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Plant identification guides:
Bush tucker food forest

Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.


As with all medicinal applications of Australian bush foods, please do your due diligence and consult with First Nations or other Australian herbal specialists before utilising as a remedy for any condition.


Some parts of the plant may not be edible or some may need preparation before they are safe to eat or use in any way. We do our best to describe their traditional & modern uses. It is the reader’s responsibility to ensure they are fit for their intended use.


We can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Lemon-scented myrtle

Scientific name:

Other Names:

Backhousia citriodora

Lemon myrtle, Lemon scented ironwood, Sweet Verbena Tree, Lemon Ironwood



Lemon-scented myrtle

Basic info:

This plant is endemic to Queensland, growing from about Brisbane to Mackay and occurs naturally in subtropical coastal rainforests and wet sclerophyll forests.

Due to its rising popularity as a crop and a stunning ornamental addition to gardens, it now grows across the country, and can be grown as far south as Victoria.

Lemon myrtles can grow anywhere from 3 to 20 metres tall! This, and its thick, dark green foliage, means the lemon myrtle is great for creating hedges and screens. They can also be used as an ornamental tree, with their lemon-scented leaves and sprays of small flowers that first appear as white or cream in summer and turn green as they age.

The evergreen glossy foliage of lemon myrtle tree has a strong citrus scent when crushed.

The flowers, fruits, and leaves of this tree are completely edible.

Uses and Interesting Information:

Lemon Myrtle is sometimes referred to as the “Queen of the Lemon Herbs”. It boasts an intensely citrus fragrance and flavour, and has long been used in Aboriginal cuisine and medicine.

Indigenous people:

  • wrapped the leaves in paperbark to flavour fish dishes and various other meals,

  • brewed teas served as remedies for respiratory ailments,

  • treated headaches by crushing and inhaling the leaves,

  • used the crushed leaves to make a natural antiseptic paste as a topical treatment for wounds.

  • The leaf was also used as an insect repellent when the volatile leaves were burned on the campfire.

Undoubtedly the most popular of Australia’s native herbs, Lemon Myrtle’s fresh tangy leaves is commonly used in cooking and may be used in syrups, glazes, cakes, biscuits, dressings, sauces, ice creams, dips and meat dishes. They can also be dried to use in damper, ground and used as a spice in dressings or roasts, or used fresh in fish dishes, and can even replace lemongrass in curry and Thai dishes.

The leaves can be used like Bay Laurel in dishes. It makes an excellent alternative for lemon flavouring in any dish, especially where you want to avoid the acidity of real lemon juice.

Lemon myrtle leaves are especially popular in teas and younger leaves are the best to use since older leaves tend to be more woody.

Essential oil distilled from the leaves has a refreshing lemony scent, and has been found to have antiseptic, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial properties and anti-microbial properties. Often used in cosmetics and cleaning products.

The lemony fragrance comes from the compound citral, which is also found in lemongrass, lemon verbena and lemon and lime – however lemon myrtle oil has the highest citral purity of any known plant. Therefore, lemon myrtle has been found to contain a more potent oil than any other of the lemony plants; including lemon fruit itself! Its germicidal qualities have also been found to be stronger than that found in eucalyptus and tea tree oils, making it a potential treatment for common colds, bronchitis, and several gastrointestinal disorders.[1]

The essential oil is not recommended to use directly on the skin, it is diluted down to 1% because of the natural concentration of its active ingredients.

It is also naturally high in antioxidants, Vitamins A and E, calcium, potassium, and zinc and magnesium.  Lemon myrtle leaves also have been found to contain more lutein (an antioxidant which is especially good for eye health) than avocados, kale and spinach.

Assists with upper respiratory track issues such as sinus, colds, bronchitis, flu and many other ailments.

Its potent antibacterial properties help combat acne-causing bacteria and soothe skin irritations.

The oil obtained from lemon-scented myrtle can act as a natural preservative, due to its capacity to stop microbial growth on food items.

The oil is believed to possess the ability to repel fleas and is therefore a feature of some chemical-free pet shampoos.


Medicinal benefits:

  • Rich in Antioxidants: Lemon myrtle is packed with antioxidants, which may help protect cells from oxidative stress and support overall health.

  • Anti-Inflammatory Properties: The natural compounds in lemon myrtle have been studied for their potential anti-inflammatory effects, which can be beneficial for managing various health conditions.

  • Immune System Support: Taking lemon myrtle orally strengthens your immune system. You can use it in the form of tea, powder or oil. The high levels of vitamin C in lemon myrtle may bolster your immune system and keep illnesses at bay.

  • Digestive Health: Some people use lemon myrtle to alleviate digestive discomfort and promote gut health.

  • Stress Relief: The aroma of lemon myrtle is known to have a calming effect, making it a popular choice for aromatherapy and relaxation.

  • Indigestion and Irritable Gastrointestinal Disorders. Certain lemon myrtle properties help to stimulate the digestion process.

  • Bronchitis. The use of lemon myrtle essential oil can decrease inflammation as well and fight the infection.

  • Influenza. Taking steam with few drops of lemon myrtle essential oil can help alleviate symptoms of the flu.

  • Sinus Infection. Lemon myrtle has anti-inflammatory properties that help to reduce infection.

  • Oral Health. Lemon myrtle can be useful in treating mouth ulcers, irritation, tooth problems, etc. That’s because lemon myrtle cleanses the mouth, thus protecting it from bacteria.

  • Sleep. The herb has a relaxing effect that can calm the mind.

  • Sore Throat. Lemon myrtle has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties.

  • Athlete’s Foot. Lemon myrtle has an anti-fungal property.

  • Insect Bites. Applying lemon myrtle can calm the affected area and reduce inflammation.


[1] Scientists at Charles Stuart University have found that lemon myrtle oil is actually a better anti-fungal and antibacterial agent than tea-tree oil – in fact, its anti-microbial activity was shown to be 30% higher, a remarkable discovery given the fact that tea tree oil has been the ‘star’ antibacterial agent for decades!


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