Evaluation of the possible use of genus Mentha derived essential oils in the prevention of SENLAT syndrome caused by Rickettsia slovaca

J Ethnopharmacol. 2019 Mar 25:232:55-61. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2018.12.005. Epub 2018 Dec 6.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Essential oils and essential oil bearing medicinal and culinary plants have a long tradition of being used to combat infection, treat various conditions, and promote and restore health. Mint oils are traditionally applied to repel insects and treat various conditions including wounds, skin infections, inflammation, eczema, urticaria, psoriasis, scabies and insect bites. They are among essential oils promoted as a natural way to prevent tick-borne diseases and recommended as ingredients in various homemade repellent mixtures and tick-bite treatments.

Aim of the study: The aim of this study was to evaluate the effect of three most common mint oils - peppermint (Mentha x piperita L.), cornmint (M. arvensis L.), and spearmint (M. spicata L.) on obligate intracellular tick-borne bacterium Rickettsia slovaca.

Materials and methods: Influence of mint oils on R. slovaca replication in Vero cells initially infected by lower (106) or higher (108) number of rickettsial particles was tested during in vitro cultivation with daily change of medium. qPCR and RT-qPCR based growth curves and linear mixed effect models were applied to evaluate the growth inhibition. Peppermint oil was further tested in pilot in vivo study on experimentally infected ticks.

Results: Two of the tested essential oils, peppermint and cornmint, significantly inhibited rickettsial growth. On average, peppermint oil reduced the amount of rickettsiae present on day 4 post infection up to 0.05% of the rickettsial load present in the respective controls. Cornmint oil decreased the amount of rickettsiae to 0.09% of control. Peppermint oil also significantly reduced the number of living rickettsiae in artificially infected ticks.

Conclusions: Present study showed that essential oils with antimicrobial properties may also inhibit tick-transmitted bacteria, and thus their possible use as preventative measures against tick-borne diseases is worth further research.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Mentha*
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology*
  • Rickettsia / drug effects*
  • Rickettsia / genetics
  • Rickettsia / growth & development
  • Spotted Fever Group Rickettsiosis / prevention & control
  • Syndrome
  • Ticks / microbiology
  • Vero Cells


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Oils, Volatile