Phytochemical Profile and Evaluation of the Biological Activities of Essential Oils Derived from the Greek Aromatic Plant Species Ocimum basilicum, Mentha spicata, Pimpinella anisum and Fortunella margarita

Molecules. 2016 Aug 16;21(8):1069. doi: 10.3390/molecules21081069.


Natural products, known for their medicinal properties since antiquity, are continuously being studied for their biological properties. In the present study, we analyzed the composition of the volatile preparations of essential oils of the Greek plants Ocimum basilicum (sweet basil), Mentha spicata (spearmint), Pimpinella anisum (anise) and Fortunella margarita (kumquat). GC/MS analyses revealed that the major components in the essential oil fractions, were carvone (85.4%) in spearmint, methyl chavicol (74.9%) in sweet basil, trans-anethole (88.1%) in anise, and limonene (93.8%) in kumquat. We further explored their biological potential by studying their antimicrobial, antioxidant and antiproliferative activities. Only the essential oils from spearmint and sweet basil demonstrated cytotoxicity against common foodborne bacteria, while all preparations were active against the fungi Saccharomyces cerevisiae and Aspergillus niger. Antioxidant evaluation by DPPH and ABTS radical scavenging activity assays revealed a variable degree of antioxidant potency. Finally, their antiproliferative potential was tested against a panel of human cancer cell lines and evaluated by using the sulforhodamine B (SRB) assay. All essential oil preparations exhibited a variable degree of antiproliferative activity, depending on the cancer model used, with the most potent one being sweet basil against an in vitro model of human colon carcinoma.

Keywords: Fortunella margarita; Mentha spicata; Ocimum basilicum; Pimpinella anisum; antimicrobial; antioxidant; antiproliferative; composition; essential oil.

MeSH terms

  • Allylbenzene Derivatives
  • Anisoles / isolation & purification
  • Anisoles / pharmacology
  • Aspergillus niger / drug effects
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cyclohexane Monoterpenes
  • Cyclohexenes / isolation & purification
  • Cyclohexenes / pharmacology
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor
  • Food Microbiology
  • Humans
  • Limonene
  • Mentha spicata / chemistry*
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Monoterpenes / isolation & purification
  • Monoterpenes / pharmacology
  • Ocimum basilicum / chemistry*
  • Oils, Volatile / chemistry*
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology*
  • Oxidation-Reduction / drug effects
  • Pimpinella / chemistry*
  • Plant Oils / chemistry
  • Plant Oils / pharmacology
  • Rutaceae / chemistry*
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae / drug effects
  • Terpenes / isolation & purification
  • Terpenes / pharmacology


  • Allylbenzene Derivatives
  • Anisoles
  • Cyclohexane Monoterpenes
  • Cyclohexenes
  • Monoterpenes
  • Oils, Volatile
  • Plant Oils
  • Terpenes
  • carvone
  • Limonene
  • estragole
  • anethole