Chemical composition and immunomodulatory activity of hypericum perforatum essential oils

Igor A. Schepetkin, Gulmira Ozek, Temel Ozek, Liliya N. Kirpotina, Andrei I. Khlebnikov, Mark T. Quinn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Hypericum L. (Hypericaceae) extracts have been used for their therapeutic effects; however, not much is known about the immunomodulatory activity of essential oils extracted from this plant. We isolated essential oils from the flowers and leaves of H. perforatum and analyzed their chemical composition and innate immunomodulatory activity. Analysis of flower (HEOFl ) versus leaf (HEOLv) essential oils using gas chromatography–mass spectrometry revealed that HEOFl was comprised mainly of monoterpenes (52.8%), with an abundance of oxygenated monoterpenes, including cis-p-menth-3-en-1,2-diol (9.1%), α-terpineol (6.1%), terpinen-4-ol (7.4%), and limonen-4-ol (3.2%), whereas the sesquiterpenes were found in trace amounts. In contrast, HEOLv was primarily composed of sesquiterpenes (63.2%), including germacrene D (25.7%) and β-caryophyllene (9.5%). HEOLv also contained oxygenated monoterpenes, including terpinen-4-ol (2.6%), while monoterpene hydrocarbons were found in trace amounts. Both HEOFl and HEOLv inhibited neutrophil Ca2+ mobilization, chemotaxis, and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, with HEOLv being much more active than HEOFl . Furthermore, the pure sesquiterpenes germacrene D, β-caryophyllene, and α-humulene also inhibited these neutrophil responses, suggesting that these compounds represented the active components of HEOLv. Although reverse pharmacophore mapping suggested that potential protein targets of germacrene D, β-caryophyllene, bicyclogermacrene, and α-humulene could be PIM1 and mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK)-activated protein kinase 2 (MAPKAK2), a kinase binding affinity assay did not support this finding, implying that other biological targets are involved. Our results provide a cellular and molecular basis to explain at least part of the beneficial immunotherapeutic properties of the H. perforatum essential oils.

Original languageEnglish
Article number916
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Calcium flux
  • Chemotaxis
  • Essential oil
  • Hypericum perforatum
  • Neutrophil
  • Reactive oxygen species
  • Sesquiterpene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology

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