Lemon tea tree oil sounds like a blend of lemon and tea tree essential oils, two favorites of many. However, a bit of study reveals the amazing powers of this unique oil.
Lemon tea tree (Leptospermum petersonii) is in fact, not a blend but a unique variety of the myrtle family. Other familiar members of the Leptospermum genus include bay rum tree, clove, guava, allspice, and eucalyptus.1
The more commonly-known tea tree used in essential oils is Melaleuca alternifolia, also a member of the Myrtaceae family. Both plants are native to Australia and have some of the same uses. However, lemon tea tree is not related to the lemon tree (Citrus limon) whose essential oil is very familiar and used in therapy and perfumery.
Lemon tea tree oil is a powerful therapeutic oil with multiple uses. The essential oil boasts a fresh lemon scent with minty, herbal, and a few camphor tones. The scent is reminiscent of lemongrass or citronella but smoother and very pleasant.2
The History of Lemon Tea Tree
When settlers arrived on the Australian continent, they found many wonders to behold. As you might imagine, they had to replenish their supplies with the natural abundance all around them. Lemon tea tree is easy to notice because, if you brush by the leaves, it releases a fresh and attractive lemon scent. Consequently, the early visitors to Australia used lemon tea tree leaves as a tea substitute.
Long before the arrival of travelers, native people in Australia and the surrounding islands were very familiar with the lemon tea tree. Australian aboriginal tribes and the Maori people of New Zealand used lemon tea tree to treat open wounds, burns, and other infections and skin irritations. They crushed fresh leaves to make a paste to apply to open wounds and skin irritations or steeped leaves in water.
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Lemon tea tree is native to Australia, Southeast Asia, and New Zealand. Its commercial value and hardy nature have made it attractive to growers in Kenya, Zaire, South Africa, and Guatemala.3
Some commercial farms grow lemon tea tree solely for the production of essential oils. Most of the bush is harvested by being cut at the base. Smaller stems and leaves are chopped, then processed by steam distillation.4
Lemon tea tree essential oil production is a profitable and sustainable business. Other uses for the plant include adding the powerfully-scented leaves to tea blends and other lemon-scented and flavored products. The nectar from tea tree flowers also produces a unique honey which is said to retain some of the healing properties of the lemon tea tree plant, as well as the scent.
Lemon tea tree oil is 70 to 80 percent citral. Citral is an aroma and flavor compound used for citrus effect and also has strong antimicrobial properties. Citral is often useful to mask odors, especially the smell of smoke.5
Citral is a mixture of the two terpenoid isomers, geranial, and neral. Terpenoids are a large, diverse class of naturally-occurring organic chemicals very common in essential oils. Geranial also has a strong lemon odor. Neral’s lemon odor is less intense, but sweeter.
Another compound found in lemon tea tree essential oil, citronellal, has insect repellent properties and is highly effective against mosquitoes. It also has strong antifungal qualities. While citronellol is also an insect repellent, especially at short distances.
The breakdown of the primary constituents in lemon tea tree essential oil is as follows:
- Gernial: 20 to 30 percent
- Citronellal: 10 to 35 percent
- Neral: 22 to 35 percent
- Citronellol: 20 percent or less
Common Uses for Lemon Tea Tree Oil
Lemon tea tree essential oil provides a range of health benefits, some of which are highlighted below.
Boosts Overall Organ System Function
Lemon tea tree oil is an impressive stimulant for most of the body’s organ system. This essential oil cleans wounds, promotes the elimination of waste through the intestines, kidneys, and lymphatic system, reduces headaches, relieves aching joints, and releases muscle tension.
Promotes Healthier Skin
Lemon tea tree oil is a strong healer of the skin by eliminating microbes and fungi. It also promotes the healing process through cell regeneration and the development of scar tissue to close wounds. Anti-inflammatory properties help with clearing up rashes, acne, and some allergic reactions.
Improves Respiratory Function
Lemon tea tree essential oil assists in effective lung processes by stimulating the bronchi and thinning out the mucous, consequently relieving congestion.
Lemon tea tree oil is known as one of the most effective ways to mask unpleasant odors, even smoke. The essential oil can be diffused in the room, mixed with water and sprayed, or used in the laundry. Try mixing a few drops of the oil in 8 oz. of water and spraying into the air.
Alternative Uses for Lemon Tea Tree Essential Oil
Many of us are concerned about the use of harsh chemicals in the environment, and especially in our homes. Making our own cleaning solutions at home has never been easier. The antibacterial properties in lemon tea tree oil make it a welcome addition to an at-home cleaning routine. The fresh lemon scent is uplifting and loved by many.
An easy general cleaner is made by adding one cup of vinegar, one teaspoon of natural dish soap, and 20 drops of lemon tea tree oil in a quart spray bottle. Fill the rest of the spray bottle with water and enjoy the benefits of this at-home cleaning solution.
Concerned about commercial bug repellents or tired of the smell of citronella? Lemon tea tree oil can come to the rescue. While chemically similar to citronella, lemon tea tree oil has a much more lemony scent that is fresh and light.
The citral content of lemon tea tree oil proves it to be an effective deterrent to mosquitoes. Though its efficacy can fade more quickly than DEET-based bug sprays, research is being conducted on ways to naturally extend the efficacy of lemon tea tree oil by pairing it with other oils to slow evaporation.6
Several research studies have been conducted with lemon tea tree oil.
First, the information on the efficacy of lemon tea tree oil in protecting against mosquitos effectiveness against mosquitos is from a research study published in 2011 by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.7
Another 2010 study published in Medical Mycology, studied the value of lemon tea tree oil in treating Candida albicans and Aspergillus fumigatus.
Candida albicans is an opportunistic yeast which is part of our normal gut flora. With a healthy immune system and a diet that is whole and balanced, all is well. However, for so many, our stressful, busy lifestyle takes its toll on our immune system. Many of us don’t eat right or rest. The result can be that Candida albicans begins to grow and change the balance of bacteria in our digestive system.
An imbalance of yeast in the gastrointestinal tract can produce discomfort such as bloating, gas, and diarrhea. Other symptoms can include constipation, headaches, weight gain, brain fog, and food sensitivities. Yeast can also grow in the mouth, on the skin, and can cause recurring vaginal infections.
Aspergillus fumigatus is another fungal infection that endangers patients with impaired or suppressed immune systems. This fungus occurs in nature. If breathed by a healthy person, the immune system readily deals with it. But for patients with impaired or suppressed immune systems, an infection by Aspergillus fumigatus can be dangerous.
As we’ve seen with antibiotics, these fungi can also develop resistance to drugs traditionally used to remedy both of these conditions. Research began in earnest to find other solutions. The good news is that lemon tea tree oil proved successful in eliminating both Candida albicans and Aspergillus fumigatus by damaging the membranes surrounding the spores.
Safety and Precautions
Lemon tea tree oil is generally non-toxic, but like all essential oils, should be used with care and at proper dilutions. However, it can be a skin irritant, so always conduct a patch skin test to ensure that it does not cause an adverse reaction.
Interactions can occur with drugs metabolized by CYP2B6. These drugs include artemisinin, bupropion, cyclophosphamide, efavirenz, ketamine, and methadone.
Women who are pregnant or nursing are discouraged from using lemon tea tree essential oil.
Some of us have quite a selection of essential oils at our disposal. Others prefer to keep their on-hand oil assortment small, choosing multipurpose oils that suit their personal, home and family needs. In either case, lemon tea tree oil qualifies for consideration for your list of must-use essential oils