The Real “Poor Man’s Melissa” – it’s not Black Pepper!

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There are many myths circulating when it comes to essential oils – one of them is that Black Pepper is the “poor man’s Melissa.” In other words, if you can’t afford the expensive Melissa essential oil, you can purchase and use the less-expensive Black Pepper essential oil and get the same effects, since it has a “high aldehyde content” like Melissa.

However, looking at GC/MS reports will show you that Black Pepper doesn’t even have aldehydes!

In fact, they are not even remotely close to being able to be used interchangeably.

It’s true Melissa is high in aldehydes, so looking for an alternative, we want to look for another essential oil also high in aldehydes.

I am going to use the GC/MS from Aromatics International as a guide, as they have one available online (not all companies do this, but the best ones will have this available).

Check out Melissa’s GC/MS report here. I am looking at the first GC/MS link, MLS-101. Now compare that to Lemongrass GC/MS’s listed here. Keeping in mind the numbers from one GC/MS to the next will fluctuate slightly, they will be close to what I am about to type:

Melissa is around 80% aldehydes, 5% monoterpenols, 5% sesquiterpenes, 1.5% monoterpenes, and the rest esters and oxides (very little).

Similarly to Melissa, Lemongrass is 76% aldehydes, then 14% monoterpenes, 5% monoterpenols, and the wee rest sesquiterpenes and esters.

The kind of aldehydes are also important to note. Melissa and Lemongrass share in common two specific aldehydes: geranial and neral. These two have the following therapeutic properties: airborne antimicrobial, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, anticonvulsant, anti-fungal (candida), antispasmodic, antitumoral, antiviral, and sedative.

Btw, if you click here and look under “GC/MS Report Archives” you will see that Black Pepper has zero aldehydes and is instead made up almost 50/50 of monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes.

So tell me – if you are looking for a less-expensive alternative to Meslissa, which would you pick: Black Pepper? Or Lemongrass? ;)


Lea Harris is a Certified Aromatherapist with Advanced Graduate training from Aromahead Institute in July 2013, but she is not a doctor. Please consult a trained aromatherapist or your doctor before using any of the suggestions on this website, as the user's age and health conditions must be taken into account before using. The information contained in this website is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice.


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