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Phytogenic Feed Additives for Swine

Plant-based ingredients (e.g. oregano and other essential oils) for pigs to boost herd performance


Phytogenic feed additives, known as PFAs or botanicals, are substances of plant origin added to diets due to their known range of bioactive properties. Phytogenics include a broad range of plant materials, most of which have a long history in human nutrition, where they have been used as flavors, food preservatives, and medicines since ancient times. Herbs, spices, essential oils, and plant extracts all serve as sources for bioactive compounds, e.g. phenols and flavonoids. 

In modern animal production, PFAs are used for the purpose of antimicrobial effect, digestibility enhancement, performance improvement and others (BIOMIN Phytogenic Feed Additives Survey). 

Table 1. Examples of herbs and spices frequently used in phytogenic feed additives. Source: BIOMIN 
Herb/SpiceLatin namePlant familyMain constituentsKey Benefits
  OreganoOreganum vulgareLabiateaeCarvacrol, ThymolAntimicrobial, Antioxidant
  ThymeThymus vulgareLabiateaeThymol, CarvacrolAntioxidant, Antimicrobial
  GarlicAllium salivum L.Alliaceae, LiliaceaeDiallyldisulfide, Alliin, AlliciinLipid digestion, antimicrobial activity 
  PeppermintMentha piperitaLabiateaeMenthol, CarvacrolImproving gastric and intestinal peristalsis  
  CinnamonCinnamomum cassiaLauraceaeCinnamaldehydeAntimicrobial activity, palatability 
  AnisePimpinella ansiumApiaceae, UmbelliferaeAnetholeAppetite stimulation, improving gastric peristalsis 

The benefits of phytogenic feed additives

 Benefits of PFAs
  • Performance and productivity improvement 
  • Health and welfare improvement 
  • Antibiotic reduction 
  • Beneficial return on investment 
  • Reduction in emissions and waste production 
  • New techniques of biosecurity, vaccination, and disease prevention 
  • Antibiotic reduction strategies that utilize alternatives to provide suitable health and welfare benefits 
  • Enhanced digestibility 
  • Quality of ingredients and consistency of formulation of feeds and supplements 
  • Integrating new technological and management innovations 

A comprehensive review of studies (Windisch et al., 2008) indicate that PFAs have the potential to improve animal performance, and thus can be an important addition to the set of non-antibiotic growth promoters, such as organic acids, probiotics, and enzymes. 

An additional literature review showed that advantages of PFA application can include: (Máthé, 2009) 

  • Reduced risk of enteric imbalances  
  • Improved performance 
  • Improved digestibility and nutrient-sparing effects 
  • Stimulation of feed intake 
  • Improved feed palatability  
  • Reduction of mortality 
  • Improved air quality by reducing unpleasant odor and toxic gases such as ammonia  
  • No withdrawal period  
  • No harmful residues in animal products  
  • Improved meat quality (in terms of taste, color, or texture) 

In swine, PFAs have been used in different production stages. PFAs have been shown to increase sow feed intake and reduce weight loss during lactation (Miller et al., 2009). In another study, PFAs increased average daily litter weight gain and reduced wean-to-first-service interval (Kasetsart, 2006). In studies with nursery and grow-finish pigs, PFAs showed to have anti-inflammatory effect, enhance intestinal morphology, increase nutrient digestibility, and improve growth performance (Kommera et al., 2006; Kroismayr et al., 2008; Maenner et al., 2011). Furthermore, PFAs have shown to improve meat quality (Mendoza et al., 2018).  

How to select PFA products 

Commercially available PFAs are made of different ingredients and the formulations can be varied. When formulating PFAs, it is essential to evaluate the efficacy of each compound as well as the combinations of the compounds. As shown in the picture, phytogenic products can vary in their complexity. The simplest product types can consist of a single biologically active substance, essential oil, or plant. In more complex products, there can be a mixture of plants or a specialized combination of phytogenic sources. Depending on the different combinations, compounds in a product can exert additive and/or synergistic effects. 

Besides variations in formulations, other physical characteristics may differ among products including: 

  • Odor 
  • Heat stability 
  • Flowability 
  • Consistency in quality 

These physical and chemical characteristics lead to different efficacy among the products. In a recent study, when different PFAs were compared for their effects on growth performance in grow-finish pigs, the results were varied among the products (Zheng et al., 2020) and this may be mainly due to their different formulations. 

To date, BIOMIN has conducted over 300 commercial trials using PFAs in major livestock species in various production stages and different regions around the world. The BIOMIN technical support team provides guidance and valuable advice in choosing the ideal product and its correct application for an optimal result. 


Kasetsart, J. 2006.The Use of a Phytogenic Product to Improve Sows’ Lactation Performance. Nat. Sci. 40: 1005-1009.   

Kommera, S. K., R. D. Mateo, F. J. Neher, and S. W. Kim. 2006. Phytobiotics and organic acids as potential alternatives to the use of antibiotics in nursery pig diets. Asian-Austrial J. Anim. Sci. 19:1784-1789.  

Kroismayr ,A., J. Sehm, M. Pfaffl, and W. Windisch. 2008. Effects of Avilamycin and essential oils on mRNA expression of apoptotic and inflammatory markers and gut morphology of piglets. Czech J. Anim. Sci. 9: 377-387.  

Maenner, K, W. Vahjen, and O. Simon. 2011. Studies on the effects of essential-oil-based feed additives on performance, ileal nutrient digestibility, and selected bacterial groups in the gastrointestinal tract of piglets. J Anim Sci. 89:2106-12.  

Máthé, 2009. Essential Oils: Biochemistry, Production and Utilisation. In: Steiner, T., editor, Phytogenics in Animal Nutrition: Natural Concepts to Optimize Gut Health and Performance. Nottingham University Press, Chicago. p. 1-18.    

Miller, J. A., J. C. Laurenz, J. W. Rounsavall, N. C. Burdick, and F. J. Neher. 2010. "Enhancing feed intake by the sow during lactation using BIOMIN® PEP." In: Steiner, T., editor, Phytogenics in Animal Nutrition: Natural Concepts to Optimize Gut Health and Performance. Nottingham University Press, Chicago. p. 87-96.    

Windisch, W., K. Schedle,  C. Plitzner, and A. Kroismayr. 2008. Use of phytogenic products as feed additives for swine and poultry. J. Anim. Sci. 86(14 Suppl): E140-E148.   

Zheng, L., S. Ramirez, G. R. Murugesan, E. Hendel, and A. Tacconi. 2020. Effects of phytogenic feed additives and Ractopamine HCl on growth performance and carcass characteristics in grow-finish pigs. J. Anim. Sci. presented at 2020 ASAS Midwest Section meeting (in press).