The effects of 12 essential oils, popularly used as antifungal treatments in aromatherapy, on growth of Candida albicans were investigated. Mycelial growth of C. albicans, which is known to give the fungus the capacity to invade mucosal tissues, was inhibited in the medium containing 100 micro g/ml of the oils: lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus), thyme (Thymus vulgaris), patchouli (Pogostemon cablin) and cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica). Not only lemongrass oil but also citral, a major component of lemongrass oil (80%), in the range of 25 and 200 micro g/ml inhibited the mycelial growth but allowed yeast-form growth. More than 200 micro g/ml of citral clearly inhibited both mycelial and yeast-form growth of C. albicans. These results provide experimental evidence suggesting the potential value of lemongrass oil for the treatment of oral or vaginal candidiasis.