Essential oils: Can they reduce antibiotic use in livestock?


If your social media pages are anything like mine they are filled with claims that something you eat, drink, or wrap yourself in has miracle and restorative properties. While these products may help you loose weight, look younger, and feel better, is there really really any truth to them?

I recently saw a headline that said researchers have found that essential oils could help reduce antibiotics in poultry. My immediate thought… is this woo or is this true?

MeatingPlace.com reported that Cargill researchers have found that essential oils can be a viable alternative to antibiotics to promote gut health in a poultry feeding program. It was found that certain essential oil compounds, particularly those derived from thyme, cinnamon, and oregano had the most comprehensive effect on overall gut health. Benefits included antimicrobial activity, modulation of immune response, antioxidant activity, improvement of nutrient digestibility, and stimulation of mucus production, the company said.

Cargill indicated the essential oils were particularly efficient in conditions where intestinal infections such as Salmonellosis and Coccidiosis were present, and were most effective when combined with organic acids. In addition, combined results from 12 trials showed that birds given Cargill’s Promote Biacid Nucleus additive, which contains a mixture of seven essential oil compounds, in combination with an antibiotic-free diet, improved body weight gain by 2% and feed conversion by 1.5%, the company said.

Cargill said it has been researching the use of non-medicated feed additives for several years as an alternative to antibiotic growth promoters. Since 2009, it has conducted a total of 77 trials on additives including essential oils, probiotics, yeast derivatives, and medium chain fatty acids. “Only essential oils have both a broad spectrum of activity against pathogens and a direct impact on digestive function,” said Stephanie Ladirat, global technology lead for gut health additives in Cargill’s animal nutrition business.

It is interesting that this research has been going on for seven years, no doubt we will see/hear more about essential oils and natural medicine for animal agriculture in the future. Being the skeptic I am, I have decided to research these essential oils a little further to see what else I can find about their supposed claims to being an alternative to antibiotics. Stay tuned as I will do a follow up post after doing some research.

Aviary Systems (2)_UNL photo-final
Can essential oils be a viable alternative for antibiotics in poultry?

** Note: I am not endorsing essential oils or their use, I am just merely investigating uses in animal agriculture.

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Dr. Lindsay can also be found on:

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2 thoughts on “Essential oils: Can they reduce antibiotic use in livestock?

    1. Thanks Liz. It was interesting to me too, and it has been fun to hear more from friends and contacts about various other research they are aware of. No doubt the update will be interesting. Thanks for reading!

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