Ascaridole-rich essential oil from marsh rosemary (Ledum palustre) growing in Poland exerts insecticidal activity on mosquitoes, moths and flies without serious effects on non-target organisms and human cells

Food Chem Toxicol. 2020 Apr:138:111184. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2020.111184. Epub 2020 Feb 13.


Marsh rosemary (Ledum palustre, Ericaceae) has been widely used in the traditional medicine of various regions worldwide, and as insect repellent. Little is known on its essential oil insecticidal potential. This study explored the insecticidal effects of the essential oil obtained from L. palustre growing in Poland on selected insect pests and vectors. GC-MS analysis evidenced an uncommon chemotype characterized by ascaridole (35.3% as sum of cis-ascaridole and isoascaridole) and p-cymene (25.5%). The essential oil was effective against Culex quinquefasciatus, Spodoptera littoralis and Musca domestica, showing LC50/LD50 of 66.6 mg L-1, 117.2 μg larva-1 and 61.4 μg adult-1, respectively. It was not toxic to non-target Eisenia fetida earthworms and moderately toxic to Daphnia magna microcrustaceans, over the positive control α-cypermethrin. The essential oil cytotoxicity on human keratinocytes and fibroblasts showed high IC50 values (71.3 and 84.4 μg mL-1, respectively). Comet assay data highlighted no DNA damages. Based on our findings, this essential oil, characterized by the ascaridole/p-cymene chemotype, could be a candidate for the formulation of botanical insecticides; large-scale production of green insecticides by this rare species may be assured by ex situ cultivation and biotechnological techniques.

Keywords: Adulticide; Botanical pesticide; Culex quinquefasciatus; Housefly; Larvicide; Spodoptera littoralis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Comet Assay
  • Culex / drug effects
  • Culicidae / drug effects
  • Cyclohexane Monoterpenes / analysis
  • Cyclohexane Monoterpenes / pharmacology*
  • Cymenes / analysis
  • Cymenes / pharmacology
  • Daphnia / drug effects
  • Houseflies / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Insect Repellents / analysis
  • Insect Repellents / pharmacology
  • Insecticides / analysis
  • Insecticides / pharmacology*
  • Keratinocytes / cytology
  • Keratinocytes / drug effects
  • Larva / drug effects
  • Mosquito Vectors / drug effects
  • Moths / drug effects
  • Oils, Volatile / analysis
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology*
  • Oligochaeta / drug effects
  • Peroxides / analysis
  • Peroxides / pharmacology*
  • Poland
  • Pyrethrins / analysis
  • Pyrethrins / pharmacology
  • Rosmarinus / chemistry*
  • Spodoptera / drug effects


  • Cyclohexane Monoterpenes
  • Cymenes
  • Insect Repellents
  • Insecticides
  • Oils, Volatile
  • Peroxides
  • Pyrethrins
  • ascaridole
  • 4-cymene
  • cypermethrin