In this article we will discuss about Citral. The distinct aromas and flavors you associate with certain plants are the product of terpenes, which are naturally occurring chemical compounds in all plants that make their unique taste and smell possible. More than that, studies show that terpenes induce therapeutic effects during medical use and as an additional ingredient in herbs.
With these characteristics, terpenes have found their way into various applications in daily life. Manufacturers use them as ingredients in food and cleaning products, while some take essential oils for aromatherapy. Expanding your knowledge about these aromatic compounds is becoming more necessary as the terpene industry grows and finds new use cases.
There are thousands of terpenes that we know of, each with its unique characteristics. Today’s featured terpene is citral, a substance responsible for several plants’ lemon-like scents.
Citral has a sweet citrus taste and odor you may know very well. While it’s primarily known to exist in citrus plants, citral is also present in other plants, including ginger, basil, and tomato.
Thanks to its strong scent, plants use the compound to repel potential predators like aphids and mosquitoes and attract pollinators for reproduction. Its antifungal properties also make citral an effective defense against certain fungal infections in plants and humans.
Citral terpene is water-insoluble but dissolves in ethanol and mineral oil, making it an ideal aromatic ingredient in perfumes and food flavorings. It’s also a primary component in synthesizing vitamin A and other essential compounds. Moreover, enthusiasts commonly use terpenes like citral as an additional ingredient to their herbs to give them a hint of tanginess and boost their therapeutic effects.
It’s Health Benefits
Various research and studies demonstrate citral’s positive effects on the human body. Let’s discuss some of them in detail.
A study shows citral may help alleviate inflammation and subsequent pain and discomfort. The research aimed to study its antinociceptive and anti-inflammatory effects by administering controlled doses of the compound to mice.
All tested doses demonstrated substantial pain and inflammation amelioration, with effects similar to morphine. Here, the researchers concluded that citral might become an instrumental remedy in treating painful illnesses and conditions.
Researchers from India evaluated citral’s anti-dyslipidemic and anti-diabetic properties to reduce blood sugar levels. After manually inducing diabetes in rats, the researchers gave them an oral dose daily for a month.
The study reports that citral significantly decreased the rats’ blood glucose levels, boosted their plasma insulin, and improved the health of their livers, adipose tissues, and pancreas. Ultimately, the terpene demonstrated anti-diabetic effects similar to Glibenclamide, a standard medication to manage blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetic patients.
- Helps body weight gain reduction
Research from the Medical College in Kolkata, India studied retinaldehyde’s effects—of which citral is an inhibitor—on body weight, glucose tolerance, metabolic rate, and morphology within diet-induced obesity. The scientists promoted obesity among their samples by providing high-calorie food for over a month. Afterward, the cases received daily doses of citral for 28 days.
Their findings suggest that citral boosted energy dissipation and reduced the accumulation of lipids, preventing and treating diet-induced obesity. The terpene also improved insulin sensitivity, aiding diabetes prevention.
Experts believe that citral also has antimicrobial properties, especially for particular bacterial strains. Given that it’s a popular flavor additive, one study explored its effects on Cronobacter sakazakii, a common food-borne pathogen causing severe illnesses and high infant mortality.
The researchers found that citral damaged the bacteria’s cell membranes and slowed its growth substantially. As a result, this terpene opens up a new way to control the presence of Cronobacter sakazakii populations in contaminated food.
Researchers investigated citral’s antioxidant activities and its possible effects against aspirin-induced toxicity.
Experimenting in vitro, they found that citral prevented linoleic acid oxidation. The researchers also reported that administering it with aspirin minimized aspirin-induced cell death. They concluded that this terpene could protect cells against aspirin oxidation and proposed the discovery of new chemicals from natural antioxidants.
Cancer is one of the primary medical issues worldwide, with limited treatments available. As such, researchers are constantly finding new ways to cure this disease.
One study explored citral’s biocidal properties, specifically against cancer cells. They reported that the terpene induced cell death in young cancer cells without affecting healthy cells, suggesting an effective anticancer treatment. According to the study, a dose only equals a regular glass of tea from one gram of lemongrass.
- Promotes better sleep
Several terpenes reportedly promote sleep and relaxation, including citral.
Researchers from the Federal University of Ceará Fortaleza in Brazil administered barbiturates laced with citral in mice. They found that sleeping time increased by 2.3 times for every 100 mg per kilogram of body weight. This particular terpene was a more effective sedative and motor relaxant than limonene and myrcene, which were also part of the experiment.
Living Healthier with Citral
The studies discussed in this article demonstrate citral’s possible health benefits, from promoting better sleep to its ability to kill microbial and cancer cells—and these benefits only scratch the surface.
As more research and tests go into studying citral and other terpenes, new findings about their characteristics and health benefits may emerge. In turn, this compound can participate in the rapidly gaining popularity of natural remedies.