Antimicrobial activity of eugenol and essential oils containing eugenol: A mechanistic viewpoint

Crit Rev Microbiol. 2017 Nov;43(6):668-689. doi: 10.1080/1040841X.2017.1295225. Epub 2017 Mar 27.


Eugenol is a hydroxyphenyl propene, naturally occurring in the essential oils of several plants belonging to the Lamiaceae, Lauraceae, Myrtaceae, and Myristicaceae families. It is one of the major constituents of clove (Syzygium aromaticum (L.) Merr. & L.M. Perry, Myrtaceae) oil and is largely used in both foods and cosmetics as a flavoring agent. A large body of recent scientific evidence supports claims from traditional medicine that eugenol exerts beneficial effects on human health. These effects are mainly associated with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities. Eugenol has also shown excellent antimicrobial activity in studies, being active against fungi and a wide range of gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria. The aim of this review is to analyze scientific data from the main published studies describing the antibacterial and antifungal activities of eugenol targeting different kind of microorganisms, such as those responsible for human infectious diseases, diseases of the oral cavity, and food-borne pathogens. This article also reports the effects of eugenol on multi-drug resistant microorganisms. On the basis of this collected data, eugenol represents a very interesting bioactive compound with broad spectrum antimicrobial activity against both planktonic and sessile cells belonging to food-decaying microorganisms and human pathogens.

Keywords: Eugenol; antimicrobial activity; diseases of the oral cavity; food-borne pathogens; infectious diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Antifungal Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Bacteria / drug effects*
  • Cell Membrane / drug effects
  • Communicable Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Communicable Diseases / microbiology
  • Eugenol / pharmacology*
  • Foodborne Diseases / drug therapy
  • Foodborne Diseases / microbiology
  • Fungi / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology*
  • Syzygium / chemistry


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antifungal Agents
  • Antioxidants
  • Oils, Volatile
  • Eugenol