Chemical of the Day: Citral!

Do you know why citrus fruits are recommended when you have a cold? It’s not just the vitamin C, citric acid, vitamins and the possible fluids you consume it with. For some reason vitamin C gets all the immune system boosting hype, but citrus fruits also contain citral, which is both antimicrobial and antifungal. Citral is the taste and smell of lemon and is not only found in citrus fruits but in lemon myrtle, lemongrass and lemon tea-tree. If it has the word “lemon” in the name, then it’s probably safe to say it contains citral. Its strong scent and antimicrobial properties make citral an ideal candidate for flavor and as a preservative in foods and cosmetics, not to mention its widespread use in cleaning products. I bet you think that the lemon smell in your cleaning products comes from lemons? Chances are that it actually comes from lemon myrtle! I know we all like to associate lemon smell with lemons, I mean it’s referred to as “lemon scent”, but lemon myrtle has about 20 times the amount of citral than lemons do. Lemon myrtle is so high in citral that its essential oil needs to be diluted by about 100 times before it can be applied to the skin. Have you ever tried lemon myrtle tea? It tastes like lemon candy! Have you ever noticed that lemon candies don’t quite taste like lemons? That because there are other chemical compounds in lemons that contribute to their taste, and flavored candies (at least naturally flavored) most likely contain the essential oil of lemon myrtle!

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