The Influence of Carrier Oils on the Antimicrobial Activity and Cytotoxicity of Essential Oils

Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2019 Jan 14;2019:6981305. doi: 10.1155/2019/6981305. eCollection 2019.


The topical use of essential oils requires dilution into a carrier oil; however, scientific evidence regarding the antimicrobial efficacy and cytotoxicity when a carrier oil is combined with an essential oil is lacking. This study sets out to determine the antimicrobial activity and cytotoxicity of 23 essential oils combined with six known carrier oils. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry/flame ionization detector (GC-MS/FID) was used to characterize the methyl esters of the carrier oils. The antimicrobial activity of the carrier oils alone and in combination with the essential oils was investigated using the broth microdilution assay against 11 skin pathogens and the cytotoxicity was determined using the brine shrimp lethality assay. The interactive profiles of the combinations for both antimicrobial activity and the cytotoxicity were analysed and calculated using the fractional inhibitory concentration index (ΣFIC). The carrier oils demonstrated no antimicrobial antagonism when combined with the essential oils and the overall cytotoxicity of the majority of the combinations was decreased. The carrier oils that could be identified as enhancing the antimicrobial activity and decreasing the cytotoxicity were Aloe vera Mill. and Simmondsia chinensis C.K.Schneid (Jojoba oil), with an overall reduction in essential oil cytotoxicity of 87.5% at 24 hrs and 85% at 48 hrs by A. vera. Five of the essential oils (when diluted in A. vera and S. chinensis carrier oils) demonstrated enhanced antimicrobial activity against pathogens such as Brevibacterium epidermidis, B. linens, and P. aeruginosa with MIC values ranging from 0.09 to 0.50 mg/mL (and ΣFIC 0.14-0.39). The study could conclude that the carrier oils are complementary to essential oil formulations, mostly reducing cytotoxicity and in some cases enhancing the antimicrobial activity.