Common Name: Citronella
Scientific Name: Cymbopogon nardus
Family: Poaceae (Gramineae)
Origin: Southern Europe and the Mediterranean region
Synonyms: Andropogon nardus, Sri Lanka citronella, Lenabatu citronella
Essential Oil Properties and Characteristics
Citronella essential oil is a pale yellow with a light, fresh lemon scent with geranium-like notes. Very soft and round. Citronella oil has a slightly sweet lemony smell.
Origin and History
Citronella oil is extracted from a hardy grass, native to Sri Lanka and Java and this aromatic perennial grows about 1 meter (3 feet) high. A tall, aromatic perennial grass, which has derived from the wild-growing ‘managrass’ found in Sri Lanka. Native to Sri Lanka, now extensively cultivated on the southernmost tip of the country.
When Citronella was first exhibited in London in 1851 it was introduced as “nard” oil, which is why it has been confused with Spikenard oil ever after. It has its place in cleaning products and insect repellents and the Java Citronella is inexpensive oil frequently fractionated into perfume components (Citronellal, Geraniol).
A popular ingredient in wax candles as an insect repellent, it is also widely used in perfumes, soaps, skin lotions and deodorants.
Both the Java Citronella and the organic Citronella are working well in blends designed to keep insects at bay, for example combining it with Cedarwood, Lavender, Patchouli or Eucalyptus. You can diffuse the blend in the great outdoors or add some to a candle (Extinguish the flame, add 2-3 drops to the wax pool, ignite again).
You can also add a few drops to the mopping water when mobbing your home.
Antiseptic, Inset Repellent. Soothing, Deodorising.
Citronella oil's most useful quality is that of insect repellent. It is best used in a spray, a diffuser or on a cotton ball amongst the linen.
Female mosquitoes bite people and animals because they need the protein found in blood to help develop their eggs. Mosquitoes are attracted to people by skin odours and carbon dioxide from breath. Many repellents contain DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide), that repels the mosquito, making the person unattractive for feeding.
Citronella and lavender oils have shown some repellent activity. Registered products in Canada containing citronella protect people against mosquito bites from 30 minutes to two hours. The registered lavender product (Flyscreen™) repels mosquitoes for approximately 30 minutes. Citronella-based products appear to be potential skin sensitizers, therefore the risk of allergic reactions may occur in some individuals. These products cannot be used on infants and toddlers under two years of age. Read the product label carefully before using. Some products containing citronella may have a limit on the number of applications allowed per day.
It is also useful in ridding cats and dogs of fleas.
Citronella oil plays a roll in clearing the mind and has a toning effect on the body.
It can be helpful with colds, flu and minor infections and also has deodorizing qualities.
Burners and vaporizers
In a diffuser Citronella oil can be used as an insect repellent, for cold and flu, for clearing the mind and in the sickroom.
Citronella oil's greatest benefit lays in its use as an insecticide, its antiseptic properties in the sickroom and its clearing influence on the mind. It also is used for intestinal parasites and fever.
Method of Extraction
Citronella oil is extracted (from the plant leaves) by steam distillation of fresh, dried or part-dried grass, finely chopped. Essential oil by steam distillation of the fresh part-dried or dried grass. (The Java citronella yields twice as much oil as the Sri Lanka type.
Precautions During Use (Contraindications)
Citronella oil is non-toxic and non-irritant but may cause dermatitis in some individuals. MSDS for citronella essential oil available for download here.
The therapeutic properties of Citronella oil include: antiseptic, deodorant, insecticide, parasitic, tonic and stimulant.
Citronella oil blends well with cedarwood, orange, geranium, lemon and bergamot.