Essential Oil May Be Future of Food Preservation


Thai researchers complete a review of essential plant oils that are backed by research on their preservative potential.

The processed food and beverage market is still saturated with synthetic preservatives, but many plant-based essential oils are proving useful for antimicrobial and anti-oxidative traits. Some essential oils, such as rosemary, are already in use, but the category is still immature, so researchers at Prince of Songkla University in Thailand have compiled a review of essential oils for food preservation for those interested.

Rosemary extract is arguably the most common essential oil used for extending product shelf life, due its ability to combat gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. But other, less-used essential oils have their own preservative potential. Oregano oil and thyme oil, with high levels of a compound called cavacrol, have a “broad spectrum of antimicrobial activity” against many types of bacteria. Even a variety of bottlebrush, Callistemon comboynensis, has some potential for keeping microbes at bay.

Many oils have shown some sort of antimicrobial activity in published research, and they can be extracted from a variety of plant parts-such as leaves, seeds, flowers, and roots-and through a variety of extraction techniques, including steam processes and supercritical CO2extraction. For the bitter oils, modern technology makes available encapsulation techniques and other ways of getting an ingredient’s preservative power without its odor.

The natural preservative market is fitting for today’s health shoppers, but it doesn’t have to be limited to rosemary extract. To learn more about essential oils for shelf-life extension, read the Thailand review. It’s currently free for public viewing.

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Robby Gardner

Associate Editor

Nutritional Outlook magazine

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