Cymbopogon citratus and Cymbopogon giganteus essential oils have cytotoxic effects on tumor cell cultures. Identification of citral as a new putative anti-proliferative molecule

Biochimie. 2018 Oct:153:162-170. doi: 10.1016/j.biochi.2018.02.013. Epub 2018 Mar 6.


Cymbopogon species are used as traditional remedies in Burkina Faso for treating several diseases. We aimed to study the effects of their essential oils on cancer cell lines. For that purpose, Cymbopogon citratus (DC.) Stapf. and Cymbopogon giganteus Chiov. were studied for their essential oils after various chemical extractions. Antioxidant, potential anti-inflammatory action (inhibition of lipoxygenase) and cytotoxic activities were also tested on various prostate cancer and glioblastoma cell lines. Thirty-three compounds were identified in the essential oil of C. giganteus: Limonene (19.33%), Mentha-1(7),8-dien-2-ol cis (17.34%), Mentha-1(7),8-dien-2-ol trans (13.95%), trans-Mentha-2,8-diene-para-ol 1 (13.91%) and Mentha-2,8-diene-1-ol, cis-para (8.10%) were the most abundant. C. citratus essential oil contained 15 compounds and the major ones were geranial/citral A (48.18%) and neral/citral B (34.37%). Essential oil of C. citratus showed the highest ability to scavenge DPPH+ radicals (approximately 68% at 8 mg/mL) while C. giganteus exhibited the highest capability to reduce ABTS+ (0.59μmolET/g). The essential oil of C. citratus was the most effective on prostate cell lines LNCaP (IC50 = 6.36 μg/ml) and PC-3 (IC50 = 32.1 μg/ml), and on glioblastoma cell lines (SF-767 (IC50 = 45.13 μg/ml) and SF-763 (IC50 = 172.05 μg/ml). Interestingly, the activity of essential oil of C. citratus was statistically equal to that of its major component, citral. Combination of both oils showed antagonist, additive, indifferent and synergistic effects on LNCaP, PC-3, SF-767 and SF-763 cell lines, respectively. In conclusion, plants from the traditional medicine in Burkina Faso could be of interest for identifying new compounds, such as citral, for the treatment of prostate cancer and glioblastoma.

Keywords: Anti-inflammatory; Anti-oxidant; Anticancer activities; Cancer cell lines; Citral; Essential oil.

MeSH terms

  • Acyclic Monoterpenes
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Antioxidants / pharmacology
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects*
  • Cymbopogon / chemistry*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Glioblastoma / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Medicine, African Traditional*
  • Monoterpenes / pharmacology*
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology


  • Acyclic Monoterpenes
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Antioxidants
  • Monoterpenes
  • Oils, Volatile
  • citral