Medicines (Basel), 2017
Herbs and spices have been used since ancient times to improve the sensory characteristics of food, to act as preservatives and for their nutritional and healthy properties. Herbs and spices are generally recognized as safe (GRAS) and are excellent substitutes for chemical additives. Essential oils are mixtures of volatile compounds obtained, mainly by steam distillation, from medicinal and aromatic plants. They are an alternative to synthetic additives for the food industry, and they have gained attention as potential sources for natural food preservatives due to the growing interest in the development of safe, effective, natural food preservation. Lamiaceae is one of the most important families in the production of essential oils with antioxidants and antimicrobial properties. Aromatic plants are rich in essential oils and are mainly found in the Mediterranean region, where the production of such oils is a profitable source of ecological and economic development. The use of essential oils with antimicrobial and antioxidant properties to increase the shelf life of food is a promising technology, and the essential oils of the Lamiaceae family, such as rosemary, thyme, and sage, have been extensively studied with respect to their use as food preservatives. Regarding the new applications of essential oils, this review gives an overview of the current knowledge and recent trends in the use of these oils from aromatic plants as antimicrobials and antioxidants in foods, as well as their biological activities, future potential, and challenges.