Extensive documentation on the antimicrobial properties of essential oils and their constituents has been carried out by several workers. Although the mechanism of action of a few essential oil components has been elucidated in many pioneering works in the past, detailed knowledge of most of the compounds and their mechanism of action is still lacking. This knowledge is particularly important for the determination of the effect of essential oils on different microorganisms, how they work in combination with other antimicrobial compounds, and their interaction with food matrix components. Also, recent studies have demonstrated that nanoparticles (NPs) functionalized with essential oils have significant antimicrobial potential against multidrug- resistant pathogens due to an increase in chemical stability and solubility, decreased rapid evaporation and minimized degradation of active essential oil components. The application of encapsulated essential oils also supports their controlled and sustained release, which enhances their bioavailability and efficacy against multidrug-resistant pathogens. In the recent years, due to increasingly negative consumer perceptions of synthetic preservatives, interest in essential oils and their application in food preservation has been amplified. Moreover, the development of resistance to different antimicrobial agents by bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites, etc. is a great challenge to the medical field for treating the infections caused by them, and hence, there is a pressing need to look for new and novel antimicrobials. To overcome these problems, nano-encapsulation of essential oils and exploiting the synergies between essential oils, constituents of essential oils, and antibiotics along with essential oils have been recommended as an answer to this problem. However, less is known about the interactions that lead to additive, synergistic, or antagonistic effects. A contributing role of this knowledge could be the design of new and more potent antimicrobial blends, and understanding of the interplay between the components of crude essential oils. This review is written with the purpose of giving an overview of current knowledge about the antimicrobial properties of essential oils and their mechanisms of action, components of essential oils, nano-encapsulated essential oils, and synergistic combinations of essential oils so as to find research areas that can facilitate applications of essential oils to overcome the problem of multidrug-resistant micro-organisms.
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