Medicinal lavender modulates the enteric microbiota to protect against Citrobacter rodentium-induced colitis

Baker J, Brown K, Rajendiran E, Yip A, DeCoffe D, Dai C, Molcan E, Chittick SA, Ghosh S, Mahmoud S, Gibson DL
American Journal of Physiology. Gastrointestinal and Liver Physiology, 2012


Inflammatory bowel disease, inclusive of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, consists of immunologically mediated disorders involving the microbiota in the gastrointestinal tract. Lavender oil is a traditional medicine used to relieve many gastrointestinal disorders. The goal of this study was to examine the therapeutic effects of the essential oil obtained from a novel lavender cultivar, Lavandula×intermedia cultivar Okanagan lavender (OLEO), in a mouse model of acute colitis caused by Citrobacter rodentium. In colitic mice, oral gavage with OLEO resulted in less severe disease, including decreased morbidity and mortality, reduced intestinal tissue damage, and decreased infiltration of neutrophils and macrophages, with reduced levels of TNF-α, IFN-γ, IL-22, macrophage inflammatory protein-2α, and inducible nitric oxide synthase expression. This was associated with increased levels of regulatory T cell populations compared with untreated colitic mice. Recently, we demonstrated that the composition of the enteric microbiota affects susceptibility to C. rodentium-induced colitis. Here, we found that oral administration of OLEO induced microbiota enriched with members of the phylum Firmicutes, including segmented filamentous bacteria, which are known to protect against the damaging effects of C. rodentium. Additionally, during infection, OLEO treatment promoted the maintenance of microbiota loads, with specific increases in Firmicutes bacteria and decreases in γ-Proteobacteria. We observed that Firmicutes bacteria were intimately associated with the apical region of the intestinal epithelial cells during infection, suggesting that their protective effect was through contact with the gut wall. Finally, we show that OLEO inhibited C. rodentium growth and adherence to Caco-2 cells, primarily through the activities of 1,8-cineole and borneol. These results indicate that while OLEO promoted Firmicutes populations, it also controlled pathogen load through antimicrobial activity. Overall, our results reveal that OLEO can protect against colitis through the microbial-immunity nexus and that a pharmacological agent, in this case OLEO, alters the normal enteric microbiota.


Baker J, Brown K, Rajendiran E, et al. Medicinal lavender modulates the enteric microbiota to protect against Citrobacter rodentium-induced colitis. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2012;303(7):G825-836.

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