Biological Properties

A number of studies have been undertaken into the bioactive properties of the volatile oil from A. dracunculus (Tan et al., 1998). In two studies into insect responses to the volatile oil and its constituents, Papilio spp. evoked different reactions to the oil (Baur and Feeny, 1995; Thompson et al., 1990). Using GC coupled electroantennograms, they were able to demonstrate which components from the oil were active in determining oviposition preference and larval performance, areas where plant extracts could be used in insect control. In a further study, the attractiveness or repulsiveness of A. dracunculus volatile oil towards insects infected with tick-borne encephalitis virus allowed not only those infected to be distinguished from those uninfected, but to identify individuals with varying degrees of virus replication (Alekseev et al., 1991).

The antimicrobial properties of various species of Artemisia are well recorded (Mehrotra et al., 1993) where a number of Gram positive and Gram negative bacteria were inhibited in their growth. The test bacteria are all capable of infection, and include Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus (Enterococcus) faecalis. In a similar study of A. dracunculus oil, Deans and Svoboda (1988) included the anaerobic bacterium Clostridium sporogenes as well as Salmonella pullorum and Yersinia enterocolitica, the latter organism having the ability to produce an enterotoxin under conditions of refrigeration. A larger group of bacteria was tested against a number of Italian species, including A. dracunculus, and found to be very active at preventing the growth of human pathogens, food spoilage/poisoning types as well as animal pathogens (Piccaglia et al., 1993).

Mehrotra et al. (1993) reported the marked antifungal activity of A. dracunculus volatile oil against Candida albicans and Sporotrichum schenkii, while Margina and Zheljazkov (1996) have highlighted the susceptibility of A. dracunculus to the pathogenic rust fungus Puccinia dracunculina.

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