantly oxygenated monoterpenes, while others studied (Pimpinella anisum L., Foeniculum vulgare Mill.) mainly contained anethole. C. carvi, V. officinalis and M. hortensis oils exhibited the most potent antioxidant activity, due their contents of carvacrol, anethole and estragol. Antibacterial action was assessed against a range of pathogenic and useful bacteria and fungi of agro-food interest. V. officinalis and C. carvi oils proved the most effective, in particular against Bacillus cereus and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Carvacrol proved most active against Escherichia coli, and completely inhibited the growth of Penicillium citrinum. The oils proved inactive towards some Lactobacilli strains, whereas single components showed an appreciable activity. These results may be important for use of the essential oils as natural preservatives for food products.