Pesticide residues in essential oils: evaluation of a database

Pharmeur Bio Sci Notes. 2015:2015:131-49.


In the context of a revision of the European Pharmacopoeia (Ph. Eur.) general monograph Essential oils (2098), the need to include a test for pesticides is being discussed. According to published literature, some oils, mainly those produced by cold pressing (e.g. citrus oils), can contain relevant amounts of pesticide residues, whereas distilled oils showed positive findings in only a few cases. Recent evaluation of a database containing 127 517 sets of data compiled over 8 years, showed positive results in 1 150 cases (0.90 per cent), and the limits of Ph. Eur. general chapter 2.8.13 Pesticide residues or Regulation (EC) 396/2005, both applicable to herbal drugs, were exceeded in 392 cases (0.31 per cent, equivalent to 34.1 per cent of the positive results), particularly in cases of oils produced by cold pressing. From these results, it can be concluded that a general test on pesticides in the Ph. Eur. general monograph on essential oils is not required for most oils used in medicinal products. Therefore, it is proposed to limit the testing of essential oils for pesticide residues to those cases where potential residues are more of a concern, either due to the type of production process or to those processes where pesticides are actively used during cultivation of the plant (e.g. as documented according to Good Agricultural and Collection Practice (GACP)). Furthermore, in order to assess any potential risk, an approach using the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) can be made.

Keywords: European Pharmacopoeia; essential oils; herbal drugs; pesticide residues; pesticides.

Publication types

  • Evaluation Study

MeSH terms

  • Databases, Factual / standards*
  • Europe
  • Humans
  • Oils, Volatile / analysis*
  • Oils, Volatile / standards*
  • Pesticide Residues / analysis*
  • Pharmacopoeias as Topic / standards


  • Oils, Volatile
  • Pesticide Residues