Characterisation of the anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive activities and the mechanism of the action of Lippia gracilis essential oil

J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 May 17;135(2):406-13. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2011.03.032. Epub 2011 Mar 21.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: The species Lippia gracilis Schauer, known in Brazil as "Alecrim-da-chapada", is popularly used in folk medicine to treat cough, bronchitis, nasal congestion, and headache.

Materials and methods: Lippia gracilis essential oil (EO; 10, 30, and 100mg/kg, p.o.) and the reference drugs morphine (5mg/kg, p.o.) and acetylsalicylic acid (ASA; 200mg/kg, p.o.) were evaluated using models for analgesia (acetic acid-induced contortion, formalin-induced licking, and hot plate) or inflammation (formalin-induced licking response and subcutaneous air pouch model). To elucidate the antinociceptive mechanism of action, animals were pre-treated with naloxone (opioid receptor antagonist; 1mg/kg, i.p.), atropine (cholinergic antagonist; 1mg/kg, i.p.) or l-nitro arginine methyl ester (L-NAME; 3mg/kg, i.p.) 30 min prior to oral administration of EO.

Results: EO significantly inhibited the number of writhings in acetic acid-induced contortions and the time that the animal spent licking the formalin-injected paw (second phase). All doses of EO increased the baseline and the area under the curve in the hot plate model. The administration of naloxone did not reverse the antinociceptive effect of EO in the acetic acid-induced contortion and formalin-induced licking models. L-NAME and atropine significantly reversed the effect of EO in the models of contortion, formalin, and hot plate. EO also inhibited the inflammatory process induced by subcutaneous carrageenan injection, reducing cell migration, exudate volume, extravased protein, and inflammatory mediators (nitric oxide, prostaglandin E2, TNF-α, and IFN-γ) produced in the pouch.

Conclusions: Our results indicate that the essential oil from Lippia gracilis produces an antinociceptive effect that could be potentially mediated by cholinergic receptors and the nitric oxide pathway. Our data also suggest that the anti-inflammatory activity caused by EO exposure occurs through inhibition of nitric oxide and PGE2 production.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Lippia / chemistry*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Oils, Volatile / therapeutic use*


  • Analgesics
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Oils, Volatile