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Phytomedicine. 2017 Oct 15;34:191-201. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2017.08.024. Epub 2017 Aug 24.

Melaleuca quinquenervia essential oil inhibits α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone-induced melanin production and oxidative stress in B16 melanoma cells.

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Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences, Kainan University, Taoyuan, Taiwan.
Department of Food and Nutrition, Providence University, 200, Sec. 7, Taiwan Boulevard, Shalu Dist., Taichung, 43301 Taiwan.
Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, Tunghai University, Taiwan.
Department of Food and Nutrition, Providence University, 200, Sec. 7, Taiwan Boulevard, Shalu Dist., Taichung, 43301 Taiwan. Electronic address:



Essential oils are odorous, volatile products of plant secondary metabolism, which are found in many leaves and stems. They show important biological activities, which account for the development of aromatherapy used in complementary and alternative medicine. The essential oil extracted from Melaleuca quinquenervia (Cav.) S.T. Blake (paperbark) (MQ-EO) has various functional properties.


The aim of this study is to investigate the chemical composition of MQ-EO by using gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS) and evaluate its tyrosinase inhibitory activity.


Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS)-based metabolomics was used to identify 18 components in MQ-EO. The main components identified were 1,8-cineole (21.60%), α-pinene (15.93%), viridiflorol (14.55%), and α-terpineol (13.73%). B16 melanoma cells were treated with α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH) in the presence of various concentrations of MQ-EO or its major compounds. Cell viability was accessed by MTT assay and cellular tyrosinase activity and melanin content were determined by using spectrophotographic methods. The antioxidant mechanism of MQ-EO in α-MSH stimulated B16 cells was also investigated.


In α-melanocyte-stimulating hormone (α-MSH)-stimulated murine B16 melanoma cells, MQ-EO, 1,8-cineole, α-pinene, and α-terpineol significantly reduced melanin content and tyrosinase activity. Moreover, MQ-EO, 1,8-cineole, α-pinene, and α-terpineol decreased malondialdehyde (MDA) levels. In addition, restored glutathione (GSH) levels, glutathione peroxidase (GPx), superoxide dismutase (SOD), and catalase activities were increased in α-MSH-stimulated B16 cells. MQ-EO not only decreased apoptosis but also reduced DNA damage in α-MSH stimulated B16 cells. These results showed that MQ-EO and its main components, 1,8-cineole, α-pinene, and α-terpineol, possessed potent anti-tyrosinase and anti-melanogenic activities besides the antioxidant properties.


The active functional components of MQ-EO were found to be 1,8-cineole, α-pinene, and α-terpineol. Consequently, the results of present study suggest that MQ-EO is non-cytotoxic and can be used as a skin-whitening agent, both medically and cosmetically.


1,8-cineole; Antioxidant; Essential oil; Melaleuca quinquenervia (Cav.) S.T. Blake; Melanin; Tyrosinase

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