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Phytogenics are a group of natural growth promoters or non-antibiotic growth promoters used as feed additives, derived from herbs, spices or other plants. The term phytogenic feed additives was coined by an Austrian multinational feed additives company named Delacon, and was first introduced to the market in the 1980s.

Essential oils represent a concentrated form of phytogenics, containing mainly the active ingredients of the plants.[1] The spectrum of phytogenic feed additives is vast and does not only consist of essential oils, but also includes other active ingredient groups, such as pungent substances, bitter substances, saponins, flavonoids, mucilages and tannins.[2][3] Phytogenic feed additives, known as PFAs or botanicals, are substances of plant origin added to animal diets at recommended levels with the aim of improving animal nutrition and growth.[4][5][6] The potential of phytogenic feed additives to promote growth in young piglets and poultry is under preliminary research.[7]

Modes of action[edit]

Effect on growth rates[edit]

Compounds such as caraway oil, lemon oil, and dried herbs and spices, may improve the growth rate of certain animals.[8] Phytogenic feed additives can substitute for antibiotic growth promoters in poultry diets.[9]

Effect on ammonia emissions[edit]

Certain compounds, such as saponins, have shown potential to reduce ammonia emissions of animals by inhibiting urease activity that converts urea in ammonia and carbon dioxide.[10]

Quorum sensing inhibitory effects[edit]

Phytogenics have been shown to interfere with bacterial quorum sensing and thus have the potential to reduce virulence of certain bacterial pathogens.[11][12] Quorum sensing inhibition is used as a possible method to treat bacterial disorders in farm animals.[13]


According to Art. 6, Reg. EC 1831/2003, a zootechnical feed additive is defined as “any additive used to affect favourably the performance of animals in good health or used to affect favourably the environment”.[14] In the European Union, all phytogenic products must pass the authorization process as feed additive, if efficacy claims are used. The requirements concerning safety issues are mandatory for all additives, whereas the scope of application differs, and is reflected by the feed additive categories.

Unlike most botanical feed additives, which are considered as sensory additives (flavors), Delacon was the first and currently only company obtaining zootechnical registrations for its main phytogenic products in the pig and poultry feed sector in 2012 and 2017, covering both digestibility and performance parameters.[15]

In order to obtain the registration as a zootechnical feed additive, a dossier of complete, comprehensive and validated data on the quality, safety and efficacy of the feed additive must be submitted to the European Commission.[16] The Commission mandates the European Reference Laboratory (EURL) and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to carry out a detailed evaluation of the dossier. The EURL then analyses and evaluates relevant parameters of the samples, methods and traceability of the additive in the feed chain (additive-premixture-feed). The full evaluation report has to be submitted to the EFSA. After the order of the European Commission, EFSA issues a scientific opinion to the European Commission, the Member States and the applicant on the safety and efficacy of the additive. This opinion demonstrates whether the feed additive has the potential to meet these requirements and whether it is safe for the target animals, workers, consumers and the environment. Following this intensive evaluation, EFSA formulates a scientific opinion which serves as the basis for the final decision and approval by the European Commission in concordance with the Member States.[17]  


  1. ^ "Phytogenics". Retrieved 24 July 2013.
  2. ^ "How phytogenics fit the role of an antibiotic alternative". 2017-10-12. Retrieved 2018-12-06.
  3. ^ "Phytogenic feed additives - the future in animal nutrition". Retrieved 2018-12-06.
  4. ^ "What is a Phytogenic Feed Additive". Retrieved 17 July 2018.
  5. ^ "PigProgress - Using phytogenics to boost gut health in weaned piglets". Retrieved 2018-12-07.
  6. ^ Zentek, J.; Neumann, K.; Wendler, K. R.; Männer, K.; Amad, A. A. (2011-12-01). "Effects of a phytogenic feed additive on growth performance and ileal nutrient digestibility in broiler chickens". Poultry Science. 90 (12): 2811–2816. doi:10.3382/ps.2011-01515. ISSN 0032-5791. PMID 22080020.
  7. ^ Windisch W, Rohrer E, Schedle K (2009). Phytogenics in Animal Nutrition: Natural Concepts to Optimize Gut Health and Performance. ISBN 978-1-904761-71-6.
  8. ^ "Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 131/2012", 16.2.2012, Official Journal of the European Union [EN], L 43/15-16
  9. ^ Murugesan, G. R.; Syed, B.; Haldar, S.; Pender, C. (2015). "Phytogenic Feed Additives as an Alternative to Antibiotic Growth Promoters in Broiler Chickens". Frontiers in Veterinary Science. 2: 21. doi:10.3389/fvets.2015.00021. PMC 4672194. PMID 26664950.
  10. ^ 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
  11. ^ Khan, M. S. A.; Zahin, M.; Hasan, S.; Husain, F. M.; Ahmad, I. (2009). "Inhibition of quorum sensing regulated bacterial functions by plant essential oils with special reference to clove oil". Letters in Applied Microbiology. 49 (3): 354–360. doi:10.1111/j.1472-765X.2009.02666.x. PMID 19627477.
  12. ^ Mith, Hasika; Clinquart, Antoine; Zhiri, Abdesselam; Daube, Georges; Delcenserie, Véronique (1 January 2015). "The impact of oregano (Origanum heracleoticum) essential oil and carvacrol on virulence gene transcription by Escherichia coli O157:H7". FEMS Microbiology Letters. 362 (1): 1–7. doi:10.1093/femsle/fnu021. PMID 25790499.
  13. ^ Aumiller T, Zhou E, Müller AS (2017). "Chances for phytogenic feed additives in antibiotic-free animal production" (PDF). International Animal Health Journal. 4 (1).
  14. ^ "Regulation (EC) No 1831/2003 on additives for use in animal nutrition". European Commission. 22 September 2003. Retrieved 7 December 2018.
  15. ^ "Scientific Opinion on the safety and efficacy of FRESTA® F for weaned piglets". EFSA Journal. 9 (4): 2139. 2011-04-01. doi:10.2903/j.efsa.2011.2139.
  16. ^ "Zootechnical registration - officially proving the claims". Retrieved 2018-12-07.
  17. ^ von Holst, Christoph; Robouch, Piotr; Bellorini, Stefano; de la Huebra, María José González; Ezerskis, Zigmas (2015). "The work of the European Union Reference Laboratory for Food Additives (EURL) and its support for the authorisation process of feed additives in the European Union: a review". Food Additives & Contaminants: Part A. 33 (1): 1–12. doi:10.1080/19440049.2015.1116127. PMC 4732514. PMID 26540604.