Lemon myrtle is a flowering plant native to the subtropical rainforests of southeast Queensland, Australia. Lemon myrtle’s botanical name is Backhousia citriodora and its common names include lemon scented ironwood, sweet verbena tree, lemon scented myrtle, sweet verbena myrtle, lemon scented backhousia and lemon scented verbena. Lemon myrtle, which is used as an herb in a variety of dishes, also has antimicrobial properties.
Lemon Myrtle Essential Oils
Lemon myrtle contains the compounds citral and citronellal. In fact, lemon myrtle contains a higher content of citral than lemongrass, lemon peel and some other plant sources. Lemon myrtle also contains essential oils that have antiseptic, expectorant, analgesic, astringent, antirheumatic, anticonvulsant, antineuralgic and hair tonifying properties. A study published in the May 2004 "Biomedecine & Pharmacotherapy" showed that a topical application with a 10 percent solution of lemon myrtle essential oils reduced by 90 percent the number of lesions of molluscum contagiosium in 9 of 16 children studied.
Lemon Myrtle Uses
Due to the high concentration of citral found in lemon myrtle oil, lemon myrtle has a wide variety of applications in medicine. According to the “Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine,” lemon myrtle can help treat sinus infections, bronchitis, fatigue, depression, common cold, influenza, raw throat, indigestion and irritable gastrointestinal disorders, allergies, dental infections, itching, athletes foot, acne and headaches. Clinical research, however, does not support the use of lemon myrtle to treat these medical conditions. You should, therefore, speak with a medical professional before using lemon myrtle as a health supplement to treat a specific medical condition.
Lemon Myrtle as an Antimicrobial
The Rideal-Walker test estimates the antimicrobial activity of plants. The test functions by evaluating the essential oil components of the plant such as citral. Further, the test uses microorganisms such as Salmonella typhii as test organisms. The higher the Rideal-Walker test score, the greater the antimicrobial activity of the plant. Lemon myrtle scores a 16 on the Rideal-Walker scale, putting it above the tea tree plant with a score of 11 and the eucalyptus citriodora plant with score of 8. Therefore, the distilled essential oil from the lemon myrtle plant has significant antifungal and antimicrobial characteristics.
Other Health Benefits
According to “Therapeutic Herb Manual,” the oil and leaf paste of this plant can also help fight many types of bacteria including Clostridium perfringens, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Additionally, lemon myrtle can help relieve cramps, headaches, spasms, fevers, rheumatism and it also may have anti-cancer properties. Lemon myrtle can also inhibit Helicobacter pylori, the bacteria responsible of many gastrointestinal disorders. Further, lemon myrtle purportedly also helps reduce cellulite, support muscle and connective tissue growth, and strengthen the immune system.