Essential Oil Applications, Research Updates|



The study investigated the efficacy of commercial essential oil combinations against the two pathogens responsible for acne with the aim to identify synergy and favourable oils to possibly use in a blend.

Methods and materials

Antimicrobial activity was assessed using the minimum inhibitory concentration (MIC) assay against Staphylococcus epidermidis (ATCC 2223) and Propionibacterium acnes (ATCC 11827), and the fractional inhibitory concentration index (ΣFIC) was calculated. Combinations displaying synergistic interactions were further investigated at varied ratios and the results plotted on isobolograms.


From the 408 combinations investigated, 167 combinations were identified as displaying noteworthy antimicrobial activity (MIC value ≤ 1.00 mg ml−1). Thirteen synergistic interactions were observed against S. epidermidis and three synergistic combinations were observed against P. acnes. It was found that not one of the synergistic interactions identified were based on the combinations recommended in the layman’s aroma‐therapeutic literature. Synergy was evident rather from leads based on antimicrobial activity from previous studies, thus emphasising the importance of scientific validation. Leptospermum scoparium J.R.Forst. and G.Forst (manuka) was the essential oil mostly involved in synergistic interactions (four) against S. epidermidisCananga odorata (Lam.) Hook.f. and Thomson (ylang ylang) essential oil was also frequently involved in synergy where synergistic interactions could be observed against both pathogens. The combination with the lowest MIC value against both acne pathogens was and Vetiveria zizanioides Stapf (vetiver) with Cinnamomum verum J.Presl (cinnamon bark) (MIC values 0.19‐0.25 mg ml−1). Pogostemon patchouli Benth. (patchouli), V. zizanioides, C. verum and Santalum spp. (sandalwood) could be identified as the oils that contributed the most noteworthy antimicrobial activity towards the combinations. The different chemotypes of the essential oils used in the combinations predominantly resulted in similar antimicrobial activity.


The investigated essential oil combinations resulted in at least 50% of the combinations displaying noteworthy antimicrobial activity. Most of the synergistic interactions do not necessarily correspond to the recommended aroma‐therapeutic literature, which highlights a need for scientific validation of essential oil antimicrobial activity. No antagonism was observed.

Reference: Orchard, A., S. van Vuuren, A. Viljoen and G. Kamatou (2018). “The in vitro antimicrobial evaluation of commercially essential oils and their combinations against acne.” International journal of cosmetic science.

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