Central effects of citral, myrcene and limonene, constituents of essential oil chemotypes from Lippia alba (Mill.) n.e. Brown

Phytomedicine. 2002 Dec;9(8):709-14. doi: 10.1078/094471102321621304.


Citral, myrcene and limonene (100 and 200 mg/kg body wt., i.p.), constituents of essential oils from Lippia alba chemotypes, decreased not only the number of crossings but also numbers for rearing and grooming, as measured by the open-field test in mice. Although muscle relaxation detected by the rota rod test was seen only at the highest doses of citral (200 mg/kg body wt.) and myrcene (100 and 200 mg/kg body wt.), this effect was observed even at the lowest dose of limonene (50 mg/kg body wt.). Also, citral and myrcene (100 and 200 mg/kg body wt.) increased barbiturate sleeping time as compared to control. Limonene was also effective at the highest dose, and although citral did not increase the onset of sleep, it increased the duration of sleep, which is indicative of a potentiation of sleeping time. Citral (100 and 200 mg/kg body wt.) increased 2.3 and 3.5 times, respectively, the barbiturate sleeping time in mice. Similar effects were observed for myrcene and limonene at the highest dose (200 mg/kg body wt.) which increased the sleeping time around 2.6 times. In the elevated-plus maze, no effect was detected with citral up to 25 mg/kg body wt., while at a high dose it decreased by 46% the number of entries in the open arms. A smaller but significant effect was detected with limonene (5 mg/kg body wt.). While myrcene (10 mg/kg body wt.) decreased only by 22% the number of entries in the open arms, this parameter was decreased by 48% at the highest dose. Our study showed that citral, limonene and myrcene presented sedative as well as motor relaxant effects. Although only at the highest dose, they also produced a potentiation of the pentobarbital-induced sleeping time in mice, which was more intense in the presence of citral. In addition, neither of them showed an anxiolytic effect, but rather a slight anxiogenic type of effect at the higher doses.

MeSH terms

  • Acyclic Monoterpenes
  • Animals
  • Cyclohexenes
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Injections, Intraperitoneal
  • Limonene
  • Lippia*
  • Male
  • Maze Learning / drug effects
  • Mice
  • Monoterpenes / administration & dosage
  • Monoterpenes / pharmacology
  • Motor Activity / drug effects*
  • Phytotherapy*
  • Plant Oils / administration & dosage
  • Plant Oils / pharmacology*
  • Sleep / drug effects*
  • Terpenes / administration & dosage
  • Terpenes / pharmacology


  • Acyclic Monoterpenes
  • Cyclohexenes
  • Monoterpenes
  • Plant Oils
  • Terpenes
  • beta-myrcene
  • Limonene
  • citral