A Multifactorial Comparison of Ternary Combinations of Essential Oils in Topical Preparations to Current Antibiotic Prescription Therapies for the Control of Acne Vulgaris-Associated Bacteria

Phytother Res. 2017 Mar;31(3):410-417. doi: 10.1002/ptr.5762. Epub 2017 Jan 26.


Acne vulgaris, a chronic condition associated with overgrowth of Propionibacterium acnes and Staphylococcus epidermidis, is commonly treated with antibiotics. However, the emergence of antibiotic resistance has resulted in a need for alternative therapies. The aim of this study is to develop a topical preparation incorporating essential oils (EOs) for use against acne-associated bacteria and assess its efficacy against prescription therapies Dalacin T and Stiemycin. Antimicrobial screening of rosewood, clove bud and litsea EOs was conducted before interactions between binary and ternary combinations were determined against P. acnes and S. epidermidis (type and clinical isolates) using minimum inhibitory concentrations and fractional inhibitory concentrations. The EOs were characterised by both gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and nuclear magnetic resonance. A combination of 0.53 mg/mL litsea, 0.11 mg/mL rosewood and 0.11 mg/mL clove bud was formulated into herbal distillates and compared with Dalacin T and Stiemycin against antibiotic sensitive and resistant isolates (erythromycin). The distillate with EO had synergistic activity against P. acnes (7log10 reduction) and indifferent activity against S. epidermidis (6log10 reduction); antimicrobial activity was either significantly (p ≤ 0.05) more antimicrobial or equivalent to that of Dalacin T and Stiemycin. This formulation may serve as a valuable alternative for the control of acne vulgaris-associated bacteria. Copyright © 2017 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Keywords: Propionibacterium acnes; Staphylococcus epidermidis; acne vulgaris; antimicrobial synergy; essential oils.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / drug therapy
  • Acne Vulgaris / microbiology*
  • Administration, Topical
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Infective Agents / administration & dosage
  • Clindamycin / administration & dosage
  • Clindamycin / pharmacology
  • Drug Combinations
  • Drug Synergism
  • Erythromycin / administration & dosage
  • Erythromycin / pharmacology
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Humans
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Oils, Volatile / administration & dosage*
  • Oils, Volatile / chemistry
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology*
  • Propionibacterium acnes / drug effects*
  • Propionibacterium acnes / growth & development
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis / drug effects*
  • Staphylococcus epidermidis / growth & development


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Drug Combinations
  • Oils, Volatile
  • Clindamycin
  • Erythromycin