Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) is a product that comes from the lemon eucalyptus tree.
OLE is actually different from lemon eucalyptus essential oil. Read on as we discuss this difference, the uses and benefits of OLE, and more.
The many eucalyptus trees
The lemon eucalyptus tree (Corymbia citriodora) is native to Australia. You may also see it referred to as lemon-scented eucalyptus or lemon-scented gum. It gets its name from its leaves, which have a lemony scent.
There are many different types of eucalyptus tree. They’re often used to produce essential oils.
Despite having similar names, OLE is a different product than lemon eucalyptus essential oil.
Lemon eucalyptus is the essential oil that’s distilled from the leaves of the lemon eucalyptus tree. It has many different chemical components, including the major component citronellal. This is also found in other essential oils like citronella.
OLE is an extract from the leaves of the lemon eucalyptus tree. It’s enriched for an active ingredient called para-menthane-3,8-diol (PMD). PMD can also be chemically made in a laboratory.
Extracted OLE is refined to increase the content of PMD, its active ingredient. Commercially available OLE products often contain 30 percent OLE and 20 percent PMD.
Synthetic PMD is made in a laboratory. It’s also used as a bug repellent. Although OLE and synthetic PMD have the same active ingredient, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates them separately.
Commercially available synthetic PMD products have a lower PMD concentration than commercial OLE products. Products with synthetic PMD have a PMD concentration of about 10 percent.
Lemon eucalyptus essential oil uses
Like OLE and PMD, lemon eucalyptus essential oil is also used as a bug repellent. You may also see people using it for things like:
Research into OLE and PMD concern their use as a bug repellent. A 2016 review of older studies indicates that the active ingredient PMD may:
- have comparable activity and duration to DEET
- offer better protection against ticks than DEET, affecting tick attachment and feeding
- be effective against some types of biting midges
Let’s look at a snapshot of what more recent research says:
2018 studylooked at the effect of 20 percent PMD on the feeding of Aedes aegypti, a mosquito that can transmit dengue fever. Exposure to PMD led to significantly less feeding compared with a control substance.
2015 studycompared the effectiveness of commercially available bug repellents for two species of mosquito. One of the products used was an OLE product called Cutter lemon eucalyptus.
- While DEET was the most effective repellent in the 2015 study, Cutter lemon eucalyptus had a similar efficacy. It had a strong, long lasting effect for one mosquito species and a less strong (but still significant) effect on the other.
2009 studyassessed PMD from OLE and its effect on immature ticks (nymphs). Nymphs can transmit diseases like Lyme disease. PMD was toxic to nymphs. The effect increased with the PMD concentration.
OLE and its active ingredient PMD have repellent properties that may be comparable to DEET in some cases. PMD may also affect mosquito feeding behavior and have toxicity to ticks.
Lemon eucalyptus essential oil benefits
Many of the proposed benefits of lemon eucalyptus essential oil are based off anecdotal evidence. That means they’re based off someone’s personal experience rather than scientific research.
A small bit of research has been performed on lemon eucalyptus essential oil. Here’s what some of it says:
2018 studycompared properties of lemon eucalyptus essential oil with eight other eucalyptus species. They found that lemon eucalyptus oil had high antioxidant activity but lower antibacterial and anticancer activity.
2014 studylooked at the effect of lemon eucalyptus essential oil on three species of fungi. It was observed that lemon eucalyptus essential oil inhibited spore production and growth of all three species.
- A 2012 study investigated the antioxidant activity of lemon eucalyptus essential oil using a variety of tests. It was found that lemon eucalyptus oil as well as some of its chemical components had antioxidant activity.
Limited research has been performed on lemon eucalyptus essential oil. However, some research suggests it has antioxidant and antifungal properties.
OLE products can sometimes cause an allergic skin reaction. Shortly after application, look out for symptoms like:
- red rash
Products that contain synthetic PMD may have a lower risk of a skin reaction. If you’re concerned about having a skin reaction, consider using a synthetic PMD product instead.
Additionally, OLE or PMD products shouldn’t be used on children under 3 years old.
Lemon eucalyptus essential oil risks
Like other essential oils, lemon eucalyptus essential oil has the potential to cause skin irritation when used topically. If this occurs, stop using it.
OLE and synthetic PMD are available in many commercial insect repellents. Examples of companies that sell products with OLE or synthetic PMD include Cutter, Off!, and Repel.
Most of the time, repellents come in a spray form. However, they may also sometimes be found as a lotion or cream.
The EPA has a helpful tool to help you search for an insect repellent that’s right for you. It gives details on specific products, their active ingredients, and their protection time.
Tips on using OLE products
- Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s specific instructions on the product label.
- Make sure to reapply as directed on the product label. Different products can have different protection times.
- Only apply the repellent to exposed skin. Don’t apply it under clothing.
- If you’re using a spray, spray a little bit into your hands and then apply it to your face.
- Avoid applying the repellent near the mouth, eyes, or skin that’s irritated or injured.
- If you’re also using sunscreen, apply the sunscreen first and the repellent second.
- Wash your hands after applying the repellent to help prevent accidental ingestion.
Lemon eucalyptus essential oil
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends against using lemon eucalyptus essential oil as a bug repellent. This is because it hasn’t been tested for safety and effectiveness as thoroughly as OLE and PMD.
If you do choose to use lemon eucalyptus essential oil to repel mosquitoes or other bugs, follow the guidelines below:
- Always dilute lemon eucalyptus essential oil in carrier oil before applying it to the skin. Consider using a 3 to 5 percent dilution.
- Test some diluted lemon eucalyptus essential oil on a small patch of skin before using it on larger areas.
- Keep away from your face.
- Diffuse the surroundings with the essential oil in a diffuser.
- Never ingest an essential oil.
OLE is different from lemon eucalyptus essential oil. OLE is an extract of the lemon eucalyptus tree that’s been enriched for PMD, its active ingredient. PMD itself can also be made in a lab.
OLE and synthetic PMD are effective insect repellents and can be found in commercial products. They can be used as an alternative to DEET or picaridin. Be sure to carefully follow the instructions on the label while using them.
Lemon eucalyptus essential oil isn’t recommended for use as a repellent, as its safety and effectiveness haven’t be properly tested. If you do choose to use it, make sure to use safe essential oil practices.