The study investigated cytotoxicity of essential oils from four medicinal plants (Bidens pilosa, Ocimum gratissimum, Cymbopogon nardus, and Zanthoxylum chalybeum) on human gingival fibroblasts and their effects on proinflammatory mediators' secretion. Cytotoxicity of essential oils was investigated using 3-(4, 5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl-tetrazolium bromide assay. Effects of essential oils at subcytotoxicity concentrations on interleukin- (IL-) 6, IL-8, and prostaglandin [E.sub.2] ([PGE.sub.2]) secretions by gingival fibroblasts treated with IL-1[beta] (300 pg/mL) were evaluated by ELISA and EIA. [IC.sub.50] values of the essential oils ranged from 26 [micro]g/mL to 50 [micro]g/mL. Baseline and IL-1[beta]-induced secretion of [PGE.sub.2] was inhibited by treatment with essential oil from O. gratissimum. Essential oils from B. pilosa and C. nardus had synergistic effects with IL -1[beta] on [PGE.sub.2] seceretion. In conclusion, the study suggests that essential oil from O. gratissimum decreases gingival fibroblasts secretion of [PGE.sub.2], while essential oils from B. pilosa and C. nardus increase [PGE.sub.2] secretion. Essential oil from Z. chalybeum was the most cytotoxic, while oil from C. nardus was the least cytotoxic. Although the clinical significance of these findings remains to be determined, it may be suggested that essential oil from O. gratissimum, applied at subcytotoxicity concentrations, could reduce the participation of gingival fibroblasts in the gingival inflammation and tissue destruction associated with periodontitis.