Toxic essential oils. Part V: Behaviour modulating and toxic properties of thujones and thujone-containing essential oils of Salvia officinalis L., Artemisia absinthium L., Thuja occidentalis L. and Tanacetum vulgare L.
Neurotoxic thujones (α- and β-diastereoisomers) are common constituents of plant essential oils. In this study, we employed a statistical approach to determine the contribution of thujones to the overall observed behaviour-modulating and toxic effects of essential oils (Salvia officinalis L., Artemisia absinthium L., Thuja occidentalis L. and Tanacetum vulgare L.) containing these monoterpene ketones. The data from three in vivo neuropharmacological tests on rats (open field, light-dark, and diazepam-induced sleep), and toxicity assays (brine shrimp, and antimicrobial activity against a panel of microorganisms), together with the data from detailed chemical analyses, were subjected to a multivariate statistical treatment to reveal the possible correlation(s) between the content of essential-oil constituents and the observed effects. The results strongly imply that the toxic and behaviour-modulating activity of the oils (hundreds of constituents) should not be associated exclusively with thujones. The statistical analyses pinpointed to a number of essential-oil constituents other than thujones that demonstrated a clear correlation with either the toxicity, antimicrobial effect or the activity on CNS. Thus, in addition to the thujone content, the amount and toxicity of other constituents should be taken into consideration when making risk assessment and determining the regulatory status of plants in food and medicines.