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Journal of Microbiology & Biology Education
Vol. 15, No. 1, 2014, Pages: 4546

Using Soxhlet Ethanol Extraction to Produce and Test Plant Material (Essential Oils) for Their Antimicrobial Properties

James Redfern, Malcolm Kinninmonth, Dariel Burdass, and Joanna Verran

School of Healthcare Science, Manchester Metropolitan University, Chester St., Manchester M1 5GD, UK.


Investigating the effects of antimicrobial products on microorganisms is a common procedure carried out in many microbiology laboratory courses, often using antibiotics or disinfectants against common bacterial species. As the issue of antimicrobial resistance continues to grow, there is a renewed interest in deriving antimicrobial products from natural compounds, particularly extracts from plant material (8). This article describes a procedure for retrieving the antimicrobial compounds (essential oils) from the plant thyme (Thymus vulgaris) and testing it against a variety of microorganisms, both Gram-negative and Gram-positive, for antimicrobial effect (4). The aim of this activity is to investigate the antimicrobial effects of plant material after extracting compounds using the relatively simple Soxhlet method (6). This article presents information ensuring the existing extraction method is achievable in the teaching laboratory, while allowing students hands-on investigative experience. As well as supporting scientific thinking, laboratory skill and competency, this activity allows students to partake in an investigation with cross-discipline approaches to the very relevant and current healthcare issue of antimicrobials


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