Neral, an isomer of citral, is a clear, yellow liquid with an aroma similar to lemons. It is less dense than water, insoluble in water, and is often used in perfumery for its citrus scent.1 The natural form of citral consists of two isomers: citral a, known as geranial, and citral b, known as neral.2 Though these isomers are structurally similar, differing only in one bond attached to the carbon atom, there are differences in the two compounds.
Because of their delightful citrus scent, both geranial and neral are often used in perfumes, soaps, laundry and dishwashing detergents, but the scent of neral is slightly sweeter and more subtle than that of geranial. Neral is also used very sparingly to add citrus flavors to desserts and soft drinks.
Although it has such a potent lemon-like scent, lemons are actually not the best source of this particular terpene. Neral can be found occurring naturally in lemongrass, lemon myrtle, litsea cubeba, petitgrain, lemon verbena, lemon tea tree, and Melissa. It is also found in smaller concentration in lime, lemon, and orange.
Neral is classified as a monoterpene aldehyde. Aldehydes have an oxygen atom double bonded to a carbon atom, with a hydrogen bond next to it. They are derived from alcohols due to oxidation. As a whole, aldehydes are known for having antiviral, antifungal, sedative and analgesic properties.
Uses for Neral
Prevents and Treats Infections
A 2010 study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine tested the antifungal activities of lemongrass, eucalyptus, and mentha essential oils against Candida albicans.
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The results showed that of the three essential oils tested, lemongrass exhibited the strongest antifungal activity. The GC-MS analysis showed that the lemongrass essential oil consisted of 36.2 percent geranial and 26.5 percent neral, and it is believed that the antifungal activity of lemongrass essential oil can be partially attributed to the presence of these two isomers.3
Additionally, a 2016 study tested the antimicrobial activity of citral against Cronobacter sakazakii, a food-borne pathogen. The results showed that citral damaged the cell membrane of C. sakazakii, and could potentially be used to kill pathogens in foods.4
These properties make essential oils high in neral, like lemongrass oil, great for remedying mild fungal infections or for making natural disinfectants for surfaces in the home.
In a 2014 study published in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine, the anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory effects of twenty different essential oils were studied in vitro.
Of all the oils tested, lemongrass essential oil displayed the strongest anti-allergic and anti-inflammatory effects. The same study was then carried out using citral and geranial separately, and the results showed similar biological effects.5
Because of this, essential oils like litsea cubeba which has a high concentration of neral can be good for relieving digestive upsets such as cramps and spasms and can help reduce muscle pain. To relieve these symptoms, add a few drops of essential oil to a carrier oil like almond, coconut, or jojoba oil and massage gently onto the affected areas.
Essential oils containing neral can be wonderful disinfectants, as well as soothing to sore muscles and frazzled minds. Try adding some neral-rich essential oils in your daily routine topically after dilution with a carrier oil or aromatically in a room diffuser or portable aromatherapy diffuser like Sleepy, Ocean, or Zen MONQ to reap the health benefits they provide.
Classification: Monoterpene aldehyde
Chemical formula for neral: C10H16O
Chemical names: Neral, Cis-Citral, Citral b, (Z)-Citral, Beta-Citral, Citral
Molar mass: 152.237 g/mol
Boiling point: 229° C (444°F; 502.04 K)
Melting point: <-10°C (<50°F; <283.2 K)