Testing Plant Extracts as Natural Alternatives to Drug Preservatives

Greg Howard
31st March, 2024

Testing Plant Extracts as Natural Alternatives to Drug Preservatives

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • Study at Al-Quds University found natural extracts can replace synthetic preservatives in drugs
  • Olive leaf extract, oleuropein, and thymol showed strong antibacterial and antioxidant effects
  • Natural preservatives remained effective in drug formulations for at least three months
In recent years, there has been a growing movement towards using natural compounds in place of synthetic chemicals in various products, including pharmaceuticals. This shift is driven by consumer demand for products that are not only effective but also free from potentially harmful synthetic additives. A new study from Al-Quds University[1] has made significant strides in this area, focusing on the substitution of synthetic preservatives and antioxidants with natural alternatives in pharmaceutical products. The study aimed to assess the antibacterial and antioxidant activities of natural extracts—specifically, olive leaf extract, oleuropein, and thymol—and their ability to replace commonly used synthetic preservatives, such as methyl-propylparaben and benzalkonium chloride, as well as the antioxidant butylhydroxytoluene. These synthetic agents are effective in preventing bacterial growth and oxidation in products, but they have been associated with health concerns, prompting the search for safer alternatives. The research revealed that oleuropein, a compound found in olive leaves, olive leaf extract, and a combination of oleuropein with thyme oil, could be used as preservatives in concentrations of 0.6% w/v, 0.4% w/v, and 0.4%/0.1% v/v, respectively. Notably, thyme oil and oleuropein were found to have a synergistic effect, meaning that when used together, they enhance each other's antibacterial properties. This synergy allows for lower concentrations of each compound to be used while still achieving the desired preservative effect. The study's findings are supported by previous research indicating that natural compounds, including those derived from plants, have significant antimicrobial properties. For instance, trans-cinnamaldehyde (TC), a compound found in cinnamon, has been shown to be particularly effective against bacterial pathogens causing mastitis in cows, a condition that can also be relevant to human health[2]. Similarly, essential oils and plant extracts have been recognized for their antimicrobial activity and are increasingly being utilized in medicine, agriculture, and the cosmetics industry[3]. Further supporting the use of natural compounds, phenolic compounds isolated from olive leaves have been reported to possess strong antimicrobial properties[4]. This aligns with the current study's findings on oleuropein and olive leaf extract. Additionally, the use of microencapsulation technology, as demonstrated with thyme essential oils[5], has potential to further enhance the stability and effectiveness of these natural compounds. The research conducted at Al-Quds University also included testing the stability and efficacy of pharmaceutical formulations containing these natural preservatives. The results were promising, showing that the formulations remained stable and effective for at least three months when stored under accelerated conditions, simulating a hot and humid environment (40°C/75% RH). The implications of this study are far-reaching. By demonstrating that natural compounds like oleuropein, olive leaf extract, and thyme oil can be as effective as synthetic preservatives and antioxidants, there is potential for a significant shift in the pharmaceutical industry towards more natural formulations. This could lead to products that are not only safer for consumers but also more environmentally friendly, as these natural compounds are often more biodegradable than their synthetic counterparts. In conclusion, the study from Al-Quds University provides compelling evidence that natural compounds can successfully replace synthetic chemicals in pharmaceutical products without compromising their antibacterial and antioxidant effectiveness. This research not only contributes to a growing body of evidence supporting the use of natural preservatives but also offers practical solutions for the pharmaceutical industry, potentially impacting product development and consumer health positively.



Main Study

1) Evaluation of the effectiveness of natural extract as a substituent for synthetic preservatives and antioxidants in pharmaceutical preparations.

Published 29th March, 2024


Related Studies

2) Antibacterial effect of plant-derived antimicrobials on major bacterial mastitis pathogens in vitro.


3) Applications of Essential Oils and Plant Extracts in Different Industries.


4) Microbiological and Antioxidant Activity of Phenolic Compounds in Olive Leaf Extract.


5) Preparation and antimicrobial activity of thyme essential oil microcapsules prepared with gum arabic.


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