Antimicrobial efficacy of plant essential oils and extracts against Escherichia coli

J Environ Sci Health A Tox Hazard Subst Environ Eng. 2019;54(7):608-616. doi: 10.1080/10934529.2019.1574153. Epub 2019 Mar 1.


The efficacies of 11 plant-derived antimicrobials were evaluated against Escherichia coli in vitro in solution at room temperature. These included lemongrass, cinnamon, and oregano essential oils and their active components (citral, cinnamaldehyde, and carvacrol, respectively). Allspice and clove bud oils and olive, green tea, and grape seed extracts were also studied. The efficacies of the antimicrobials were both concentration- and exposure time-dependent. The essential oils and their active components demonstrated statistically significant >5.0-log10 reductions within 1-10 min. The plant extracts were less effective; green tea and grape seed extracts required 24 h before significant reductions were observed (1.93-log10 and 5.05-log10, respectively). Nevertheless, olive extract exhibited a reduction of ∼5-log10 within 30 min. Most of these plant-derived compounds exhibited strong bactericidal activity and can potentially be applied as alternatives to chemicals for foods/food contact surfaces since they are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for human consumption. They may also be useful in applications in which other antimicrobials have reduced efficacy (e.g., in the presence of organics) or used with sensitive populations that are unable to tolerate exposure to harsher chemicals (e.g., elderly care facilities). These compounds could be used alone, in combination, or with fast-acting antimicrobials to provide a long-lasting residual.

Keywords: active components; plant antimicrobials; plant essential oils; plant extracts.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Escherichia coli / drug effects*
  • Food Microbiology
  • Food Safety
  • Humans
  • Microbial Viability / drug effects*
  • Oils, Volatile / chemistry
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology*
  • Plant Extracts / chemistry
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plant Oils / chemistry
  • Plant Oils / pharmacology*
  • Time Factors


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Oils, Volatile
  • Plant Extracts
  • Plant Oils