Essential oils as green pesticides: An overview

Abstract views: 365 / PDF downloads: 250


  • SANDEEP KUMAR ICAR-Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi
  • GAGANA KUAMR MAHAPATRO Regional Station, ICAR-Indian Agricultural Research Institute, Pune, Maharashtra
  • DINESH KUMAR YADAV ICAR-Indian Institute of Soil Science, Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh
  • KAILASHPATI TRIPATHI ICAR-Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi 110 012, India
  • PUSHPENDRA KOLI ICAR-Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute, Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh
  • PARSHANT KAUSHIK ICAR-Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi 110 012, India
  • KULDEEP SHARMA ICAR-Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi 110 012, India
  • SURESH NEBAPURE ICAR-Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi 110 012, India


Antifeedant, Antifungal activities, Essential oil, Growth Regulatory, Insecticidal, Oviposition deterrent, Repellent


Essential oils (EOs) obtained from different parts of plants consist of diverse chemical constituents. Most of the essential oils are rich in monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes and phenylpropenes. The diversity of chemical constituents imparts several biological activities such as insecticidal, repellent, attractant, antifeedant, oviposition deterrent, disruption in growth regulation, fungicidal and antiviral to these essential oils. Traditionally, EOs are being utilised for management of insect pests both in field crops and storage. Mostly these essential oils are found to affect insects by inhibiting several enzymes such as acetylcholine esterages, Glutathion S-transferages and also octopaminergic nervous system. They do not show toxicity against the mammals and fishes, due to absence of target site in these organisms. A few essential oils are exempted from pesticide registration and are being used as seasoning agents in food and beverage products. Moreover, these EOs can be a potential “green pesticide” against agricultural pests and support to the organic food production. The main purpose of this review is to emphasize on biological activities of EOs. This comprehensive and critical review will be helpful for chemists to develop more candidates based on these moieties and also for plant protectionists to identify promising EOs as per the need.


Download data is not yet available.


Abdelatti Z A S and Hartbauer M. 2020. Plant oil mixture as a novel botanical pesticide to control gregarious locusts. Journal of Pest Science 93(1): 341–53. DOI:

Agarwal M and Walia S. 2003. Pest control potential of phytochemicals derived from Curcuma longa and Zingiber officinale. (In) Proceeding International Conference on Pesticides, Environment, Food Security. Society of Pesticide Science New Delhi, pp. 110–19.

Agarwal M, Walia S and Dhingra S. 2000. Insect growth inhibition, antifeedant and antifungal activity of compounds isolated/ derived from Zingiber officinale rhizomes. Pest Management Science 37: 289–00. DOI:

Ajayi O E, Appel A G and Fadamiro H Y. 2014. Fumigation toxicity of essential oil monoterpenes to Callosobruchus maculatus (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Bruchinae). Journal of Insects 14(2): 165–79. DOI:

Alfaro R I, Pierce H D, Borden J H and Oehlschlager A C. 1981. Insect feeding and oviposition deterrents from western red cedar foliage. Journal of Chemical Ecology 7: 39–48. DOI:

Al-Sarar A S, Hussein H I, Abobakr Y, Bayoumi A E and Al-Otaibi M T. 2014. Fumigant toxicity and antiacetyl cholinesterase activity of Saudi Mentha longifolia and Lavandula dentata species against Callosobruchus maculatus (F.) (Coleoptera: Bruchidae). Turkiye Entomol 38: 11–18. DOI:

Bhatnagar M, Kapur K K, Jalees S and Sharma S K. 1993. Laboratory evaluation of insecticidal properties of Ocimum basilicum Linnaeus and O. sanctum Linnaeus plant’s essential oils and their major constituents against vector mosquito species. Journal of Entomological Research 17(1): 21–26.

Bishop C D. 1995. Antiviral activity of the essential oil of Melaleuca alternifolia (Maiden and Betche) cheel (Tea tree) against Tobacco Mosaic Virus. Journal of Essential Oil Research 7(6): 641–48. DOI:

Bowers J H and Locke L C. 2000. Effect of botanical extracts on the population density of Fusarium oxisporium in soil and control of Fusarium wilt in the green house. Plant disease 84(3): 300–05. DOI:

Brari J and Thakur D R. 2015. Fumigant toxicity and cytotoxicity evaluation of monoterpenes against four stored product pests. International Journal of Development Reseach 5: 5661–67.

Braverman Y A and Mullens Chizov-Ginsberg B A. 1999. Mosquito repellent attracts Culicoides imicola (Diptera: Ceratpogonidae). Journal of Medical Entomology 36: 113–15. DOI:

Budhiraja S S, Cullum M E, Sioutis S S, Evangelista L and Habanota S T. 1999. Biological activity of Melaleuca alternifolia (tea tree) oil component, terpinen-4-ol, in human myelocytic cell line HL-60. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics 22: 447–53. DOI:

Burkhard P R, Burkhardt K, Haenggeli C A and Landis T. 1999. Plant induced seizures: reappearance of an old problem. Journal of Neurology 46: 667–70. DOI:

Chaiyasit D, Choochote W, Rattanachanpichai E, Chaithong U, Chaiwong P, Jitpakdi A, Tippawangkosol P, Riyong D and Pitsawat B. 2006. Essential oils as potential adulticides against two populations of Aedes aegypti, the laboratory and natural field strains in Chiang Mai province, northern Thailand. Parasitology Research 99: 715–21. DOI:

Chapman R F, Bernays E A and Simpson S J. 1981. Attraction and repulsion of the aphid, Cabariella aegopodii by plant odour. Journal of Chemical Ecology 7: 881–88. DOI:

Chintalchere J M, Dar M A and Pandit R S. 2020. Biocontrol efficacy of bay essential oil against housefly, Musca domestica (Diptera: Muscidae). The Journal of Basic and Applied Zoology 81(1): 1–12. DOI:

Chizzola R. 2013. Regular monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes (essential oils). Natural products 10: 973–78. DOI:

Choi W S, Park B S, Ku S K and Lee S K. 2002. Repellent activities of essential oils and mono-terpenes against Culex pipiens. Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association 18(4): 348–51.

Chou J T, Rossignol P A and Ayres J W. 1997. Evaluation of commercial insect repellents on human skin against Aedes aegyptii (Diptera: Culicidae). Journal of Medical Entomology 34: 624–30. DOI:

Chowdhury H, Singh R D, Mandal P and Dutta A. 2000. Antifeedant activity of two essential oils on lepidopteran insects. Pesticide Research Journal 12(1): 137–40.

D’Mello J P. 1997. Handbook of Plant and Fungal Toxicants. CRC, Boca Raton, FL, United States.

Daferera D J, Ziogas B N and Polissiou M G. 2000. GC-MS analysis of essential oils from some Greek aromatic plants and their fungi toxicity on Penicillium digitatum. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 48(6): 2576–81. DOI:

Djebir S, Ksouri S, Trigui M, Tounsi S, Boumaaza A, Hadef Y and Benakhla A. 2019. Chemical composition and acaricidal activity of the essential oils of some plant species of Lamiaceae and Myrtaceae against the vector of tropical bovine theileriosis: Hyalomma scupense (syn. Hyalomma detritum). BioMed Research International pp. 1–9. DOI:

EPA. 1993. Integrated Risk Information System, d-Limonene. CASRN 5989-27-5.

Evans P D. 1980. Biogenic amines in the insect nervous system. Advances in Insect Physiology 15: 317–73. DOI:

Evans P D. 1981. Multiple receptor types for octopamine in the locust. The Journal of Physiology 318(1): 99–22. DOI:

Gnagey A, Forte M and Rodenberry T. 1987. Isolation and characterization of acetylcholinesterase from Drosophila. Journal of Biological Chemistry 262(27): 13290–98. DOI:

Govindaraddi K. 2005. ‘Antifeedant and insecticidal properties of essential oils of turmeric (Curcuma longa L.) and garlic (Allium sativum L.) against diamond back moth, Plutella xylostella (L)’. MSc thesis, Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University, Hisar.

Hammack L. 1996. Corn volatiles as attractants for northern and western corn rootworm beetles (Coleopteran: Chrysomelidae: Diabrotica sp.). Journal of Chemical Ecology 22(7): 1237–53. DOI:

Harborne J B. 1987. Chemical signals in the ecosystem. Annals of Botany 60(4): 39–57. DOI:

Hausen B M, Reichling J and Harkenthal M. 1999. Degradation products of monoterpenes are the sensitizing agents in tea tree oil. American Journal of Contact Dermatitis 10: 68–77. DOI:

Hold K M, Sirisoma M S, Ikeda T, Narahashi T and Casida E. 2000. Alpha thujone (the active component of absinthe): gamma-aminobutyric acid type A receptor modulation and metabolic detoxification. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 97: 3826–31. DOI:

Huixing L, Ruahi L, Mushan W, PinYiean Y, Zhiguo K and Yusheng N. 1998. Effect of 25 plant essential oils against Callosobruchus maculatus, (In) International Working Conference on Stored Product Protection (IWCSPP) pp. 845–48.

Isman M B and Machial C M. 2006. Pesticides based on plant essential oils: from traditional practice to commercialization. Advances in Phytomedicine 3: 29–44. DOI:

Isman M B. 2000. Plant essential oils for pest and disease management. Crop Protection 19(8): 603–08. DOI:

Jacobson M. 1982. Plants insects and man-their inter-relationship. Economic Botany 36: 346–54. DOI:

Jaenson T G T, Garboul S and Palsson K. 2006. Repellency of oils of lemon, eucalyptus, geranium, and lavender and the mosquito repellent MyggA natural to Ixodes ricinus (Acari: Ixodidae) in the laboratory and field. Journal of Medical Entomology 43(4): 731–36. DOI:

Kerekes E, Deák E, Tako M, Tserennadmid R, Petkovits T, Vagvolgyi C and Krisch J. 2013. Anti-biofilm forming and anti-quorum sensing activity of selected essential oils and their main components on food-related micro-organisms. Journal of Applied Microbiology 115(4): 933–42. DOI:

Kim J, Jung C, Koh Y and Lee S. 2016. Molecular, biochemical and histochemical characterization of two acetylcholinesterase cDNAs from the German cockroach Blattella germanica. Insect Molecular Biology 15(4): 513–22. DOI:

Kim S I I, Park C, Ohh M H, Cho H C and Ahn Y J. 2003. Contact and fumigant activities of aromatic plant extracts and essential oils against Lasioderma serricorne (Coleoptera: Anobiidae). Journal of Stored Products Research 39: 11–19. DOI:

Kordali S, Aslan I, Calmasur O and Cakir A. 2006. Toxicity of essential oils isolated from three Artemisia species and some of their major components to granary weevils, Sitophilus granarius (L.) (Coleoptera: Curculionidae). Industrial Crops and Products 23: 162–70. DOI:

Kordali S, Cakir A, Mavi A, Kilic H and Yildirim A. 2005. Screening of chemical composition and antifungal activity of essential oils from three Turkish Artemisia species. Journal of Essential Oil Bearing Plants 22(6): 1581–92.

Kostyukovsky M, Rafaeli A, Gileadi C, Demchenko N and Shaaya E. 2002. Activation of octopa- minergic receptors by essential oil constituents isolated from aromatic plants: possible mode of action against insect pests. Pesticide Science 58(11): 1101–06. DOI:

Koul O. 2008. Phytochemicals and insect control: An antifeedant approach. Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences 27(1): 1–24. DOI:

Lee B H, Choi W S, Lee S E and Park B S. 2001. Fumigant toxicity of essential oils and their constituent compounds towards the rice weevil, Sitophilus oryzae (L.). Crop Protection 20(4): 317–20. DOI:

Li W Q, Jiang C H, Chu S S, Zuo M X and Liu Z L. 2010. Chemical composition and toxicity against Sitophilus zeamais and Tribolium castaneum of the essential oil of Murraya exotica aerial parts. Molecules 15(8): 5831–39. DOI:

Lindberg C M, Melathopoulos A P and Winston M L. 2000. Laboratory evaluation of miticides to control Varroa jacobsoni (Acari: Varroidae), a honey bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) parasite. Journal of Economic Entomology 93: 189–98. DOI:

Marcel V, Palacios L, Pertuy C, Masson P and Fournier D. 1998. Two invertebrate acetylcholinesterases show activation followed by inhibition with substrate concentration. Biochemical Journal 329(2): 329–34. DOI:

Marrs T and Maynard R. 2013. Neurotranmission systems as targets for toxicants: A review. Cell Biology and Toxicology 29(6): 381–96. DOI:

Mishra A K, Singh D, Bharti P and Chiranjeeb K. 2020. Essential oil-a potential green pesticide. Biotica Research Today 2(7): 638–40.

Mondal P C, Nebapure S M, Rajna,S, Shakil N A, Kaushik P and Rana V S. 2021a. Chemical composition and insecticidal activity of the essential oil of Cymbopogon flexuosus against Bemisia tabaci. Medicinal Plants-International Journal of Phytomedicines and Related Industries 13(1): 131–36.

Mondal P C, Nebapure S M, Shakil N A, Kaushik P and Rana V S. 2021b. Chemical composition, insecticidal and oviposition deterrent activities of the essential oil of Eucalyptus globulus against Bemisia tabaci (Whitefly). Stechnolock Plant Biology and Research 1(1): 1–10. DOI:

Mossa A H. 2016. Green pesticides: Essential oils as biopesticides in insect-pest management. Journal of Environmental Scienceand Technology 9: 354–78. DOI:

Nazari A H, Nebapure S M and Rana V S. 2021. Bioactivity of Murraya paniculata against almond moth Cadra cautella and leaf-eating caterpillar Spodoptera litura. National Academy Science Letters, pp. 1–6. DOI:

Nazari A H, Nebapure S M, Rana V S and Shakil N A. 2022. Chemical composition and fumigation toxicity of essential oil from Murraya Paniculata L. (Jack) against almond moth, Cadra cautella (Walker). Allelopathy Journal 55(1): 93–04. DOI:

Nebapure S M and Chitra S. 2019. Fumigation potential of allelochemicals against pulse beetles, Callosobruchus maculatus (F.) and C. chinensis (L.) (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). Allelopathy Journal 48(1): 101–07. DOI:

Nebapure S M, Sarkar D J, Suroshe S S, Rana V S, Shakil N A and Subramanian S. 2022. Insecticidal activity of oil-in-water emulsion formulations of essential oils against white fly, Bemicia tabaci (Gennadius) (Homoptera: Aleyrodidae). Allelopathy Journal 56(2): 207–18. DOI:

Nebapure S M, Srivastava C and Walia S. 2015. Antifeedant and insect growth inhibitory activity of seed extracts from Kari hari, Gloriosa superba Linn. (Colchicaceae) against tobacco leaf eating caterpillar, Spodoptera litura (Fabricius) (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae). National Academy Science Letters 38(4): 295–99. DOI:

Nebapure S M, Srivastava C and Walia S. 2016. Antifeedant activity of Gloriosa superba Linn. Tuber extracts against Spodoptera litura (Fabricius). National Academy Science Letters 39(5): 333–36. DOI:

Negahban M, Moharramipour S and Sefidkon F. 2007. Fumigant toxicity of essential oil from Artemisia sieberi Besser against three stored product insects. Journal of Stored Products Research 43: 123–28. DOI:

Nelson S D, McClanahan R H, Thomassen D, Gordon W P and Knebel N. 1992. Investigations of mechanisms of reactive metabolite formation from ®-(+)-pulegone. Xenobiotica 22: 1157–64. DOI:

Nilsson U, Magnusson K, Karlberg O and Karlberg A T. 1999. Are contact allergens stable in patch test preparations? Investigation of the degradation of d-limonene hydroperoxides is in petrolatum. American Journal of Contact Dermatitis 40: 127–32. DOI:

Nollet L M L, Rathore H S. 2019. Green pesticides handbook: Essential Oils for Pest Control, pp. 1–572. CRC Press.

Orchard I, Carlisle J A, Loughton B G, Gole J W D and Downer R G H. 1982. In vitro studies on the effects of octopamine on locust fat body. General and Comparative Endocrinology 48(1): 7–13. DOI:

Paster N, Menasherou M, Ravid U and Juven B. 1995. Antifungal activity of oregano and thyme essential oils applied as fumigants against fungi attacking stored grain. Journal of Food Protection 58(1): 81–85. DOI:

Pezzementi L, Rowland M, Wolfe M and Tsigelny I. 2006. Inactivation of an invertebrate acetylcholinesterase by sulfhydryl reagents: The roles of two cysteines in the catalytic gorge of the enzyme. Invertebrate Neuroscience 6(2): 47–55 DOI:

Prajapati V, Tripathi A K, Aggarwal K K and Khanuja S P S. 2005. Insecticidal repellent and oviposition deterrent activity of selected essential oils against Anopheles stephensi, Aedes aegypti and Culex quinquefasciatus. Bioresource Technology 96: 1749–57. DOI:

Priestley C M, Williamson E M, Wafford K A and Sattelle D B. 2003. Thymol, a constituent of thyme essential oil, is a positive allosteric modulator of human GABA receptors and a homo-oligomeric GABA receptor from Drosophila melanogaster. British Journal of Pharmacology 140(8): 1363–72. DOI:

Rasmussen T, Skindersoe M, Bjarnsholt T, Phipps R, Christensen K, Jensen P and Givskov M. 2005. Identity and effects of quorum-sensing inhibitors produced by penicillium species. Microbiology 151(5): 1325–40. DOI:

Raveau R, Fontaine J, Lounes-Hadj and Sahraoui A. 2020. Essential oils as potential alternative biocontrol products against plant pathogens and weeds: A Review. Foods 9(3): 365. DOI:

Ray D P, Walia S, Dureja P and Singh R P. 2000. Composition and repellent activity of the essential oil of marigold (Tagetes erecta) flower. Indian Perfumer 44(4): 267–70.

Seigler D S. 1983. Role of lipids in plant resistance to insects (Hedin PA ed.). ACS Symposium Series 208: 303–28. DOI:

Sigel E and Steinmann M E. 2012. Structure, function, and modulation of GABA receptors. Journal of Biological Chemistry 287(48): 40224–31. DOI:

Singh R, Rup P J and Koul O. 2008. Bio-efficacy of 1, 8-cineole from Eucalyptus camaldulensis var. obtusa and linalool from Luvanga scandans against Spodoptera litura (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae) and combination effects with some other monoterpenoids. Journal of Pesticide Science 4: 28–34.

Tak J H and Isman M B. 2017. Acaricidal and repellent activity of plant essential oil-derived terpenes and the effect of binary mixtures against Tetranychus urticae Koch (Acari: Tetranychidae). Industrial Crops and Products 108: 786–92. DOI:

Tripathi A K, Prajanpati V, Aggarwal K K and Kumar S. 2001. Toxicity, feeding deterrence and effect of activity of 1, 8-cineole from Artemisia annua on progeny production of Tribolium castanaeum (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae). Journal of Economic Entomology 94(4): 979–83. DOI:

Tripathi A K, Prajapati V and Kumar S. 2003. Bioactivity of l-carvone, d-carvone and dihydro- carvone towards three stored product beetles. Journal of Economic Entomology 96(5): 1594–01 DOI:

Tripathi A K, Prajapati V, Aggarwal K K, Khanuja S P S and Kumar S. 2000. Repellency and toxicity of oil from Artemisia annua to certain stored product beetles. Journal of Economic Entomology 93: 43–47. DOI:

Vargas R I, Stark J D, Kido M H, Ketter H M and Whitehand L C. 2000. Methyl-eugenol and cuelure traps for suppression of male oriental fruit flies and melon flies (Diptera: Tephritidae) in Hawaii: Effects of lure mixtures and weathering. Journal of Economic Entomology 93(1): 81–87. DOI:

Verma M and Meloan C E. 1981. A natural cockroach repellent in bay leaves. American Laboratory 13: 64–69.

Villar D, Knight M J, Hansen S R and Buck W B. 1994. Toxicity of Melaleuca oil and related essential oils applied topically on dogs and cats. Veterinary and Human Toxicology 36: 139–42.

Wahba T F, Mackled M I, Selim S and El-Zemity S R. 2018. Toxicity and reproduction inhibitory effects of some monoterpenes against the cowpea weevil Callosobruchus maculatus (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae: Bruchinae). Middle East Journal of Applied Science 8(4): 1061–70.

Williams P. 2007. Quorum sensing, communication and cross-kingdom signalling in the bacterial world. Microbiology 153(12): 3923–38. DOI:

Wilson C L, Solar J M, Ghaouth A and Wisniewski M E. 1997. Rapid evaluation of plant extracts and essential oils for antifungal activity in Botrytis cinerea. Plant Disease 81(2): 204–10. DOI:






How to Cite

KUMAR, S., MAHAPATRO, G. K., YADAV, D. K., TRIPATHI, K., KOLI, P., KAUSHIK, P., SHARMA, K., & NEBAPURE, S. (2022). Essential oils as green pesticides: An overview. The Indian Journal of Agricultural Sciences, 92(11), 1298–1305.



Review Article