Phytogenic Feed Additives: Nature’s Solution to Poultry Health and Performance

Sushil Kumar and Sajjan Sihag

Department of Animal Nutrition, LUVAS, Hisar-125004

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in exploring alternative feed additives in poultry nutrition, driven by the need for sustainable and environmentally friendly practices. Phytogenic feed additives, derived from various plants/ herbs and their extracts, have emerged as a promising solution to enhance poultry health, performance, and overall productivity. Phytogenic feed additives, also known as botanical or herbal feed additives are gaining popularity in poultry production due to their potential health benefits. As the poultry industry continues to seek sustainable and responsible practices, the search for alternatives to antibiotic growth promoters (AGPs) has become imperative. Phytogenic feed additives present a promising solution in this quest, offering a natural and effective alternative to traditional AGPs.

The Need for Alternatives to Antibiotic Growth Promoters:

With increasing concerns over antibiotic resistance and the potential impact on human health, regulatory agencies around the world have imposed restrictions on the use of AGPs in livestock production, including poultry. This has led to a pressing need for viable alternatives that can maintain or even enhance poultry performance without compromising animal welfare or food safety.

What are Phytogenic Feed Additives?

Phytogenic feed additives are natural substances derived from plants, including herbs, spices, and essential oils, known for their bioactive properties. These additives typically contain a variety of compounds such as phenols, flavonoids, terpenes, and essential oils, which exert beneficial effects on animal health and performance. Here are some different kinds of phytogenic feed additives commonly used in poultry:

  1. Essential Oils: Extracts from various plants such as oregano, thyme, cinnamon, and clove are rich in essential oils. These oils contain active compounds like thymol, carvacrol, eugenol, and cinnamaldehyde, which possess antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. Essential oils are often used to improve gut health, enhance nutrient absorption, and boost the immune system in poultry.
  2. Herbal Extracts: Herbal extracts are derived from different parts of plants such as leaves, stems, roots, and seeds. Common herbs used in poultry production include garlic, ginger, turmeric, and neem. These extracts contain bioactive compounds like allicin, curcumin, and saponins, which can have antimicrobial, anti-parasitic, and immunomodulatory effects, promoting overall health and performance in poultry.
  3. Phytochemicals: Phytochemicals are bioactive compounds found in plants, such as polyphenols (e.g., flavonoids, tannins), alkaloids, and saponins. These compounds have various physiological effects, including antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties. Phytochemical-rich plant materials like grape seed extract, green tea extract, and citrus extracts are sometimes used as feed additives in poultry to improve health and productivity.
  4. Plant Extracts with Digestive Stimulant Properties: Certain plant extracts, such as those derived from yucca and fenugreek, have been shown to stimulate digestive enzyme secretion and improve nutrient digestibility in poultry. These additives can enhance feed efficiency and nutrient utilization, leading to better growth performance and reduced environmental impact.
  5. Aromatic Plants: Aromatic plants like peppermint, fennel, and chamomile contain volatile compounds that can influence the palatability of feed and help alleviate stress in poultry. Including aromatic plants in feed formulations may improve feed intake and digestion, as well as reduce the incidence of behavioral issues and improve overall welfare.
  6. Immune Modulators: Some phytogenic additives, such as ginseng, astragalus, and echinacea, are known for their immunomodulatory effects. By enhancing the immune response of poultry, these additives can help reduce the incidence of diseases and improve resistance to environmental stressors, ultimately promoting better health and performance.
  7. Antioxidant-rich Plants: Plants rich in antioxidants, such as rosemary, sage, and thyme, can help mitigate oxidative stress in poultry by scavenging free radicals and protecting cells from damage. Including antioxidant-rich plant extracts in poultry feed may improve meat quality, shelf life, and resistance to oxidative rancidity.

Benefits of Phytogenic Feed Additives in Poultry:

Phytogenic feed additives contain bioactive compounds such as phenols, flavonoids, terpenes, and essential oils known for their beneficial effects on animal health. These natural compounds offer several advantages over AGPs in promoting poultry growth, including:

  1. Gut Health Optimization: Phytogenic compounds support digestive health by stimulating enzyme secretion, improving nutrient absorption, and maintaining gut integrity, leading to enhanced feed efficiency and nutrient utilization in poultry.
  2. Antimicrobial Activity: Many phytogenic additives possess antimicrobial properties, helping to control pathogenic bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract and reduce the risk of intestinal infections without contributing to antibiotic resistance.
  3. Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant Effects: The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of phytogenic compounds contribute to a balanced immune response in poultry, reducing oxidative stress and supporting overall health and resilience.
  4. Performance Enhancement: Studies have demonstrated that supplementation with phytogenic feed additives can improve growth rates, feed conversion efficiency, and production parameters in poultry, comparable to or even surpassing the effects of AGPs.
  5. Consumer Preference and Market Demand: Phytogenic additives align with consumer preferences for natural and sustainable poultry production practices, offering a safer and more environmentally friendly alternative to AGPs.
  6. Enhanced Digestive Health: Phytogenic compounds have been shown to improve digestive function in poultry by stimulating enzyme secretion, enhancing nutrient absorption, and promoting gut health. This can lead to better feed utilization and nutrient efficiency.
  7. Reduced Dependency on Antibiotics: With increasing concerns over antibiotic resistance and regulatory restrictions on antibiotic use in animal feed, phytogenic feed additives offer a natural alternative for promoting poultry health and performance without the reliance on antibiotics.
  8. Environmental Sustainability: Utilizing plant-based additives aligns with the growing consumer demand for sustainable and eco-friendly agricultural practices, making phytogenic feed additives an attractive option for poultry producers looking to reduce their environmental footprint.

Challenges and Considerations:

While phytogenic feed additives offer numerous benefits, their efficacy can vary depending on factors such as formulation, dosage, compatibility with other feed ingredients, potential interactions with medications or supplements and the specific needs of the poultry operation. Additionally, sourcing high-quality plant materials and ensuring proper formulation and application are crucial for maximizing the benefits of these additives in poultry production.


In conclusion, phytogenic feed additives hold great promise as an alternative for the poultry industry, offering a natural and sustainable approach to improving poultry health, performance, and productivity. Continued research and innovation in this field are essential to unlock the full potential of these additives and to address any challenges associated with their implementation. As we navigate towards more sustainable and responsible poultry production practices, phytogenic feed additives stand out as a valuable tool for meeting the evolving needs of the industry while ensuring the health and welfare of our poultry flocks.

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