New Study Provides First Evidence That Natural Essential Oils Counteract Inflammation Caused By Polluted Air


Certain ingredients in essential oils made from plants could provide a natural treatment of liver and lung conditions caused by air pollution.  They may also help in counteracting inflammation.

This recent study evaluated the value of using specific essential oil compounds — like fennel, anise, ylang ylang, and cloves — to treat inflammation caused by the fine particles found in hazy, polluted air known to be carcinogenic.

This new study is the first of its kind.

Different Organic Compounds in Essential Oils

Plants naturally contain a variety of essential oils that consist of different compounds. Some of these compounds have antioxidant value.  They may also be able to fight inflammation.

The essential oils in some plants have a group of organic compounds called phenylpropanoidspossible anti-inflammatory substances.  A few of these substances are estragole (found in basil), eugenol (which occurs in clove bud oil), trans-anethole, (a flavor component of anise and fennel), and isoeugenol (contained in ylang ylang).

Laboratory Tests Discover Essential Oil

Lead author of this new study, Miriana Kfoury and her team of researchers, collected air pollutant samples containing fine particles.  Laboratory test samples were then introduced to human cell cultures of cancer derived hepatic cells and normal bronchial epithelial cells.

The fine particle matter induced inflammation in the cells.  They started to secrete the pro-inflammatory cytokines IL-6 and IL-8 — substances that are secreted during infections and tissue damage. Cytokin levels normally increase when our body’s immune system fights specific infections.

Next, the researchers established that the trans-anethole, estragole, eugenol, and isoeugenol all have cytotoxicity — which means that they might cause cell death when exposed to comparatively high concentrations.

Evaluation of Oil Compound Properties

In their evaluation, the researchers were able to determine the level of cytotoxicity of these oil compounds. This was important in order to establish the maximum dose that should be selected in the next step — specifically, the assessment for anti-inflammatory properties.

In the second round of laboratory testing, the researchers introduced the four compounds to the combination of cell lines and air pollutants to see whether the natural essential oil compounds could protect lung and liver cells damaged by fine particles found in air pollution.

The researchers discovered that the essential oil compounds tested decrease the levels of the two types of cytokines in the samples. The levels of cytokine IL-6 decreased up to 96 percent, and the levels of cytokine IL-8 by 87 percent.

First Evidence of Essential Oils Counteracting Inflammation

Lead author Miriana Kfoury, of the Unité de Chimie Environnementale et Interactions sur le Vivant, Université du Littoral Côte d’Opale in France and the Lebanese University in Lebanon, offers a brief comment about this new study’s findings.

“The findings provide the first evidence that natural essential oil components counteract the inflammatory effects of particulate matter, such as that contained in polluted air.”

Kfoury and her colleagues published their recent study titled, “Essential oil components decrease pulmonary and hepatic cells inflammation induced by air pollution particulate matter,” in Springer’s journal Environmental Chemistry Letters

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George Zapo, CPH
George Zapo, CPH is certified in Public Health Promotion & Education. George focuses on writing informative articles promoting healthy behavior and lifestyles. Read more of George's articles at his website: