Lemon Myrtle (Buckhousia citriodora), belonging to the Myrtacceae family, is a large shrub to medium sized tree, Lemon myrtle is mainly found in the coastal rainforest of southern to mid Queensland, Australia. In early summer the trees are filled with clusters of tiny white four-petal-ed flowers. The plant, with its lemon scented leaves and abundant flowers is a popular ornamental plant in frost free climates.
It is thought that the aboriginals of Australia would have found some use for this plant, although no written record of this has been found. The plant was first distilled by a German doctor living in Queensland who first distilled the essential oil and sent it back to Germany. Production was halted because of World War I and exports were restarted, mainly for the perfume trade in 1920. In the early 1990s the essential oil was used as a flavouring and fragrance because of the shortage of lemon essence. Lemon Myrtle was almost destroyed when a soft drink company found it was the only available source of citral which it used to flavour its soft drinks. Fortunately more affordable sources of citral became readily available from Lemongrass and May Change and the plant survived. The late 1980s brought renewed interest in this essential oil and the first commercial plantation was established in 1991. The commercial plantations have ensured that the endemic stands are no longer under threat of extinction.
The oil has an intense fresh, lemon aroma with a sweet green overtone and is obtained through steam distillation of the fresh leaves with a yield of 1.5 – 2%. It has a high odour intensity and blends well with woods, florals and spices, but like other oils high in citral, it should be used sparingly to avoid overpowering with too much lemon scent.
The major chemical component is citral – can be up to 98%. The remaining 2 – 8% consists of myrcene, methyl heptenone, linalool, citronellal, alpha-cyclocitral and beta-cyclocitral.
On a physiological level Lemon Myrtle is very useful for any respiratory infection and is thought to support and strengthen the immune system. This oil is an excellent air purifier but topically it can cause skin irritation.
On a psychological level Lemon Myrtle’s uplifting, refreshing, mentally cleansing properties can be useful for concentration as well as helping to clear the mind to aid restful sleep. Lemon Myrtel would be a valuable addition to an ‘anti-stress’ blend. It could also be used for depression; fear and anxiety and other negative states.
On a subtle level, Lemon Myrtle could help to clear, relax and refocus.
Contradictions: Due to the very high citral content some skin sensitisation may occur especially if the essential oil is used in high concentration. It might be wise to do a patch test first if using topically.