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Journal of ethnopharmacology

In vitro genotoxicity of Melaleuca alternifolia essential oil in human lymphocytes.


PMID 24315850

Abstract

The volatile essential oil derived from the plant Melaleuca alternifolia, also called tea tree oil (TTO), is largely employed for its antimicrobial properties against several human pathogens. It is used in many topical formulations to treat cutaneous infections. Since very few studies have been done on the safety and toxicity of the crude Melaleuca alternifolia essential oil, current investigation evaluates the possible genotoxic effects of TTO in human lymphocyte cultures. The composition of current TTO sample was determined by GC/MS and NMR. The level of cytotoxicity in TTO treated cultures was determined by decrease of mitotic index when compared to that in negative control. The genotoxic potential of TTO was assessed by the in vitro mammalian cell micronucleus and the chromosome aberrations (CA) tests. Twenty-seven compounds were identified, accounting for 98.9% of the constituents. Terpinen-4-ol (42.8%), γ-terpinene (20.4%), p-cymene (9.6%), α-terpinene (7.9%), 1,8-cineole (3%), α-terpineol (2.8%) and α-pinene (2.4%) were the major compounds of the oil sample. None of the tested TTO concentrations (95μg/ml, 182μg/ml and 365μg/ml) caused a significant increase in the observed frequencies of micronuclei when compared to those in the untreated cultures (negative control). Additionally, no significant differences regarding the frequencies of CA were observed among the tested TTO concentrations and the negative control. Results demonstrate that TTO, in the tested concentrations, is not genotoxic in in vitro mammalian cells.

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