Medicinal and Aromatic Plants—Industrial Profiles

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Information on current practices in the cajuput oil industry in Vietnam is not readily available.
Discussion here focuses on production methods in Indonesia.
Oil Production from Natural Stands in Indonesia
Traditional land-owners on the Maluku Islands of Buru, Ceram and Ambon are the principal
producers in Indonesia of oil from natural stands of M. cajuputi.
Most of the oil is produced on Buru Island, a mountainous island of volcanic origin with
contrasting vegetation cover. Most ridges and slopes of the northern coastline and those
along the major Wai Apu River flowing to the east coast have sparse vegetation comprising
of open woodlands and low shrublands of M. cajuputi (altitude 30–400m). There are some
100,000ha of this vegetation type available for oil production on Buru. The reddish soils of
the slopes are frequently gravelly, shallow and slightly to moderately acidic although some
populations of M. cajuputi on Buru are found on alluvial soils of impeded drainage, which
is a more typical environment for this species in Australia and Papua New Guinea. All Buru
M. cajuputi populations visited during a joint Indonesian/Australian seed collection
expedition in 1995 showed evidence of harvesting for essential oil and the ravages of frequent
fires (Gunn et al. 1996).
Melaleuca cajuputi is also found in western Ceram where it is harvested for oil (
). The species occurs as an almost pure, continuous stand of some 150,000 ha along the
Hoamoal Peninsula. Scattered populations occur elsewhere and also on the three islands
between Ceram and Buru, namely Boana, Kelang and Manipa. The distribution of M. cajuputi
on Ceram is associated with lowland plains and low undulating mountain ridges between
30–150m above sea level and the soil type resembles that observed on Buru (Gunn et al.
There appear to be only a few scattered stands of M. cajuputi on Ambon Island which is
wetter and generally more fertile than the other islands. A typical stand occurs on an
undulating ridge (altitude about 60m) near Mt Salahutu on Hitu Peninsula and is relatively
small (ca. 5ha). It is comprised of straggly low trees to 4m, many of which had been coppiced
during leaf harvesting for oils when visited in 1995 (Gunn et al. 1996).
Leaf Harvesting and Distillation Methods
The harvesting of leaves is a family operation with groups of 2 to 6 people involved in the
sequential harvesting of family holdings of some 200ha of M. cajuputi. Coppice growth at
1–2m tall (6–12 months old) is cut with machette and leaves stripped to fill 20kg baskets
(Plate 20). A skilled cutter can harvest seven baskets per day. The dry season months of
May to August are the preferred time of harvest because of reputedly better yield at this
time but harvesting may take place throughout the year. After transport to the family still,
some producers spread the leaves in the sun for a few days to reduce leaf moisture content.
The still is usually a permanent fixture made from mostly local materials. The distillation
vessel (pot) is commonly made from planks butted together with cajuput bark used as a
sealant. The lid is made of wood whilst the condenser which comprises a dome and single
Copyright © 1999 OPA (Overseas Publishers Association) N.V. Published by license under the Harwood Academic Publishers imprint,
part of The Gordon and Breach Publishing Group.

pipe, sometimes with baffle, is made of mild brass and is purchased by the still owner. Still
capacity is usually about 160kg of dried leaves and cooking time extends for 8 hours. Yield
per cook from these stills approximates 3kg of oil. Unconfirmed estimates (Gunn 1995)
suggest there are about 100 family stills operating on Buru, 10–12 on Ceram and one or two
operating on each of the islands of Boano, Kelang, Manipa and Ambon.
Oil Production from Plantations in Indonesia
Early attempts to produce cajuput oil on Java and Sumatra, presumably using plants native
to that part of the species range, failed because of poor oil quality (Penfold and Morrison
1950). It was not until 1926, when plantations were established at Ponorogo in East Java
using seed from Buru Island, that the industry became established on Java (Darmono 1995).
Subsequent plantings in East, Central and West Java used seed from Ponorogo. The present
extent of M. cajuputi plantations on the island is estimated to be 9,000ha under the control
of Perum Perhutani (Forestry Dept) (Ministry of Forestry 1995). Perum Perhutani runs the
12 distilleries on Java. There are 4 major and 8 minor factories producing about 280tonnes
of cajuput oil per year from Government plantations.
Propagation, Planting and Husbandry
Propagation is usually by seed. There is an average of 2,700,000 viable seeds/kg. The
seed often germinates readily but the tiny seedlings are easily damaged by overhead
watering or rain, or may be killed if the sowing mix dries. Vietnam has adopted the ‘bog’
technique of watering to avoid these problems in propagating M. cajuputi. This involves
standing the germination tray permanently in water so that moisture soaks up to the surface
which is constantly moist but not flooded. Seed is sown evenly over the surface at the
recommended density. An inflated plastic bag is fitted over the container to maintain a
moist environment. Once the germinants are sturdy enough to withstand overhead watering
(ca. 4 weeks), the container is removed from the water and handled normally. The risk of
fungal disease is high, so good hygiene is essential. After germination the tiny seedlings
can be slow to develop at first, presumably while the roots establish. Once underway,
however, they grow quickly and their total nursery period is similar to other fast-growing
species like eucalypts. Plantations have also been established with small stump plants,
and M. cajuputi can be reproduced vegetatively from stem and branch cuttings (von Wulfing
et al. 1943).
Plantations are established on usually degraded lands using unimproved seedlings at an
initial stocking of 5,000 stems per ha. These trees are allowed to grow-on for four years and
may be intercropped during the first two years with cassava, corn and peanuts. They are
then cut off at 1.1m above ground level in the first harvest of essential oils. Thereafter the
plants are visited annually when coppice shoots greater that 1cm in diameter are selectively
harvested and leaves and twigs stripped into hessian bags for transport to the distillery. In
central Java some harvesting for oil production takes place throughout the year. However,
peak production is during the period of June to October which coincides with the best
months for oil recovery from the leaves.
Copyright © 1999 OPA (Overseas Publishers Association) N.V. Published by license under the Harwood Academic Publishers imprint,
part of The Gordon and Breach Publishing Group.

Yields and Distillation Methods
One hectare of plantation produces about 7.5 tonnes of cajuput leaves annually which in
turn produces about 60–65kg of oil. The industry is a great employer of labour. In one
operation alone in Central Java based on 3,200ha of plantation, 300 local people are engaged
in harvesting leaves and a further 70 people are employed at the distillery (Ministry of
Forestry 1995).
The cajuput distillation plant of the Gundih forest district, located at Krai in Central
Java, is an example of one of the four major plants operated by Perum Perhutani (Forestry
Dept). The distillery operates eight, 0.9tonne capacity pots fed by a steam boiler fuelled by
the spent leaves of earlier distillations. A four-hour distillation time is standard. Output for
1993 was 78 tonnes of oil from nearly 9 million tonnes of leaves and twig or a recovery rate
of 0.85% (Ministry of Forestry 1995). The composition of a representative sample of cajuput
oil from the Krai distillery is given in 
Table 3
Many of the plantations on Java are considered to be past their prime productivity, because
of lack of vigour and consequently low oil yields (Ansorudin 1995). Several factors may
be contributing to these low yields, including the genetic quality of the original planting
stock, physiological age and the depletion of nutrients through the repeated harvesting of
foliage. Perum Perhutani (Forestry Dept) is making plans to gradually replace the existing
plantation resource, commencing about 1998. With the interest in establishing new
plantations of M. cajuputi for oil production has come the interest in increasing the amount
and value of oil produced per hectare through selecting, breeding and using genetically
better trees. Presently, there are no programs in Indonesia to provide improved planting
The joint Australian (CSIRO)/Indonesian (Agency for Forest Research) M. cajuputi
seed collecting and oil screening expedition to the Maluku islands in December 1995,
supported by COSTAI (Collaboration on Science and Technology Australia/Indonesia),
has provided the genetic base for a comprehensive tree improvement program on M.
cajuputi in Indonesia. Further funding is now being sought to implement a breeding strategy
and plan to ensure that planting stock of improved oil yielding capacity is available for
the replanting program.
Much of the data on the cajuput oil industry in Indonesia was collected by two of my
colleagues, Brian Gunn and Maurice McDonald. They were involved in seed collecting
activities in the Maluku Islands in 1995 in collaboration with counterparts from the Forest
Tree Improvement Research and Development Institute, Yogyakarta. Anto Rimbawanto and
his father, S.Darmono, assisted with details of development of the cajuput oil industry on
Java. I wish to thank Alan Brown, Maurice McDonald, Joe Brophy and Geoff Davis for
helpful comments on this manuscript.
Copyright © 1999 OPA (Overseas Publishers Association) N.V. Published by license under the Harwood Academic Publishers imprint,
part of The Gordon and Breach Publishing Group.

Aboriginal Communities of the Northern Territory (1993) Traditional Aboriginal Medicines in the
Northern Territory of Australia. Conservation Commission of the Northern Territory of Australia,
Ansorudin, M. (1995) Perum Perhutani, K.P.H.Gundih, Indonesia. Personal communication.
Ansorudin, M. (1997) Perum Perhutani, K.P.H.Gundih, Indonesia. Personal communication.
Barlow, B.A. (1988) Patterns of differentiation in tropical species of Melaleuca L. (Myrtaceae). Proc.
Ecol. Soc. Aust., 15, 239–247.
Brophy, J.J. and Doran, J.C. (1997) Essential Oils of Tropical Asteromyrtus, Callistemon and Melaleuca
Species: in search of interesting oils with commercial potential. ACIAR Monograph No. 40, ACIAR,
Brophy, J.J. and Doran, J.C. (1998) University of NSW and CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products.
Unpublished results.
Caruhapattana, B. (1994) Royal Forest Department, Bangkok, Thailand. Personal communication.
Craven, L.A. (1989) Reinstatement and revision of Asteromyrtus (Myrtaceae). Australian Systematic
Botany, 1, 375–385.
Craven, L.A. and Barlow, B.A. (1997) New taxa and new combinations in Melaleuca (Myrtaceae).
Novon, 7, 113–119.
Darmono, S. (1995) Forestry consultant, Bogor, Indonesia. Personal communication.
Doran, J.C. and Gunn, B.V. (1994) Exploring the genetic resources of tropical melaleucas. FAO Forest
Genetic Resources Information, 22, 12–24.
Doran, J.C. and Turnbull, J.W. (1997) Australian Trees and Shrubs: Species for Land Rehabilitation
and Farm Planting in the Tropics. ACIAR. Monograph No. 24, ACIAR, Canberra.
Ekundayo, O., Laakso, I. and Hiltunen, R. (1987) Volatile components of Melaleuca leucadendron
(cajuput) oils. Acta Pharmaceutica Fennica, 96, 79–84.
Gunn, B. (1995) CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products. Personal communication.
Gunn, B., McDonald, M. and Lea, D. (1996) Seed and leaf collections of Melaleuca cajuputi Powell
in Indonesia and northern Australia, November-December 1995. Unpublished report of Australian
Tree Seed Centre, CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products, Canberra.
Gunn, B.V., McDonald, M.W., Lea, D., Leksono, B. and Nahusona, J. (1997) Ecology, seed and leaf
collections of Cajuput, (Melaleuca cajuputi), from Indonesia and Australia. IPGRI Plant Genetic
Resources Newsletter, No. 112, 36–43.
Joulain, D. and Racine, P. (1994) Use of derivatives of 6,6-dimethyl 2-acylcyclohex-4-ene-1,3-dione
as sunscreens and bactericide and fungicide compositions. Eur. Pat. Appl. EP 613,680 (Cl. A61K7/
42). (Chem Abs (1995) 121:263279x.).
Lassak, E.V. (1996) Phytochemical Services, Mudgee, Australia. Personal communication.
Lassak, E.V. and McCarthy, T. (1983) Australian Medicinal Plants. Methuen, Australia.
Lawless, J. (1995) The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils. Element Books Ltd, Shaftesbury.
Lowry, J.B. (1973) A new constituent of biogenetic, pharmacological and historical interest from
Melaleuca cajeputi oil. Nature, 241, 61–62.
Lum, S.K.Y. (1993) Dispersal of Australian Plants Across Wallace’s Line: a Case Study of Melaleuca
cajuputi (Myrtaceae). Unpublished Ph.D dissertation. University of California, Berkeley.
Ministry of Forestry (1995) A guide for field visits, FAO/Govt. of Indonesia Expert Consultation on
Non-wood Forest Products, Yogyakarta, 17–27 January 1995. Unpublished document. Ministry of
Forestry, Jakarta.
Motl, O., Hodacová, J. and Ubik, K. (1990) Composition of Vietnamese cajuput essential oil. Flavour
and Fragrance Journal, 5, 39–42.
Nguyen Duy Cuong, Truong Thi Xuyen, Motl, O., Stránský, K., Presslová, J., Jedlicková, Z. and Serý,
V. (1994) Antibacterial properties of Vietnamese cajuput oil. Journal Essential Oil Research, 6,
Penfold, A.R. and Morrison, F.R. (1950) Tea tree oils. In Guenther, E. (ed.) The Essential Oils, Van
Nostrand Co. Inc., New York, Vol. 4, pp. 526–548.
Sellar, W. (1992) The Directory of Essential Oils. C.W.Daniel Co. Ltd, Essex.
Copyright © 1999 OPA (Overseas Publishers Association) N.V. Published by license under the Harwood Academic Publishers imprint,
part of The Gordon and Breach Publishing Group.

Tisserand, R. and Balacs, T. (1995) Essential Oil Safety. Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh.
Todorova, M. and Ognyanov, I. (1988) Composition of Vietnamese essential oil from Melaleuca
leucadendron L., Perfumer and Flavorist, 13, 17–18.
Von Wulfing, W. et al. (1943) Note on research on the kayu putih (Melaleuca leucadendron) in Ponoroga,
Central Java. Unpublished Report in Indonesian Forestry Abstracts, Dutch Literature until about
1960. Abstract 3502. Wageningen: Centre for Agricultural Publishing and Documentation, 1982.
Walton, S. (1996) Preliminary screening of M. cajuputi leaf samples for oil quality (1,8-cineole
percentage). Unpublished Progress Report to COSTAL CSIRO Forestry and Forest Products,
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of the 11th International Congress of Oils, Fragrances and Flavours, New Delhi, India, 12–16 Nov.
1989. Vol. 1. 140. Oxford and IBH. New Delhi.
Copyright © 1999 OPA (Overseas Publishers Association) N.V. Published by license under the Harwood Academic Publishers imprint,
part of The Gordon and Breach Publishing Group.

Plate 20 Women harvesting leaves of Melaleuca cajuputi subsp. cajuputi on Ceram Island
for the production of cajuput oil (B.Gunn)
Plate 18 Melaleuca cajuputi subsp. cajuputi at
Fogg Dam near Darwin, Northern Territory,
Australia (D.Jones)
Plate 19 Melaleuca cajuputt subsp. cajuput at
Flying Fox Creek near Kapalga, Northern
Territory, Australia (D.Lea)
Copyright © 1999 OPA (Overseas Publishers Association) N.V. Published by license under the Harwood Academic Publishers imprint,
part of The Gordon and Breach Publishing Group.

Plate 23 Melaleuca quinquenervia, shrub form, Coolum, SE Queensland, Australia (M.Fagg)
Plate 21 Melaleuca quinquenervia, tree form,
SE Queensland, Australia (I.Holliday)
Plate 22 M. quinquenervia, niaouli, tree form,
New Caledonia (B.Trilles)
Copyright © 1999 OPA (Overseas Publishers Association) N.V. Published by license under the Harwood Academic Publishers imprint,
part of The Gordon and Breach Publishing Group.

Laboratoire de Biologie et Physiologie Végétates Appliquées, Université Française du
Pacifique, Nouvelle-Calédonie
Melaleuca quinquenervia (Cav.) S.T.Blake (
Plates 21

) is common in New Caledonia,
especially on the western coast where it dominates the many flat and hilly savannahs of this
region. It has been given several specific names, in particular M. leucadendron L., which is
now recognised as a complex of ten species and M. viridiflora Sol. Ex Gaertner, with which
it has often been mistaken (Dawson 1992; This volume, 
Chapter 1
Niaouli, which is the common name for M. quinquenervia in New Caledonia, generally
appears as a 8–10m tall shrub in its common environment of dry hills exposed to fires and
prevailing winds. However in the marshy plains it becomes a handsome tree reaching 20
and sometimes 30 metres with a well-developed trunk (
Plate 22
). On the other hand, at
higher altitude it appears as a tiny shrub less than one metre in height (Plate 23).
This gregarious species displays many different forms and grows mainly in sedimentary
or metamorphic soils. It does not thrive on very basic soils with endemic vegetation although
these are common in New Caledonia. However it sometimes grows in waterlogged soils
near rivers and other water courses.
Melaleuca quinquenervia’s main characteristics, besides its general appearance, are its
bark and its foliage. As with many myrtaceous species, its very young leaves are silver-grey
and satin in appearance. Soon they become leathery with parallel and lateral venation reaching
a size of 1–2 cm width and 8cm length, with colour turning to a dark green. Usually there
are 5 parallel veins (3–7). The bark is whitish and thick, scaly and made of several thin
layers which can be easily removed from the tree in large fragments. These were traditionally
used to cover a dwelling’s roof and walls and also to make torches. Although this bark can
easily burn, it efficiently protects the trunk wood from fires as it holds rain water that remains
deep in the inner layers. Therefore the niaouli tree is perfectly adapted to resist the destructive
action of fires occurring in the savannah whereas other plant species are destroyed. This is
why the niaouli tree can be considered as fire resistant.
Niaouli blooms are grouped in twos or threes in 9 or 10cm spikes and gathered in twos or
threes along the inflorescence axis (
Plate 5
). These are also grouped in twos or threes but
the axis that bears the blooms can keep growing when the flowering time is ended. Fruits
then, quite characteristically, gather either along or at the end of a ramification. The blooms
are either creamy-white, white or occasionally pink or red. The perianth is tiny but there are
Copyright © 1999 OPA (Overseas Publishers Association) N.V. Published by license under the Harwood Academic Publishers imprint,
part of The Gordon and Breach Publishing Group.

many stamens (30–40) which are grouped in 5–10 phalanxes and slightly joined together
at their lower part. The ovary contains up to 150 tiny seeds. M. quinquenervia blooms in
December and in June although scarce blossoms may appear all year long depending on the
climatic conditions. Their pollen is steadily gathered by bees and their nectar gives a clear
flavoured honey that is much appreciated in New Caledonia.
The niaouli tree has a dense high quality wood of a light rosy, sometimes reddish colour
similar to some rosaceous plants.
Melaleuca quinquenervia in New Caledonia, is mainly known for its essence that, for decades,
has been collected by distillation of its leaves. We shall discuss this subject in more detail
when describing the latest work carried out in our laboratory of the Université Française du
Pacifique. One must bear in mind that this tree also has a variety of other uses. We have
already mentioned the various uses for the bark that are so characteristic of this tree. This
bark has been of big help to the island people in old times. It has been plentifully used in
traditional dwellings where the walls were made of niaouli bark strips. Double walls were
internally padded for efficient heat insulation. When straw was lacking, rooves were covered
with large pieces of niaouli bark.
The wood of this tree has been used extensively for carpentry and joinery work. There
still exist buildings from last century where frames were made of niaouli wood resistant
to common wood-eating insects. This wood has a long-lasting property when it is worked
while it is still green and once the bark is removed. It becomes extremely hard after
drying and ageing. It is still used for gate poles and fencing cattle paddocks. In the last
century it was used for manufacturing carts, cartwheel hubs, anvil blocks, benches and
tool hammers.
However it is the tree’s foliage that has been used most extensively, by distillation and
infusion, for therapeutic inhalation and for making “niaouli tea” respectively. The latter use
has now ceased.
Essential oils are a diverse group of natural products that are important sources of aromatic
and flavouring chemicals in food, industrial and pharmaceutical products.
Essential oils are largely composed of terpenes and aromatic polypropanoid compounds
derived from the acetate—mevalonic acid and the shikimic acid pathways, respectively.
The essential oil composition of plants vary due to genetic and environmental factors that
influence genetic expression (Bernath 1986).
Identification of Components
The constituents in each hydrodistilled essential oil were first tentatively identified by peak
enrichment and their gas chromatographic (GC) retention indices on two fused silica capillary
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