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Phytogenics are a group of natural growth promoters (NGPs) or non-antibiotic growth promoters used as feed additives, derived from herbs, spices or other plants. They are commonly regarded as favorable alternatives to antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) in livestock production. Essential oils represent a concentrated form of phytogenics, containing mainly the active ingredients of the plants.[1]

Benefits of phytogenics[edit]

The potential benefits of using phytogenics in livestock nutrition are:

  • increased feed intake
  • stimulation of digestion
  • increased growth performance
  • reduced incidence of diarrhea
  • increased performance parameters
  • improved reproductive parameters
  • improved feed efficiency
  • higher profitability

Modes of action[edit]

Effect on feed intake[edit]

Due to their aromatic ingredients, phytogenics add flavor to feed, thereby increasing feed palatability. Particularly in pigs, the attractive taste potentially results in higher feed intakes. High feed intakes are a prerequisite for adequate development of piglets as well as for high reproductive performance in sows.

Effect on gut microflora[edit]

A well-balanced gut microflora is necessary to protect the gut from pathogenic invasion. Phytogenic compounds have shown antimicrobial, antioxidative, antiviral or sedative properties.[citation needed] Thus, inclusion of phytogenics results in a decimation of the gut microflora. At the best, a beneficial combination of different phytogenic compounds reduces the number of pathogenic bacteria only, while positive gut bacteria such as Lactobacilli or Bifidobacteria are not affected.

Effect on secretion of saliva and digestive enzymes[edit]

Phytogenics are known to increase the secretion of saliva and gastric acid, thus having a positive impact on overall digestive processes.[citation needed] Especially in young piglets, the gastric acid production is inadequate, often causing diarrhea in the post-weaning period. Therefore, inclusion of phytogenics, which increases the rate of gastric acid secretion is beneficial in terms of counteracting digestive disorders in this critical stage of life.

Effect on growth rates[edit]

Phytogenic compounds have been recently proven to improve the growth rate of certain animals.[2][3]

Effect on ammonia emissions[edit]

Certain phytogenics, such as saponins, have shown the potential to reduce ammonia emissions of animals by inhibiting the urease activity that converts urea in ammonia and carbon dioxide.[4]


Phytogenics have been produced on a commercial scale since the 1980s. Global producers include Biomin, Delacon Biotechnik, Growell India, Pancosma, Nor-Feed Sud, Par Pharmaceutical, Biodevas Laboratoires, and Phytosynthèse.


  1. ^ "Phytogenics". Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
  2. ^ "Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 131/2012", 16.2.2012, Official Journal of the European Union [EN], L 43/15-16
  3. ^ Karola R. Wendler, "Fresta F: The first performance enhancing phytogenic product registered as a zootechnical feed additive", Feed Compounder, April 2012
  4. ^ Zentner, E. "Effects of Phytogenic Feed Additives containing Quillaja Saponaria on Ammonia in Fattening Pigs", 3.7.2011, XVth International Congress on Animal Hygiene 2011

Further reading[edit]

  • Safe and Effective Phytogenics, International Pig Topics, 27.3.
  • Koeleman, Emmy. (2009) Phytogenics: More than sensory additives, Feed Tech
  • Kroismayr, A., Sehm, J., Mayer, H., Schreiner, M., Foissy, H., Wetscherek, W. and Windisch, W. (2005) Effect of essential oils or Avilamycin on microbial, histological and molecular–biological parameters of gut health in weaned piglets. 4. BOKU-Symposium Tierernährung: Tierernährung ohne Antibiotische Leistungsförderer. Vienna, Austria, pp. 140–146.
  • Losa, R. (2000) The use of essential oils in animal nutrition. 3rd Conference on Sow Feed Manufacturing in the Mediterranean Region. March 22–24, Reus, Spain, pp. 39–44.
  • Mathe, A. (1996) Essential oils as phytogenic feed additives. In: 27th International Symposium on Essential Oils: Essential oils Basic and Applied Research. Edited by Franz, Ch., Mathe, A., Buchbauer, G. pp. 315–321. Allured Publishing Corporation, Vienna, Austria.
  • Pasteiner, S. (2006) New natural concept for poultry gut health. International Poultry Production 14, 1: 17.
  • Steiner, T. (2006) The potential benefits of Natural Growth Promoters. Feed Tech 10.2: 26–28.

External links[edit]