Essential Oils from Neotropical Piper Species and Their Biological Activities

Int J Mol Sci. 2017 Dec 14;18(12):2571. doi: 10.3390/ijms18122571.


The Piper genus is the most representative of the Piperaceae reaching around 2000 species distributed in the pantropical region. In the Neotropics, its species are represented by herbs, shrubs, and lianas, which are used in traditional medicine to prepare teas and infusions. Its essential oils (EOs) present high yield and are chemically constituted by complex mixtures or the predominance of main volatile constituents. The chemical composition of Piper EOs displays interspecific or intraspecific variations, according to the site of collection or seasonality. The main volatile compounds identified in Piper EOs are monoterpenes hydrocarbons, oxygenated monoterpenoids, sesquiterpene hydrocarbons, oxygenated sesquiterpenoids and large amounts of phenylpropanoids. In this review, we are reporting the biological potential of Piper EOs from the Neotropical region. There are many reports of Piper EOs as antimicrobial agents (fungi and bacteria), antiprotozoal (Leishmania spp., Plasmodium spp., and Trypanosoma spp.), acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, antinociceptive, anti-inflammatory and cytotoxic activity against different tumor cells lines (breast, leukemia, melanoma, gastric, among others). These studies can contribute to the rational and economic exploration of Piper species, once they have been identified as potent natural and alternative sources to treat human diseases.

Keywords: analgesic; anti-inflammatory; anticholinesterase; antimicrobial; antiprotozoal; cytotoxic; neotropics; piperaceae.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Infective Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Monoterpenes / analysis*
  • Oils, Volatile / analysis*
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology
  • Piper / chemistry*
  • Plant Oils / analysis*
  • Plant Oils / pharmacology
  • Tropical Climate*


  • Anti-Infective Agents
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cholinesterase Inhibitors
  • Monoterpenes
  • Oils, Volatile
  • Plant Oils