Essential oils (EOs) are a complex mixture of hydrophobic and volatile compounds synthesized from aromatic plants, most of them commonly used in the human diet. In recent years, many studies have analyzed their antimicrobial, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, immunomodulatory and anticancer properties in vitro and on experimentally induced animal models of colitis and colorectal cancer. However, there are still few clinical studies aimed to understand their role in the modulation of the intestinal pathophysiology. Many EOs and some of their molecules have demonstrated their efficacy in inhibiting bacterial, fungi and virus replication and in modulating the inflammatory and oxidative processes that take place in experimental colitis. In addition to this, their antitumor activity against colorectal cancer models makes them extremely interesting compounds for the modulation of the pathophysiology of the large bowel. The characterization of these EOs is made difficult by their complexity and by the different compositions present in the same oil having different geographical origins. This review tries to shift the focus from the EOs to their individual compounds, to expand their possible applications in modulating colon pathophysiology.
Keywords: anti-inflammatory; antioxidant; bowel; colorectal cancer; essential oils; microbial-modulating.