Essential Oils and Plant Extracts

Program Overview


Essential oils and plant extracts are inputs to a range of products including food flavours, pharmaceutical goods and industrial solvents. They include citrus oils, spearmint, peppermint, lavender and lavandin, and eucalyptus oil.

Australia’s diverse climate and unique flora provide opportunities for new crop development and agricultural diversification. Increasing consumer interest, and a wide and growing range of applications in commercial industries has led to strong, albeit fluctuating, growth in world demand for these commodities.

Essential oils have been extracted from over 3000 plants, of which 200 to 300 are commonly traded on world markets.

The Rural Industries R&D Corporation’s Essential Oils and Plant Extracts Program is funded by Australian Government contributions.

Research and development is guided by an advisory committee of industry and research professionals.

The key long-term strategies for the Essential Oils and Plant Extracts Program are to:

  • Improve production systems to raise productivity and control over product qualities.
  • Support the demonstration of safety and effectiveness of Australian products and facilitate the satisfaction of regulatory requirements to enhance market access.
  • Support new ideas that provide potential for growing the market for Australian product.
  • Improve the industry and research capacity.

Program Aim & Deliverables

Program aim

Increased productivity through new product development, ranging from plant extracts for the cosmetics industry through to new varieties resulting from technological advances in breeding (tea tree, waxflower).

Deliverables in 2014-15

  • Determine the safety and efficacy of essential oils and plant extracts for cosmetic and animal health end uses.

Annual Target or Output

  • Assess the impact of plastic packaging on pure essential oils. 
  • Determine the efficacy of tea tree oil as a treatment for acne.
  • Investigate dermal penetration of tea tree products. 
    • Develop nano-encapsulation of a native plant extract to test for efficacy of an animal health application.

    R&D Plan

    The Rural Industries R&D Corporation’s vision for the Essential Oils and Plant Extracts Program is of a profitable and sustainable industry producing essential oils and plant extracts of the quality and content that meets customers' evolving demands.

    The Essential Oils and Plant Extracts Five-Year R&D Plan 2008-2013 provides the guidance for that vision to be achieved.

    Key contacts and links

    RIRDC Senior Program Manager

    John de Majnik
    Ph: 02 6271 4138
    Fax: 02 6271 4199

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    RIRDC Projects and Results

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    Completed projects

    All essential oil and plant extracts research projects completed by RIRDC appear here. Click on a project name for more information about that project.

    Completed projects
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    Magazines and Newsletters

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