Essential Oils as a Feed Additives: Pharmacokinetics and Potential Toxicity in Monogastric Animals
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Essential oils (EOs) are now a hot topic in finding modern substitutes for antibiotics. Many studies have shown positive results and confirmed their high antibacterial activity both in vitro and in vivo. Deservedly, there is an attempt to use EOs as a substitute for antibiotics, which are currently limited by legislation in animal breeding. Given the potential of EOs, studies on their fate in the body need to be summarized. The content of EO's active substances varies depending on growing conditions and consequently on processing and storage. Their content also changes dynamically during the passage through the gastrointestinal tract and their effective concentration can be noticeably diluted at their place of action (small intestine and colon). Based on the solubility of the individual EO's active substances, they are eliminated from the body at different rates. Despite a strong antimicrobial effect, some oils can be toxic to the body and cause damage to the liver, kidneys, or gastrointestinal tissues. Reproductive toxicity has been reported for Origanum vulgare and Mentha arvensis. Several publications also address the effect on the genome. It has been observed that EOs can show both genoprotective effects (Syzygium aromaticum) and genotoxicity, as is the case of Cinnamomum camphor. This review shows that although oils are mainly studied as promising antimicrobials, it is also important to assess animal safety.