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Lemon- or Citrus-Scented Oils Comparison©

By Jeanne Rose


OL = oxygen + hydrogen or ALCOHOL


ENE = no oxygen, a TERPENE hydrocarbon

   CITRONELLOL = alcohol

   CITRONELLAL = antiviral

   LIMONENE = terpene (no oxygen)

   CITRAL = neral + geranial, these are cis/trans isomers,  antiviral

1.      Citronella  grass - Cymbopogon nardus

          32% citronellal

          20% geraniol

           14% citronellol

           4 % limonene

          Herbaceous, fruity, citrus fragrance with serious back notes of green and vegetative. A scent that can be sickifying.  Inexpensive oil, but certainly replaceable by Lemon Eucalyptus.  Used in bug repellent soaps.See Lebermuth.

2.      Lemon - Citrus limon

          67% limonene

          some citral

          A refreshing, fruity lemon odor with strong citrus and spicy notes. This scent can not be truly duplicated by other lemon odors. There are green and yellow Lemon essential oils. Green has a fresh, green odor, the yellow is more fruity and sweet. Both contain D-limonene, some citral, g-terpinene, some citronellal. With these components, sometimes other lemon-scented oils are substituted. When other oils with more alcohols are substituted for Lemon oil, the soap often changes in its composition and scent.  Changing from true Lemon to other Lemon scents often results in alteration of color. For a variety of Lemon, Jeanne Rose Aromatherapy has a  “Grove of Citrus” Aromatherapy Kit; 18 different citrus oils for $90 +S&h

3.      Lemon eucalyptus -Eucalyptus Citriodora

          60% citronellal

          20% citronellol

          A better smelling scent than Citronella and because it has more of the alcohol citronellol it also is a better bug/insect repellent.  This eo is not very expensive and would be a great addition to a soap. Bug repellent, when inhaled is calming and relaxing.

4.      Lemon Mint  or Bergamot Mint Mentha  x citrata

          33-74% linalyl acetate

          an aldehyde of unstable nature

          ??? lemon scent

          Has an soft agreeable odor reminiscent of the linalyl acetate of Lavender, rather than of Bergamot. This would be a wonderful scent for a soap.  The soap could be considered a beauty bar because of the soothing nature of the linalyl acetate. Carried by CH Imports and Lebermuth.

5.      Lemon Myrtle Backhousia citrata

          90-98% citral

          Lemon-like odor, pleasant, sweet and green undertone. Much cleaner and sweeter than Lemongrass or Litsea. No grassy or fatty note or amyl acetate fruitiness like Lemongrass. Strongly antiviral, can be used by direct application on cold sores. A wonderful lemon odor for all your soap and cosmetic needs. Carried by Natural Extracts of Australia.

6.      Lemongrass Cymbopogon citratus

          75-85% citral

          up to 25% myrcene

          Because of the myrcene with its strongly green and vegetative note, this is not my favorite citrus odor or even one of my essential oils that I enjoy although a favorite of many.  Lemongrass used in a  soap could be used for skin care, or a foot soap for athletes foot, also considered to help minimize perspiration and stinky sweat.

7.      Lemon Teatree Leptospermum citratum  from Australia

          80% citral

          ? citronellal

          This essential oil is interesting with that known Teatree scent with delicious overtones of citrus. You can smell and/or this oil from one of the trade show vendors, CH Imports.  It would make a great soap to be used for its antibacterial, antifungal and other citral properties.  A good addition to your soap line, possibly as a children's hand soap or at the veterinary in a pet shampoo.

8.      May Chang Litsea cubeba

           Citral (neral + geranial) is 65%-74%.

          A very strong citrus predominating note with fruit and spice in the back notes. This is a relatively inexpensive oil that is often substituted for the very expensive Verbena. There is no true Verbena soap unless it is made with the herb itself.  The scent of commercial Verbena soaps is Litsea.  The difference in the true odor of these two essentials is quite dramatic.  I feel it is dishonest for a company to call a soap Verbena when in fact it is scented with other citrus odors or even complete synthetics.

          True studies have shown "When given orally or by inhalation, possesses prominent protective effects against bronchial asthma that is induced by inhalation of broncho-constrictors (1977). The essential oil inhibits anaphylactic shock when inhaled, and has a relaxing effect on the tracheal muscle."

9.      Melissa -Melissa Officinalis 

          36% citronellal

          11% citral

          limonene as a trace

          A powerful anti-viral. Has many chemotypes and many chemical varieties. Most interesting is that this scent which is very citrus, also has back notes of a sweet wood. This is a very expensive oil and not the least like other citrus scents.  Come to me later for a whiff of the true Melissa.

          Melissa -Melissa officinalis L. Research Findings. In Melissa, a reasonable minimum yield of oil is 0.05 - 0.1%, and in Mediterranean countries it reaches 0.2 - 0.3%. The percentage of citral depends on the seed source, and was found to range between 8.8 and 75.0%, with citronellal between 1.0 and 52.0%. The Bavarian Research Institute for Soil and Plant Production (Germany), examined a collection of 101 provenance/cultivars of Melissa and evaluated the best types. The percentage of citral is highest in young leaves and just before flowering, but favorable growing conditions are very important. After a 6 months period of storage, the citral content decreases from 84 to 50%. As the plants become older, the percentage of citral decreases from 37 to 12%, and citronellal increases from 1 to 32%. In new plantations in Africa, the oil is extracted directly from fresh plants using an advanced method of extraction with 1,1,1,2-tetrafluorethane. The very low oil yield of Melissa, and comparative difficulties connected with the distillation of fresh material together with quick oil decomposition, initiated a quest for other plants with high percentages of lemon-scented monoterpenes. Nepeta cataria ssp. citriodora  and Dracocephalum moldavica were investigated for their volatile oil content and quality.

10.    Verbena Aloysia triphylla

          35% citral (?)        

          13% limonene

          many other components

          This scent is strongly citrus with a floral note and a woody finish.  It is expensive and often other oils are substituted for it. It is a powerful anti-inflammatory.  The tea is helpful for sleeping, the hydrosol has the opposite effect and can help to keep you awake on a long drive.

There are many more citrus odors in the plant world and many plants when distilled produce citrus chemotypes. Also it is important to note that the hydrosols of some of these plants are available and can be used after the bath pr shower as a tonic rinse or spray.

          Learn to use the hydrosols and add them to your product line.  Good soap is cleansing and can be healing but finish with a delicious hydrosol and you have two products that work together to make a complete package.

©All Rights Reserved 2003, 2004. No part of this article may be used
without prior permission from The Aromatic Plant Project.
©Author's Copyright and Jeanne Rose,

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