A Present From the Bush: Unlocking Lemon Myrtle’s Potential

Lemon myrtle, or backhousia citriodora, is one of the best gifts offered up by the Australian bush.
If you’ve had the pleasure of cracking a lemon myrtle leaf and breathing in its intensely citrus and refreshing aroma, you’ll understand its potential as a flavour and fragrance enhancer in many everyday products. But can lemon myrtle offer more?

We asked Australian Native Products’ head researcher Prashant Sawant, B.Sc., M.Sc., Ph.D. MBA, Dip. Human Nutrition about the work he’s doing to unlock the native ingredient’s potential.

Prashant, you’re the head of research and development at Australian Native Products. What does your role involve?

In my role as head of R&D, I’m responsible for researching, testing, and proving the benefits of lemon myrtle. That includes researching what nutritional benefits it may offer, its antimicrobial, and antibacterial properties, and how these might apply to different products.

So what do we know about lemon myrtle?

We know it is the world’s highest source of natural citral, an antioxidant that is often found in the oil from citrus fruit peel and has antimicrobial and antifungal properties. With this, there is obvious scope to use lemon myrtle in food preservation and household cleaning products.

We also know lemon myrtle contains key micronutrients including magnesium, calcium and antioxidants such as lutein, vitamin E, and folate.[1]

What research are you currently focusing on?

Our next project is to focus on the nutritional composition of lemon myrtle and its applications in different food and beverage products. Research into the nutritional properties of Australian native botanicals is still in its infancy, but ANP is investing to fill in these knowledge gaps.
We want to build a comprehensive and credible research base for lemon myrtle that will be useful for manufacturers of food, beverages, cosmetics, household cleaning products, and nutraceuticals.

Is there an industry that has particularly embraced lemon myrtle?

Quite rightly, the food and beverage industry is embracing lemon myrtle. It smells and tastes amazing and is a wonderful native alternative to lemongrass and lemon verbena. It’s becoming increasingly popular in teas, in Australian botanical gins, as a flavouring in tonics and seltzers, and also in the growing no and low alcohol products.

Lemon myrtle is an easy ingredient for people to embrace because its citrus flavour and fragrance profile is familiar. It can easily replace lemon or citrus flavouring for companies looking for a local Australian flavour or something a bit different in their products.

In partnership with our research partners, the work I’m doing will give companies more reason to use lemon myrtle beyond just flavour and fragrance. We want to clarify its benefits and then harness them so our native plant can reach its full potential.

[1] Sawant, P. 2019. ‘Unique Australian Native Botanical – Lemon Myrtle as a Natural Source of Ocular Health Super-Nutrient’. Eye and Glaucoma Research. Vol 1.1.  https://www.boffinaccess.com/open-access-journals/eye-and-glaucoma-research/egr-1-102.pdf.