UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Multidisciplinary Studies of Folk Medicine “Five Thieves’ Oil” (Olejek Pięciu Złodziei) Components Siejak, Przemysław; Smułek, Wojciech; Fathordobady, Farahnaz; Grygier, Anna; Baranowska, Hanna Maria; Rudzińska, Magdalena; Masewicz, Łukasz; Jarzębska, Małgorzata; Nowakowski, Piotr T.; Makiej, Aleksandra; et al.


To meet the growing interest in natural antibacterial agents, we evaluated the physicochemical and biological properties of the folk medicine known as “five thieves’ oil” (Polish name: olejek pięciu złodziei). Five thieves’ oil consists of a mixture of five oils: rosemary, lemon, clove, eucalyptus, and cinnamon. In this study, we performed gas chromatography, FTIR, and UV–vis spectroscopic analysis, as well as L-a-b color tests, contact angle determination, and surface tension determination. To verify its antibacterial activity, the metabolic activity and changes in cell membrane permeability of bacteria of the genus Pseudomonas were studied. As a result, it was found that among the constituent oils, the oils of clove and cinnamon were the least volatile and, at the same time, had the strongest antibacterial activity. However, a mix of all the oils also showed comparable activity, which was even more pronounced for the oils after 4 weeks of aging. This effect can be linked to the high content of terpene derivatives such as eugenol and cinnamaldehyde, which can cause changes in bacterial membrane permeability, affecting cell activity and survival. This study is the first to characterize the constituents of the popular folk medicine five thieves’ oil, confirming and explaining its strong antibacterial activity, thus constituting a significant contribution to contemporary health education.

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