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Red, Green and Lemon Myrtle. What’s the difference?

Posted on: March 7, 2017

Red and Green Myrtle are the same genus and species and can often be used in the same way. Lemon Myrtle is a different genus and species and is significantly different chemically from Myrtus communis.

Green Myrtle (Myrtus communis) is traditionally from Corsica. The leaves and branches are steam distilled to produce essential oil. This Myrtle is well tolerated when diluted appropriately. It is higher in linalool than the Red Myrtle and has an astringent quality that lends itself to some skin care treatments. Can be used as an antiseptic in a gargle. As an inhalant, Green Myrtle can reduce viscous congestion and bronchitis. It can be used as a general antiseptic and tonic for the respiratory system. In the diffusor it also acts as a sedative, soothing anger, fear and insomnia. Use in a topical blend as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory. It is mildly antispasmodic and sedating. 


Red Myrtle is also a Myrtus Communis. The Red Myrtle is usually from North Africa. Again, the leaves and branches are used to make an essential oil that can be used in much the same way as the Green Myrtle. Because the Red Myrtle is higher in cineole it is better employed as a respiratory decongestant and as an anti-viral airborne blend with a stimulating effect. It can also be used as an analgesic in topical blends.


Lemon Myrtle isn’t in the same genus as the Red and Green Myrtle. Backhousia citriodora is grown and distilled in Australia. Lemon Myrtle essential oil is higher in citral (up to 95%) than any of the citrus oils and the super lemony smell tends to overwhelm any blend. It is best used as an airborne environmental treatment. Citrals are very bactericidal, antiviral and fungicidal. It is very important to dilute Lemon Myrtle to about 1% with skin nourishing base oils for a topical blend to mitigate the irritation potential. Studies at the School of Biomedical Sciences, Wagga Wagga, NSW Australia show that the antimicrobial activity of B. citriodora essential oil was found to be greater than that of citral alone and often superior to Melaleuca alternifolia essential oil against Alcaligenes faecilis, Mycobacterium phlei, Staphylococcus aureus, Fusearium graminearum, Microsporum gypsium, Trichophyton mentrgrophytes and Trichophyton rubrum. The publication states that B. citriodora has significant antimicrobial activity and has potential as an antiseptic or surface disinfectant or for inclusion in foods as a natural antimicrobial agent.