The antibacterial and antifungal activity of six essential oils and their cyto/genotoxicity to human HEL 12469 cells

Sci Rep. 2017 Aug 15;7(1):8211. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-08673-9.


Six essential oils (from oregano, thyme, clove, lavender, clary sage, and arborvitae) exhibited different antibacterial and antifungal properties. Antimicrobial activity was shown against pathogenic (Escherichia coli, Salmonella typhimurium, Yersinia enterocolitica, Staphylococcus aureus, Listeria monocytogenes, and Enterococcus faecalis) and environmental bacteria (Bacillus cereus, Arthrobacter protophormiae, Pseudomonas fragi) and fungi (Chaetomium globosum, Penicillium chrysogenum, Cladosporium cladosporoides, Alternaria alternata, and Aspergillus fumigatus). Oregano, thyme, clove and arborvitae showed very strong antibacterial activity against all tested strains at both full strength and reduced concentrations. These essential oils showed different fungistatic and fungicidal activities when tested by direct application and in the vapor phase. The genotoxic effects of these oils on HEL 12469 human embryo lung cells were evaluated using an alkaline comet assay for the first time, revealing that none of the oils induced significant DNA damage in vitro after 24 h. This study provides novel approaches for assessing the antimicrobial potential of essential oils in both direct contact and the vapor phase and also demonstrates the valuable properties of the phenol-free arborvitae oil. These results suggest that all the tested essential oils might be used as broad-spectrum anti-microbial agents for decontaminating an indoor environment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antifungal Agents / chemistry
  • Antifungal Agents / pharmacology*
  • Bacteria / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • DNA Damage / drug effects
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Fungi / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Microbial Sensitivity Tests
  • Mutagens / chemistry
  • Mutagens / pharmacology*
  • Oils, Volatile / chemistry
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology*
  • Plant Oils / chemistry
  • Plant Oils / pharmacology*
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / pharmacology


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Antifungal Agents
  • Mutagens
  • Oils, Volatile
  • Plant Oils
  • Volatile Organic Compounds