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Planta Med. 2010 Oct;76(15):1647-53. doi: 10.1055/s-0030-1249956. Epub 2010 May 26.

Assessing the local anesthetic effect of five essential oil constituents.

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Department of Zoology, School of Biology, Aristotle University, Thessaloniki, Greece.


We studied the effects of five monoterpenoids, viz. 1,8-cineole, fenchone, linalool, p-cymene and α-pinene, on the sciatic nerve fibers of the frog Rana ridibunda (Pallas, 1771) and compared them to that of lidocaine, a standard local anesthetic. The isolated sciatic nerve, with its perineurium intact, was placed in a three-chambered recording bath, which allowed us to monitor the compound action potentials (CAP), stable in amplitude, for over 2 days. The half-vitality time (IT(50)), which is the time required for the amplitude of the CAP to decrease to 50% of its control value, was 53.5 ± 0.9 h for a nerve incubated in normal saline at 26.0 °C. The IT(50) values for nerves incubated in saline with p-cymene, 1,8-cineole, or α-pinene, at 30.0 mM, were 19.9 ± 0.4, 32.9 ± 0.5, and 31.0 ± 0.3 hours, respectively. As the IT(50) value for 30.0 mM lidocaine, a standard local anesthetic, was 1.6 ± 0.3 min under the same conditions, these three compounds cannot be considered as having a local anesthetic effect. The IT(50) values for 30.0 mM linalool and fenchone were 5.7 ± 0.6 and 15.4 ± 1.1 min, respectively; they were significantly, but not markedly different from the respective value for lidocaine. These results combined with the fast inhibition of the CAP and its fast recovery after the removal of either linalool or fenchone indicate a local anesthetic activity of the two compounds. Linalool retained this activity even at lower concentrations of 15.0 and 7.5 mM. The local anesthetic effects of lidocaine and linalool were concentration-dependent; this was not the case for fenchone, which had a relatively strong local anesthetic activity at 30.0 mM, but was entirely inactive at 25.0 mM. On the basis of the effects of the five monoterpenoids on the electrophysiological properties of the sciatic nerve fibers of the frog, we conclude that, whereas 1,8-cineole, p-cymene and α-pinene cause only minor effects, linalool and fenchone exhibit acute local anesthetic activity.

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