Biological properties of medicinal plants: a review of their antimicrobial activity
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Plants have been used for thousands of years to flavor and conserve food, to treat health disorders and to prevent diseases including epidemics. The knowledge of their healing properties has been transmitted over the centuries within and among human communities. Active compounds produced during secondary vegetal metabolism are usually responsible for the biological properties of some plant species used throughout the globe for various purposes, including treatment of infectious diseases. Currently, data on the antimicrobial activity of numerous plants, so far considered empirical, have been scientifically confirmed, concomitantly with the increasing number of reports on pathogenic microorganisms resistant to antimicrobials. Products derived from plants may potentially control microbial growth in diverse situations and in the specific case of disease treatment, numerous studies have aimed to describe the chemical composition of these plant antimicrobials and the mechanisms involved in microbial growth inhibition, either separately or associated with conventional antimicrobials. Thus, in the present work, medicinal plants with emphasis on their antimicrobial properties are reviewed.