Toxicity of Australian essential oil Backhousia citriodora (lemon myrtle). Part 2. Absorption and histopathology following application to human skin

Food Chem Toxicol. 2003 Oct;41(10):1409-16. doi: 10.1016/s0278-6915(03)00159-5.


The in vitro percutaneous absorption of the essential oil of lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora) has been studied in freshly excised human full-thickness abdominal skin obtained from patients undergoing elective surgery. Absorption of lemon myrtle oil in human skin discs (4.9 cm(2)) was evaluated using a Franz cell diffusion system following topical application of neat lemon myrtle oil (100 microl or 18.29 mg/cm(2)) to the epidermal surface at exposure durations of 1 to 12 h. Gas chromatography mass spectrometry (GCMS) was used as an analytical technique to determine the absorption of lemon myrtle oil components in full-thickness skin. Citral; (consisting of isomers, geranial and neral) was the only component of lemon myrtle oil found to be absorbing into skin at all exposure periods. At the maximum exposure duration of 12 h, the total absorption of citral in the full-thickness skin disc was 0.29+/-0.07 mg/cm(2) (mean+/-S.D., n=4) of the applied dose. Although the absorption of lemon myrtle oil components was limited, haematoxylin and eosin (H&E) staining showed significant losses in the cellular functioning of skin including; losses of integrity and solubilisation of the stratum corneum, cellular necrosis (to 15%) and cellular vacuolation (to 25%) on comparison to control skin. When a formulated product containing 1% lemon myrtle oil (0.18 mg/cm(2)) was applied to human skin discs (4.9 cm(2)) at 8 h exposure the total absorption of citral in the full-thickness skin disc was 5.12+/-0.60 x 10(-4) mg/cm(2) (mean+/-S.D., n=4) of the applied dose. No other components were detected. The histopathological assessment indicated limited damage to epidermal cells. The combination of the above methodologies enabled the generation of data that could be used for a comprehensive evaluation of the toxicity effects of lemon myrtle oil for topical application.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Epidermis / pathology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Middle Aged
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacokinetics
  • Oils, Volatile / toxicity*
  • Plants / chemistry*
  • Skin Absorption*
  • Skin Diseases / chemically induced*
  • Skin Diseases / pathology*
  • Solvents


  • Oils, Volatile
  • Solvents