The Effect of Medicinal Plants as a Feed Additive in Ruminant Nutrition

Document Type: Review Article


1 Department of Animal Physiology, Gorgan University of Agricultural Science and Natural Resources, Gorgan, Iran

2 Department of Animal Science, ShabestarBranch, Islamic Azad University, Shabestar, Iran

3 Department of Animal Science, University of Tehran, Karaj, Iran


Since the use of antibiotics in animal feeds has been banned, researches on alternative natural products that modulate ruminal fermentation have been intensified. Natural compounds such as plant extracts have been considered to be replaced antibiotics as safe and sustainable alternatives. Plant extracts especially essential oils and saponins have strong antimicrobial, antiparasitic, antiprotozoal and anti-inflammatory properties. These natural compounds have been modulated the ruminal fermentation to improve nutrient utilization in ruminants. Therefore, the purpose of this review is to provide an overview of the literature surrounding use of herbal plants as feed additives in ruminant nutrition.


Beauchemin K.A. and McGinn S.M. (2006). Methane emissions from beef cattle: effects of fumaric acid, essential oil and canola oil. J. Anim. Sci. 84, 1489-1496.
Benchaar C., Calsamiglia S., Chaves A.V., Fraser G.R., Colombatto D., McAllister T.A. and Beauchemin K.A. (2008). A review of plant-derived essential oils in ruminant nutrition and production. Anim. Feed Sci. Technol. 145, 209-228.
Benchaar C., Hristov A.N. and Greathead H. (2009). Essential oils as feed additives in ruminant nutrition. Pp. 111-146 in Phytogenics in Animal Nutrition. T. Steiner, Ed. Nuttinghan University Press, Nottingham, UK.
Brenes A. and Roura E. (2010). Essential oils in poultry nutrition: main effects and modes of action. Anim. Feed Sci. Technol. 158, 1-14.
Busquet M., Calsamiglia S., Ferret A., Carro M.D. and Kamel C. (2005). Effect of garlic oil and four of its compounds on rumen microbial fermentation. J. Dairy Sci. 88, 4393-4404.
Busquet M., Calsamiglia S., Ferret A. and Kamel C. (2006). Plant extracts affect in vitro rumen microbial fermentation. J. Dairy Sci. 89, 761-771.
Cardozo P.W., Calsamiglia S., Ferret A. and Kamel C. (2004). Effects of natural plant extracts on ruminal protein degradation and fermentation profiles in continuous culture. J. Anim. Sci. 82, 3230-3236.
Castillejos L., Calsamigkia S., Ferret A. and Losa R. (2005). Effects of a specific blend of essential oil compounds and type of diet on rumen microbial fermentation and nutrient flow from a continuous culture system. Anim. Feed Sci. Thechnol. 119, 29-41.
Chao S.C., Young D.G. and Oberg C.J. (2000). Screening for inhibitory activity of essential oils on selected bacteria, fungi and viruses. J. Essent. Oil Res. 12, 1914-1920.
Cheeke P.R. (1995). Toxicants of Plant Origin Glycosides. CRC Press, Inc. Boca Raton, Florida.
Christaki E., Bonos E., Giannenas I. and Florou-Paneri P. (2012). A review: aromatic plants as a source of bioactive compounds. Agric. 2, 228-243.
Cosentino S., Tuberoso C.I.G., Pisano B., Satta M., Mascia V., Arzedi E. and Palmas F. (1999). In vitro antimicrobial activity and chemical composition of Sardinian thymus essential oil. Lett. Appl. Microbial. 29, 130-135.
Couladis M., Tzakou O., Verykokidou E. and Harvala C. (2003). Screening of some greek aromatic plants for antioxidant activity. Phytother. Res. 17, 194-195.
Davidson P.M. and Naidu A.S. (2000). Phyto-phenols. Pp. 265-293 in Natural Food Antimicrobial Systems. A.S. Naidu, Ed. CRC Press, Boca Raton FL.
Delaquis R.J., Stanich K., Girard B. and Massa G. (2002). Antimicrobial activity of individual and mixed fractions of dill, cilantro, coriander and eucalyptus essential oils. Int. J. Food Microbiol. 74, 101-109.
Dong G.Z., Wang X.J., Liu Z.B. and Wang F. (2010). Effects of phytogenic products on in vitro rumen fermentation and methane emission in goats. J. Anim. Food Sci. 19, 218-229.
Dorman H.J.D. and Deans S.G. (2000). Antimicrobial agents from plants: antibacterial activity of plant volatile oils. J. Appl. Microbial. 88, 308-316.
Elgayyar M., Draughon F.A., Golden D.A. and Mount J.R. (2001). Antimicrobial activity of essential oils from plants against selected pathogenic and saprophytic microorganisms. J. Food Prot. 64, 1019-1024.
Evans J.D. and Martin S.A. (2000). Effects of thymol on ruminal microorganisms. Curr. Microbial. 41, 336-340.
Fernandez M., Serrano E., Frutos P., Giraldez F.J., Mantecon A.R. and Liach J.R. (1997). Effect of crina HC supplement upon the rumen degradative activity in sheep. Info. Technol. Econ. Agric. 18,160-162.
Garcia-Gonzalez R., Lopez S., Fernandez M. and Gonzalez J.S. (2008). Dose-response effects of Rheum officinale root and Frangulaalnus bark on ruminal methane production in vitro. Anim. Feed Sci. Technol. 145, 319-334.
Greathead H. (2003). Plant and plant extract for improving animal productivity. Proc. Nutr. Soc. 62, 279-290.
Gurib-Fakim A. (2006). Medicinal plants: traditions of yesterday and drugs of tomorrow. Mol. Aspec. Med. 27, 1-93.
Hofmann E.M., Muetzel S. and Becker K. (2003). Effects of Moringa oleifera seed extract on rumen fermentation in vitro. Arch. Anim. Nutr. 57, 65-81
Hristov A.N., Mcallister T.A., Van Herk F.H., Cheng K.J., Newbold C.J. and Cheek P.R. (1999). Effect of Yucca schidigera on ruminal fermentation and nutrient digestion in heifers. J. Anim. Sci. 77, 2554-2563.
Hue W.L., Liu J.X., Ye J.A., Wu Y.M. and Guo Y.Q. (2005). Effects of tea saponin on rumen fermentation in vitro. Anim. Feed Sci. Technol. 109, 79-94.
Kadri A., Zarai Z., Chobba I.B., Bekir A., Gharsallah N., Damak M. and Gdoura R. (2011). Chemical constituents and antioxidant properties of Rosmarinus officinalis. eesential oil cultivated from south-western Tunisia. J. Med. Plants Res. 5, 5999-6004.
Klita P.T., Mathison G.W., Fenton T.W. and Hardin R.T. (1996). Effects of Alfalfa root saponins on digestive function in sheep. J. Anim. Sci. 74, 1144-1156.
Lambert R.J.W., Skandamis P.N., Coote P. and Nychas G.J.E. (2001). A study of the minimum inhibitory concentration and mode of action of oregano essential oil, thymol and carcacrol. J. Appl. Microbial. 91, 453-3462.
Lee S.C., Lee H.J. and Oh Y.K. (2000). Methane production from enteric fermentation in ruminants. Asian-australasJ. Anim. Sci. 13, 171-181.
Li T.S.C. (2006). The range of medicinal herbs and spices. Pp. 113-125. in Handbook of Herbs and Spices. K.V. Peter, Ed. Woodhead publishing limited: Cambridge, UK.
Lorenzi V., Muselli A., Bernardini A.F., Berti L., Pages J.M., Amaral L. and Bolla J.M. (2009). Geraniol restores antibiotic activities against multidrug-resistant isolates from gram-negative species. Anti-microb. Agents. Chemother. 53, 2209-2211.
Makkar H.P.S., Sen S., Blummel M. and Becker K. (1998). Effects of fractions containing saponins from Yucca schidigera, Quillaja saponaria and Acacia auriculoforims on rumen fermentation. J. Agric. Food Chem. 46, 4324-4328.
Martinez S., Madrid J., Hernandez F., Megias M.D., Sotomayor J.A. and Jordan M.J. (2006). Effect of thyme essential oils (Thymus hyemalis and Thymus zygis) and monensin on in vitro ruminal degradation and volatile fatty acid production. J. Agric. Food Chem. 54, 6598-6602.
Mohammad N., Ajisaka N., Lila Z.A., Mikuni K., Hara K., Kanda S. and Itabashi H. (2004). Effect of Japanese horseradish oil on methane production and ruminal fermentation in vitro and in stress. J. Anim. Sci. 82, 1839-1846.
Nagy J.G. and Tengerdy R.P. (1968). Antibacterial action of essential oils of Artemisia as an ecological factor. II. Antibacterial action of the volatile oils of Artemisia tridentate on bacteria from the rumen of mule deer. Appl. Microbiol. 16, 441-444.
Negi P.S. (2012). Plant extracts for the control of bacterial growth: efficacy, stability and safety issues for food application. Int. J. Food Microbiol. 156, 7-17.
Newbold C.J., El Hassan S.M., Wang J., Ortega M.E. and Wallace R.J. (1997). Influence of foliage from African multipurpose trees on activity of rumen protozoa and bacteria. Br. J. Nutr. 78, 237-249.
Newbold C., McIntosh F.M., Williams P., Losa R. and Wallace R.J. (2004). Effects of a specific blend of essential oil compounds on rumen fermentation. Anim. Feed Sci. Technol. 114, 105-112.
Oh H.K., Sakai T., Jones M.B. and Longhurst W.M. (1967). Effect of various essential oils isolated from douglas fir needles upon sheep and deer rumen microbial activity. Appl. Microbial. 15, 777-784.
Ozturk H., Demirtas A., Salgirli Y., Pekcan M., Emre B. and Fidanci U.R. (2012). Effects of olive leaf extracts on rumen microbial fermentation in in vitro semi-continuous culture system. Ankara Univ. Vet. Fak. Derg. 59, 17-21.
Patra A.K., Kamra D.N. and Agarwal N. (2005). Effect of spices on rumen fermentation, methanogenesis and protozoa counts in in vitro gas production test. Pp. 115-118 in Proc. 2nd Int. Conf. Greenhouse Gases Anim. Agric. ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.
Solorzano-Santos F. and Miranda-Novales M.G. (2012). Essential oils from aromatic herbs as antimicrobial agents. Curr. Opin. Biotechnol. 23, 136-141.
Sultana N. Huque K.S. and Alimon A.R. (2012). Effects of Sapidusmukorossi as herbal feed additive for ruminants. Mal. J. Anim. Sci. 15, 37-44.
Wallace R.J. (2004). Antimicrobial properties of plant secondary metabolites. Proc. Nutr. Soc. 63, 621-629.
Wang Y., McAllister T.A., Newbold C.J., Rode L.M., Cheeke P.R. and Cheng K.J. (1998). Effects of extract on fermentation and degradation of steroidal saponins in the rumen stimulation techniqiue. Anim. Feed Sci. Technol. 74,143-153.
Wang Y., McAllister T.A., Yanke L.J., Xu Z.J., Cheeke P.R. and Cheng K.J. (2000). In vitro effects of steroidal saponins from Yucca schidigera extract on rumen microbial protein synthesis and ruminal fermentation. J. Sci. Food Agric. 80, 2114-2122.
Wenk C. (2000). Why all discussion about herbs? Biotechn in the feed industry. Pp. 79-96 in Proc. 16th Ann. Symp. Technol. Publ. Nottginham Univ. Press. Nicholasvile, KY.
Yañez Ruiz D.R., Martin Garcia A.I., Moumen A. and Molina-Alcaide E. (2004). Ruminal fermentation and degradation patterns, protozoa population and urinary purine derivatives excretion in goats and wethers fed diets based on olive leaves. J. Anim. Sci. 82, 3006-3014