What is Citronella Oil?

Citronella oil is an essential oil commonly used as insect repellent. Due to its antifungal properties, citronella oil is also used to help heal insect bites. It is stated that as an aromatherapy oil, citronella can help treat and prevent colds, fever and headaches. This oil, as a massage oil, can help relieve pain in people suffering from arthritis.

What is Citronella Oil?

Citronella essential oil is extracted from the Cymbopogon family of plants. More precisely, Cymbopogon is extracted by steam distillation of nardus (Jowitt) and Cymbopogon winterianus (Rendal) herbs. This resulted in two types of citronella oils:

• Ceylon C nardus is obtained and is a native product of Sri Lanka (previously Ceylon). Ceylon citronella oil has a warm, citrus and wood scent and has a pale to dark yellow color.

• Java distilled from C. winterianus also has a fresh lemon-like scent, but darker in color. Of the two, java citronella is considered to be of higher quality.

Components of Citronella Oil

Both types of citronella oils contain more than 80 ingredients that make up about 90 percent of each oil. The main ingredients of citronella oil are citronellol, citronelal and geraniol. The two types of citronella oils differ in their geraniol and citronelal amounts.

Use of Citronella Oil

Citronella oil is commonly used as an insect repellent. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies it as a biopesticide with a non-toxic mode of action. Citronella oil can be found in dozens of proprietary pesticide products such as sprays, lotions, and candles. Sometimes added to sunscreen, wristbands and flea collars. Due to its antifungal properties, citronella oil is also used to help heal insect bites.

Citronella essential oil is one of the most common oils used in aroma therapy. It is said that citronella as an aromatherapy oil can help treat and prevent colds, fever and headaches. As a massage oil, it can be useful in relieving pain in people suffering from arthritis. Citronella oil is also widely used in fragrances and personal care products. It is heavily imported by Germany and France, two of the two largest centers of the perfume industry. Due to its antiseptic properties, citronella oil is also used in soaps, household cleaners and detergents.

Studies have found that using citronella oil can help calm barking dogs. Citronella oil is added in spirits, frozen dairy products, gelatin and puddings as well as food and beverage flavoring.

Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages

• Baked products

• Frozen dairy products

• Gelatin and puddings

• Soft and hard candies

Benefits of Citronella Oil

According to an article in the International Journal of Advanced Research, citronella oil is noted for its effectiveness in repelling mosquitoes. In this study, it preserved its insect repellent properties for about two hours and repelled the insects.

It can help repel the Aedes aegypti fly, a type of mosquito that spreads diseases such as dengue fever, chikungunya, and yellow fever. In addition to being used on humans, citronella oil is also used to help keep ticks away from livestock and pets. An analysis of 11 studies on the properties of this oil in the 2011 issue of Tropical Medicine & International Health found that the essential oil, when combined with vanillin, probably provided protection against mosquitoes for up to three hours.

The study also found a comparable duration of protection against DEET, a chemical commonly found in chemical insect repellents. Research shows that citronella oil has powerful antifungal properties that help inhibit the growth of fungal species such as Aspergillus, Penicillium and Eurotium. Citronella oil owes its antibacterial and antiseptic nature to compounds such as methyl isoeugenol.

These compounds can help prevent the growth of bacteria in the body and help treat wounds, as well as alleviate infections that can occur in the colon, urethra, bladder, gastrointestinal tract, prostate, and kidneys. Citronella essential oil is often used in aromatherapy because it can aid in and relief from anxiety. It can also help relieve menstrual cramps and muscle spasms. The oil can also help prevent inflammation in the liver, stomach, and digestive system.

How Does Citronella Oil Work?

While Citronella oil helps prevent mosquito bites, it doesn’t kill mosquitoes. This simply blocks the scent that attracts these insects, causing them to disorientate. Pure citronella essential oil should never be used directly on the skin, but mixed with a carrier oil such as olive or coconut oil as it can cause sensitivities. After dilution, citronella oil can also be inhaled. It is sufficient to drop a few drops on a cloth or handkerchief or using a diffuser.

You can use Citronella alone or mix it with other natural ingredients. This oil can be combined with other essential oils like lemongrass oil, peppermint and vanilla to make your own natural insect repellent. Since this formulation is all-natural, it is safe and risk-free for both adults and children.

Is Citronella Oil Safe?

Citronella oil is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The EPA considers citronella oil safe because it has little or no toxicity. If swallowed, their main compounds are eliminated through urination. This oil not only causes skin irritation or allergic reactions in sensitive individuals, it has also been found to increase heart rate in some people.

Pregnant women should be careful when using citronella oil as their skin is extra sensitive during these nine months. One study found that spontaneous contractions in the uterus disappeared upon in vitro use of citronella oil. While citronella can be used carefully as a fragrance during this time, it is important to consult a doctor first.

Also, citronella oil should not be used on babies and young children due to their sensitive skin. Parents should also be careful when applying the oil close to children’s noses. It is recommended to consult a pediatric doctor before using this oil in children.

How to Make Citronella Oil Infusion?

Citronella oil is widely available in natural food and cosmetic stores. However, commercial oils processed by steam distillation can be expensive. A more practical solution would be to make your own citronella oil infusion at home. Citronella oil infusion can be achieved by following these steps:


Half ounce castor leaves and stems (can use lemongrass as a substitute)

• 1 glass of olive oil

• Low-fire stove

• Cheesecloth


• Mix olive oil and castor leaves in a pot over low heat.

• The mixture should be cooked for about four to eight hours.

• Filter the cooked mixture with cheesecloth.

• Then the same process should be repeated with the mixture drained with fresh geranium leaves and stems. There is no need to add more olive oil. These steps can be repeated until the oil has the desired scent.

The oil obtained should be stored in a dark colored jar with the lid closed in a cool, dry place.


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