- Lemon myrtle has been used for centuries by the Australian Aborigines to combat sinus problems, chest congestion, allergies and sore throats.
Additionally, the active ingredients in the leaves have been proven to be beneficial for more serious conditions like acne, depression, digestive issues and even arthritis.
While it adds a delicious lemon taste to a variety of foods, lemon myrtle tea is abundant with healthy compounds that will keep you and your family in optimum health.
The lemon myrtle tree
The lemon myrtle tree, Backhousia citriodora, grows in sub-tropical Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales.
- It was given the name lemon myrtle because of the deliciously lemon-scented fragrance the leaves give off when they are crushed. It is also known as lemon-scented myrtle, and, rather erroneously, lemon ironwood or lemon-scented ironwood (which is a completely different tree).
In the rainforests where it usually grows, it can reach 6 to 8 metres in height.
In the early summer, it becomes resplendent in creamy white, tufted flowers which both bees and butterflies love.
Its beautiful, glossy leaves are evergreen, 5–12 centimetres in length and 1.5–2.5 cm across.
- Despite being a herb used for thousands of years by the Aborigines, it was given the scientific name Backhousia citriodora in 1853 by German-Australian botanist, Ferdinand von Mueller.
He named it in honour of his fellow-botanist and friend, James Backhouse.
In 1940, due to food shortages and rations caused by World War 2, Tarax Company used lemon myrtle oil as a lemon flavouring, but it wasn’t sold commercially until the early 1990’s.
Jamie Oliver made it world famous by introducing it to his television audience in 2010.
What makes lemon myrtle so good?
The two main active ingredients in lemon myrtle are citral (90-98% of the plant’s essential oils) and citronellal.
- The leaves of the lemon myrtle tree contain the highest concentration of citral in any plant – a whopping 90-98%, while a lemon contains a mere 2-5%.
Citral has a strong lemon aroma, more lemony than lemon, and is a very powerful antimicrobial.
Apart from its abundance of antioxidants, it is also a great natural source of
- vitamin A
- vitamin E
The Australian indigenous Aborigines used lemon myrtle to flavour their food, wrapping fish in myrtle leaves and paper bark before cooking on coals.
- They used it topically as an antiseptic / antibacterial paste on wounds, and in tea form as a relaxant and sleep aid.
If they had a headache, they’d crush a handful of leaves and inhale, allowing the lemony scent to relieve.
Lemon myrtle is a native Australian tree that originates in sub-tropical Queensland and north-eastern New South Wales. It has been used for medicinal and food purposes by the indigenous Australian Aborigines for thousands of years, although it has only been commercially available since the early 1990s. The leaves contain the highest concentration of citral (a fragrant oil) of any plant, including lemons.
Might relieve cold and flu symptoms
The active bio-agents in lemon myrtle have proven
- as well as being high in potent antioxidants.
The antiviral properties of the herb assist in keeping us healthy by attacking viruses when they enter our body.
- They work either to prevent these viruses from getting a foothold, or to cause them to expire faster than usual.
Infusions created with crushed lemon myrtle leaves encourage this process.
Congestion and sinusitis
As an anti-inflammatory, it can relieve chest congestion by fighting the inflammation in the bronchial passage and destroying the bacterial or viral cause.
Additionally, it has expectorant qualities and is able to reduce the volume of mucous in the respiratory tract.
This allows for easier breathing and an easing of that constricted feeling that often accompanies it.
- Suffering from sinusitis? Lemon myrtle tea’s anti-inflammatory properties assist in reducing the inflammation in the nasal passage.
At the same time its antibacterial and antimicrobial agents combat the infection.
As the tea has such potent anti-inflammatory properties, it can often be substituted for costly over-the-counter pain medications.
- Another way the tea might help to unblock congested nasal passages is by inhaling the fragrant citrus steam rising from your cup.
Even better, run a basin of boiling hot water and add a couple of tablespoons of herbal lemon myrtle tea.
Place a towel over your head as you lean over the steam, inhaling deeply.
The fumes are said to be as good as tea tree oil in helping relieve nasal congestion.
Soothing sore throats
As far as sore throats, you can sip your tea, extending the amount of time the herbal infused water has contact with the throat tissue.
Or gargle your tea.
Perhaps even a combination of both for the very best results.
- The antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory qualities of lemon myrtle assist in healing sore throats by killing the bacterial / viral cause and reducing inflammation.
Adding honey not only adds extra health benefits, such as improving cholesterol levels, lowering blood pressure and even suppressing coughs, but it also soothes the lining of the throat.
And not forgetting that lemon myrtle is extremely high in Vitamin C.
Vitamin C is essential for a healthy immune system, and another reason to drink this particular herbal tea year-round.
Lemon myrtle herbal tea is power-packed with bio-compounds that have antimicrobial, antiviral, antibacterial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. It is therefore perfect for dealing with common colds and flu. Drinking it throughout the year will not only help prevent you from getting sick, but it will shorten the time spent in bed if perchance the cold virus does manage to get hold of you. Drinking the tea mixed with honey will go further to soothe your throat, and also to aid in suppressing annoying coughs.
Could strengthen your immune system
This tea contains goodness in the form of vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and essential oils.
These all play their part in keeping the immune system functioning as well as it possibly can.
The abundant antioxidants in lemon myrtle also play a part in maintaining your body’s health, and that of your immune system.
- Researchers have found that lemon myrtle tea contains over 10 different anti-inflammatory and antioxidants.
This is far more than most other herbal teas.
Tell us about antioxidants
Antioxidants seek and destroy free radicals that have entered our body through the air, the water, our food or by smoking and drinking alcohol.
Free radicals are unstable atoms that damage (oxidise) cells and body tissue.
This, in turn, causes disease, such as cancer, and premature aging.
Not only do antioxidants get rid of these unwanted interlopers, but they also repair damaged cells and protect healthy cells.
- A secondary outcome of increasing the number of antioxidants in your body is that while they are fighting free radicals and repairing damaged cells and tissue, they are also fighting signs of early aging – such as dull, dry skin and fine wrinkles.
Furthermore, the Vitamin A in this tea will likewise help your immune system function to its optimum level, and be more effective at fighting off viruses and bacteria.
Lemon myrtle contains antioxidants and vitamins that strengthen, repair and protect the immune system, as well as repair damaged cells and protect healthy cells from free radicals. Free radicals are unstable atoms basically caused by the pollution in our environment – including from cigarette smoke and alcohol.
May have anti-cancer properties
A surprising, but under-researched, aspect of lemon myrtle is its cancer-fighting properties.
Cancer is triggered by accumulated gene damage.
This damage can be caused by factors that may be environmental, viral, genetic or a combination.
Free radicals are unstable atoms that enter our body and damage healthy cells, and are found in
- tobacco products
- fried and barbecued foods
- air, water and environmental pollution
Antioxidants, of which there are many types, roam the body looking for free radicals.
They destroy them when they find them and do what they can to repair any damaged cells.
Yikes!! There’s a war going on in my body?
The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is a government scientific research agency.
It has found that lemon myrtle leaf extracts produce positive results in reducing liver, bladder, colon and stomach cancer cells in test tube experiments.
They also discovered that the death of cancerous cells rose after treatment with the herbal extracts.
In studies undertaken by the University of New South Wales and published in 2013, researchers looked at the effects of three different Australian herbs, one of which was lemon myrtle, on cancer cells.
They applied the herbal extracts to cancerous human liver, colon, bladder, stomach and leukaemia cells.
Then they measured their proliferation compared to the same set of cancerous cells without any herbal extracts.
The result was a significant cancer cell death in those treated with the herbal extracts in all but the leukaemia cancer cells.
- As well as their remarkable cancer-killing properties, the extracts were all found to have powerful antioxidants.
These potent bio-compounds protected healthy cells from the oxidative damage that can lead to cancer.
In other words, regular consumption of lemon myrtle tea not only kills cancer cells, but helps to prevent you from getting it in the first place.
How do they kill cancer?
The herbal extracts were found to kill the cancer cells by changing their DNA.
This in turn stimulated the activity of an enzyme called caspase-3.
This extra activity turns on the cell’s kill switch.
And – BAM! – causes the cell to die before it has the opportunity to multiply.
Meanwhile, all the surrounding healthy cells are left completely untouched.
This Aussie herb has been found to have potent cancer-fighting abilities. It destroys cancer cells by altering cell DNA, switching on the “kill switch” and causing the cell to die – without affecting any of the surrounding healthy cells. This prevents the cancer from spreading or turning into a tumour. Furthermore, its antioxidative properties help protect healthy cells from the oxidative damage that can lead to cancer.
Might aid digestive disorders and weight management
Another health benefit provided by this particular herbal tea relates to its effectiveness against indigestion and other digestive problems like bloating, constipation, and diarrhoea.
- The antibacterial properties of lemon myrtle keep the digestive system healthy by inhibiting the proliferation of harmful, unhealthy bacteria.
As lemon myrtle contains anti-inflammatory qualities, it also works to reduce any inflammation likely to cause stomach upsets.
Many of the bacteria it is effective against are those commonly associated with causing food poisoning.
Note to self! If I ever start to feel nauseous, make a cup of lemon myrtle tea.
Likewise, it is useful in treating gastro-intestinal infections, such as Helicobacter pylori, which is often the culprit responsible for gastric ulcers.
The antispasmodic properties of the herbal tea assist in alleviating intestinal spasms.
These can occur due to intestinal infections, or a bad reaction to something you’ve eaten.
Scientists have found…
- In a 2020 study conducted on cells in a laboratory, researchers came up with results that suggested the anti-inflammatory properties of lemon myrtle extract have potential use in the treatment of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Furthermore, the main active ingredient, citral, has been shown to regulate the body’s metabolism.
Metabolism is responsible for converting everything we eat and drink into usable energy; the calories are combined with oxygen and energy is produced.
Weight gain may be caused by a sluggish metabolism.
Yet, in most cases extra weight can be attributed to other, usually lifestyle-related, reasons.
A group of scientists from the CSIRO has found that an extract made from the dried and powdered leaves of lemon myrtle inhibited 3 enzymes responsible for carbohydrate and fat digestion.
All about alpha-amylase
Another discovery they made was that the extract was found to be more efficient than oil extracts from other plants at inhibiting alpha-amylase.
This is an enzyme essential in the digestion of carbohydrates and in controlling the level of blood glucose.
Just in case you were wondering…
- Amylase inhibitors, as mentioned above, help in losing weight by preventing carbohydrates from being absorbed into the body.
Lemon myrtle not only helps to keep our digestive systems running smoothly, and prevents bloating, but it also helps speed up our metabolism – which is how our body turns the food we eat into energy. It further prevents weight gain by inhibiting the digestion of carbohydrates and controlling the level of blood sugars.
Could promote better quality sleep
One of the traditional uses of lemon myrtle tree leaves, as used by the indigenous Australians, was as a relaxant and sedative.
This property of lemon myrtle may be because of the magnesium in the herb.
Magnesium not only helps you to fall asleep quicker, but also promotes a deeper, more restful sleep.
In one experiment conducted on 46 elderly patients, half of which were given magnesium and the other half given a placebo over an 8-week period.
Researchers concluded that those taking magnesium reported an improvement in their insomnia.
- improvement in the time taken to fall asleep
- the amount of time spent sleeping
- the quality of sleep
- how easy it was to wake up the following morning.
Drink lemon myrtle 30 to 45 minutes before going to bed to get the full benefit of its calming, sedative properties.
One of the traditional uses of lemon myrtle tree leaves was as a sedative. A cup about 45 minutes before bedtime may help you sleep better, as will taking the time to enjoy the lemony fragrance of the tea – which is said to calm nerves. The key factor, though, is the magnesium in the herb. Magnesium is proven to promote better quality sleep.
Might relieve arthritis pain
One of the most commonly suffered conditions of late middle-age to old age, is rheumatoid arthritis.
This is an inflammatory condition resulting in painfully swollen joints.
- Due to lemon myrtle’s anti-inflammatory qualities, drinking a strong cup a couple of times a day can do wonders for reducing painful joint inflammation and providing the sufferer with some welcome relief.
And since lemon myrtle is also sold as an essential oil, you could tackle the problem from two sides.
You can apply the diluted oil to the affected joints and gently massaging it in. And – you can do this while sipping on the delightfully lemony flavour of the tea.
While there is not a lot of research on the link between lemon myrtle and arthritis, there is certainly a lot of evidence as to the anti-inflammatory nature of this native Australian herb. Therefore, it makes sense that taking the herb as a tea and using the essential oil to massage any affected areas, will greatly assist in the alleviation of the pain and discomfort caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
May relieve mild depression
Another of this herbal tea’s seemingly endless list of health miracles is its ability to relieve symptoms of depression.
The soothing effect it has on nerves promotes relaxation and assists in mood elevation.
- It also encourages better quality sleep. In this way, it helps relieve feelings of depression, although this has yet to be researched more thoroughly.
Magnesium is known to help alleviate symptoms of depression.
Unfortunately, the small amounts of magnesium in lemon myrtle may only be of benefit to sufferers of very mild depression.
But every little bit helps, doesn’t it?
This herbal tea has a relaxing effect on nerves and eases depression through a combination of inhaling the calming, fragrant aroma of the tea as well as drinking it.
May reduce pimples and acne
Lemon myrtle contains antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, and it can be used both topically and as a tea to fight the bacteria that causes pimples and acne.
It can help reduce the amount of oil that the skin produces.
- Even more interesting is the fact you can mix the tea with sea salt and use it as a face wash.
(You can use the same sea salt and herbal tea solution as a mouth wash to freshen your breath.)
As a detoxifying tea, leaves from the lemon myrtle tree can help eradicate pimples and acne both internally, and as a face rinse, externally.
May improve oral health
It seems as though there is nothing lemon myrtle can’t do – and you’d be right.
Drinking this herbal tea, while soothing and relaxing you, will also help treat oral health issues, such as ulcers, gum irritation, even bad breath.
The antibacterial, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties kill any nasties in your mouth before they’ve had a chance to do any harm.
Streptococcus mutans is a bacterium associated with tooth decay, and glucosyltransferases (GTFs) are the main enzymes responsible for the formation of dental plaque (biofilm).
- In 2018, a team of Japanese researchers discovered that out of 44 different herbal extracts, including green and oolong teas, that of lemon myrtle had the highest rate of GTF inhibition.
Lemon myrtle, which had the third-highest level of polyphenols, also inhibits Streptococcus mutans.
The scientists concluded that lemon myrtle extract very likely prevents tooth decay due to its ability to inhibit bacterial activity.
Lemon myrtle toothpaste
These scientists also recommended using lemon myrtle in toothpaste and other oral hygiene products.
But you don’t have to wait around for that to become commercially available.
- Just take some of the dry tea, and press it into the toothpaste on your brush before using it.
The lemon myrtle won’t just give you a healthier mouth and fresher breath, but it may also polish your teeth.
Only one way to find out….
This herbal tea has been proven to help maintain oral hygiene not only by freshening the breath, but also by killing the bacteria that causes dental plaque and tooth decay. It’s antimicrobial properties also help prevent ulcers and gum irritation.
Could protect eyes and vision
One of our most important senses, if not THE most important sense, is sight.
The leaves of the lemon myrtle tree don’t neglect that part of our health either.
Due in part to the Vitamin A and E the tea contains, but also due to the abundance of lutein (a vitamin) this brew is extremely beneficial to the health of our eyes.
- Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, lutein is able to protect the retina from damage. It plays a key part in eye health by improving the symptoms of age-related macular degeneration.
This is a major cause of age-related vision loss.
There are two forms of this condition:
- Dry macular degeneration, whereby the middle of the retina deteriorates,
- Wet macular degeneration, characterised by leaky blood vessels under the retina.
Blurred vision is the main symptom.
There is a special mix of vitamins and minerals that can be taken to slow the progression of the disease, or surgery may be possible.
Before it comes to that, there is lemon myrtle herbal tea to assist in keeping your eyes in optimum condition.
Eye health is very important, especially as we get older. Leaves from the lemon myrtle tree contain vitamins and minerals that are essential to eye health, most notably Vitamin A and E, and lutein, which work together to protect the retina and improve the symptoms of both wet and dry macular degeneration.
Other possible benefits of lemon myrtle tea
Can you believe how beneficial this home-grown Aussie herb is for your health?
And it isn’t over, yet.
While researching this article, there were mentions of other benefits that didn’t contain enough information to warrant their own section.
Nevertheless, they are no less important when it comes to protecting your health. So let’s check out what else the lemon myrtle tree has in store for us!
- It may reduce cellulite – due to it’s ability to increase metabolism, burning up fat and contributing to weight loss.
- The leaves are a fantastic source of folate, Vitamin A, Vitamin E and minerals like zinc and magnesium, which assist in the synthesis and self-repair of our DNA.
- It’s a great source of calcium – important for bones and teeth – for vegans.
- Its anti-spasmodic properties are beneficial for anyone who suffers from menstrual cramps.
- It detoxifies and assists in preventing and slowing degenerative diseases, such as heart disease.
Summary: Lemon myrtle helps reduce cellulite and menstrual cramps. It detoxifies and looks after our bones, teeth and even our DNA!
Lemon myrtle essential oils
Although you can’t take essential oils orally, you can use them in conjunction with herbal teas for more effective outcomes.
- The lemon myrtle tree produces potent antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties.
As all of these are in the essential oil, let’s explore lemon myrtle essential oil.
Firstly, lemon myrtle essential oil has been proven to be effective against many common viruses and bacteria.
What did you just say to me??
Most famously, lemon myrtle essential oil is the perfect treatment for the molluscum contagiosum virus.
This is a highly contagious viral infection that enters the body via small cuts or breaks in the skin.
It’s a common childhood illness, but appears in sexually active young adults and people with auto-immune diseases.
Molluscum contagiosum initially appears to be scores of little pimples, usually on the face, torso, arms and legs.
In the next stage these spots become rounder and pearl-coloured with a white, waxy core.
- In a 2004 study, researchers treated 31 children, around 5 years old, with molluscum contagiosum with a 10% solution of oil from lemon myrtle leaves. After 21 days more than 90% of the lesions had disappeared, without any side effects.
0% of those in the control group – who received olive oil – showed any signs of improvement.
Other beneficial uses
Lemon myrtle essential oil and its antifungal properties are perfect for treating athlete’s foot.
You can use it topically to disinfect cuts and scratches and on insect bites to prevent infection.
You can even use it as a treatment to get rid of warts and cold sores.
- People suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, in addition to drinking the herbal tea, can add a few drops of lemon myrtle essential oil to some olive oil and massage it into the affected area.
There is ample evidence available to say this combination really does work.
Mix a few drops into your warm bath to treat skin conditions or just to soothe tired and tense muscles; remembering that inhaling the fragrance will also relax you.
If you are feeling stressed or anxious, rub a dab of diluted lemon myrtle essential oil into your temples.
Then relax and wait for the calmness to envelope you.
In this way, the strong aroma will also help you to concentrate.
Diluted, lemon myrtle essential oil makes a perfect surface cleaner – especially for the kitchen, the bathroom and the toilet.
It is extremely effective at killing surface bacteria.
In this age of COVID-19 doesn’t it make sense to use an all-natural product that is probably at least as effective as store bought cleaners?
A word of warning
Do NOT take essential oils orally, and dilute the oils before applying directly to the skin.
In other words, DO NOT apply the concentrated oil to your skin.
And finally, be extremely careful when using essential oils on children and the elderly, perhaps consulting a qualified aromatherapist first.
It is possible to take a holistic approach to your health and wellness by using essential oil in conjunction with a herbal tea. Lemon myrtle is a good example. While the herbal tea has a whole list of health benefits, so too does lemon myrtle essential oil, which can be used effectively for conditions such as molluscum contagiosum, rheumatoid arthritis, as well as athlete’s foot, cold sores, warts and other skin conditions.
Does lemon myrtle tea contain caffeine?
No, it doesn’t and that means you can drink it at any time of the day or night.
Is this a herbal tea that is safe for pregnant women to have?
We know lemon myrtle tea contains powerful antioxidants, antimicrobial agents and many other beneficial biological compounds.
However, there isn’t quite enough research on lemon myrtle to say if it is safe for pregnant women or not.
However, as there are no published risks about drinking the tea it is quite possibly safe, especially in the last trimester, for pregnant and breastfeeding women to drink one cup a day.
If you want to be sure, as always, consult your medical practitioner.
Is lemon myrtle available in creams or lotions?
Yes, there is a large range of lemon myrtle products including essential oils, which you can, ideally, use in conjunction with the herbal tea for maximum results.
The delightful fragrance of lemon myrtle is similar to lemon confectionery with a hint of menthol, and inhaling this aroma can help with
- inducing relaxation.
In addition, you can use it topically for
- skin irritations
- athlete’s foot
- insect bites
- cold sores
- acne and pimples
- rheumatoid arthritis.
Finally, many cosmetics contain lemon myrtle oil, which is especially good as a skin toner and cleanser, tightening the skin and reducing pores.
Can you drink lemon myrtle tea cold?
Yes, you can. In fact, it is a wonderfully refreshing drink to have on a hot summer’s day.
One thing you can do if visitors pop around is make a jug of Iced Lemon Myrtle Tea.
- Simply make a pot or two of the tea, then pour into a large jug.
- Stir in a tablespoon or two of honey while the water is still warm.
- When the tea has cooled add thin wedges of lemon, some mint leaves and a whole lot of ice.
(You could also add strawberry quarters or passionfruit pulp. Let your imagine go wild.)
4. Stir well, sit back, and enjoy the summery flavours.
Is it safe for children to drink?
As it has no caffeine, it is generally safe for older to children to drink.
What is the process of making lemon myrtle tea?
Lemon myrtle trees are generally grown on plantations.
They are harvested either mechanically or by hand depending on the number of trees.
If there are over 1,000 trees then it’s usually done mechanically.
Harvest can take place once or twice a year, at any time.
Smaller businesses with smaller numbers of lemon myrtle trees may pick the leaves according to orders received.
Both the leaf and stem are harvested from the lemon myrtle tree.
These are then either dried on the stem, or stripped from the stem and then dried.
It’s important the leaves are dried as quickly as possible in order to preserve the citral content.
Finally, the leaves are milled or ground – depending on what the end product is going to be.
They are then stored in a dark space, which is temperature controlled, until they are packaged and sent out for use.
What is the best part of the day to drink lemon myrtle tea?
There is no best time for enjoying this beneficial brew, unless you are taking it for a specific purpose.
For example, if you are drinking it to lose weight, enjoy a cup shortly after meals.
Sipping a cup of lemon myrtle tea 45 minutes before going to bed will help you get a restful night’s sleep.
Perhaps you could drink your tea while enjoying a warm bath to which lemon myrtle essential oil has been added.
Making yourself a cup first thing in the morning will kick-start your metabolism.
Having a cuppa mid-morning or mid-afternoon will help you to de-stress, clear your head and help you to focus.
What else should I know about lemon myrtle tea?
With most other herbal teas, you shouldn’t pour scorching hot, boiling water directly onto the leaves.
This is because the boiled water kills many of the beneficial bio-compounds.
However, with this tea you can pour boiling water straight onto the herbs.
In fact, it is necessary to do so in order for all the goodness to be released into your cup.
You won’t need to add sugar, but if you need to sweeten the tea, add a little honey.
Or you could get more inventive and add ginger, mint leaves, or anything healthy and flavour enhancing.
One of the most unusual things about lemon myrtle is that despite having been used for thousands of years by the indigenous Australian Aborigines, it took modern Australians so long to catch onto the myriad benefits the native herb provides.
Loaded with beneficial antioxidants, oils, and enzymes, this herbal brew is pretty amazing in its range of health benefits.
It’s basically a whole medicine cabinet in a single cup of lemony goodness with both topical and internal applications.
And a versatile ingredient in recipes since it goes so well in both sweet and savoury dishes.
As already mentioned, it will help you heal and work hard to protect your body from any lurking nasties.
Don’t forget, lemon myrtle essential oil can be used in conjunction with herbal tea for a more holistic approach.
Do you already have a packet of lemon myrtle tea?
It would be fantastic if you could take a little time to write in and tell us how you use it and how effective it is.
Also, we love hearing little tips that we can pass on to the rest of our tea family.