Citronella Essential Oil

Citronella oil is well-known for its insect repelling properties. However, there is much more to this aromatic oil than just its ability to get rid of mosquitoes.

Citronella provides a long list of health benefits that include pain relief, stress reduction, improved digestion and skin, and hair health. Citronella is also an excellent cleaning aid and a natural deodorizer.

Read on to learn more about citronella oil and its numerous benefits and uses.

What is citronella oil?

Citronella oil is extracted through steam distillation of certain species of the grasses of the Cymbopogon group of plants.

Ceylon or Lenabatu citronella oil, which is obtained from Cymbopogon nardus, is a natural product of Sri Lanka. This citronella oil is pale to dark yellow and has a warm, woody and citrusy scent.

The main active ingredients in Ceylon citronella are citronellal (27.87%), geraniol (22.77%), geranial (14.54%), citronellol (11.85%), and neral (11.21%).

Java or Maha Pengiri citronella oil, which is obtained from Cymbopogon winterianus, is darker in color and has a fresh lemon-like scent.  Its main active ingredients include geraniol(40.60%), citronellal(27.44%) and citronellol(10.45%).

Java citronella is considered superior to Ceylon citronella.

History of citronella oil

The name citronella comes from the French word which means ‘lemon balm.’ Citronella oil has been used as a medicinal remedy and food ingredients in China, Sri Lanka and Indonesia for centuries.

It has been traditionally used to flavor foods. This aromatic oil was also used to alleviate pain, treat infections and rashes, and lower inflammation. It has also been used for repelling insects and as a cleaning agent.

Benefits of citronella oil

1. Repels insects

Citronella essential oil works as an effective insect repellent. It helps get rid of mosquitoes that are known to cause dengue fever, yellow fever, malaria, and zika. Citronella oil also helps get rid of insects that contaminate food and lead to foodborne illnesses.

According to a 2013 study from National Taiwan University, citronella oil is highly effective against Aedes aegypti which is known to cause dengue fever and yellow fever (1).

Another study from Israel showed that citronella oil is also useful in treating head lice and lowering the incidence of reinfestations (2).

Dilute some drops of citronella oil in coconut oil and spread it all over your body like a lotion to prevent bugs.

2. Relieves stress and depression

When used in aromatherapy, citronella oil induces a feeling of freshness, hope, and happiness and fights off depression. According to the International Journal of Aromatherapy, citronella activates both parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous activity (3).

It also helps to get rid of negative thoughts and depression and helps people who have insomnia.

Diffuse a three or four drops of citronella oil in your room to enjoy a sense of calm and peace.

3. Expels worms and parasites

Citronella oil is a natural dewormer as it helps to eradicate worms from the stomach and intestines. According to a 2010 study from India, citronella oil possesses anti-helminthic activity.

Citronella oil is a safe and effective solution of expelling parasitic worms and other parasites by stunning and killing them, without causing any damage to the host (4).

4. Helps relieve pain

Citronella essential oil has potent antioxidant properties that help reduce inflammation and relieve pain. Citronella essential oil contains geraniol, which according to a study, possesses radical scavenging activities (5).

The antioxidant compounds of citronella oil can relieve pain and soreness. Citronella oil also improves blood flow which helps in pain relief.

Mix some drops of citronella oil with coconut oil or sweet almond oil and massage it on painful joints and muscles.

5. Stimulates urination

Citronella oil also has diuretic properties, which means that it increases the frequency and quantity of urination. This property of citronella helps to remove excess water, fat, uric acid and toxins from the body.

Diuretics also help prevent kidney stones as they help flush out excess calcium from the kidneys. According to studies, citronella oil removes toxins and wastes from the body which helps reduce weight, prevent UTI, improves digestion and reduce the chances of renal calculi 

6. Inhibits fungal and bacterial growth

Citronella oil has potent antifungal and antibacterial properties which help inhibit infections in the body. Fungal infections can occur in any part of the body including ear, nose, and throat.

It helps treat fungal dysentery. According to a 2016 study from Brazil, citronella oil can treat infections caused by candida (6).

A study from India showed that citronella oil is effective against 15 bacterial strains. Thus it is effective against common skin ailments like athlete’s foot and acne (7). Thanks to its antibacterial properties, citronella oil is also used to treat cuts and wounds.

To use citronella oil for bacterial skin infections, dilute it with coconut oil and apply to the affected area.

7. Boosts digestive health

Citronella oil soothes inflammation in the digestive system, which helps deal with numerous stomach ailments. This oil also prevents various infections in the stomach and helps in the smooth functioning of the digestive system (8).

8. Reduces fever

Citronella essential oil has several properties which help reduce fever. Its anti-inflammatory properties help to reduce fever. Its diaphoretic properties help remove toxins from the body and reduce the temperature.

The antibacterial properties help remove the bacteria that make you sick. The combination of all these properties helps prevent infections and reduce fever.

9. Natural deodorant

Citronella oil can also be used as a gentle and antibacterial spray that can cover or eliminate body odors caused by bacteria. Citronella oil does not contain harmful chemicals like parabens, aluminum, and propylene glycol that are found in regular deodorants. 

Parabens are known to contribute to breast cancer. Mix equal amounts of citronella oil and lemon oil and dilute it with coconut oil to use it as a deodorant.

10.  Natural shampoo and conditioner

Regular shampoos and conditioners contain harmful chemicals. Citronella essential oil, on the other hand, cleanses and conditions the hair and scalp without any adverse effects.

It adds shine to the hair and eliminates excess oil and greasiness. Its antifungal properties help eliminate dandruff and treat scalp infections. Citronella oil protects the hair against damage from the sun, and it helps detangle hair and add volume.

Add some citronella oil to almond oil or coconut oil and apply it on your hair. Leave it on overnight and rinse it in the morning.

11. Natural room deodorizer and cleaner

The strong antifungal and antibacterial properties of citronella oil make it an excellent natural household cleaner. You can use it to clean the bathroom and kitchen surfaces without using harsh chemicals. It also helps prevent the growth of foodborne pathogens and bacteria.

The refreshing lemony scent of citronella oil makes it an effective room deodorizer. You can also add a few drops of this oil to your laundry machine or dishwasher to deodorize those appliances.

12. Helps calm pets

Citronella oil has proven to help calm down dogs. Many anti-barking collars contain citronella. Spraying citronella oil on furniture also helps keep the dogs away from them. Citronella is also considered to be a cat repellent.

Ways to use citronella essential oil

You can use citronella aromatically and topically, but this oil should not be used internally.

Topically

Always dilute citronella oil with a carrier oil like coconut oil, jojoba oil or almond oil before you use it on your skin or hair. You can rub this mixture on your hair to give it strength and to treat dandruff.

You can massage it on your joint for pain relief. Apply it on your skin to treat acne and to prevent mosquito bites.

Aromatically

Add a few drops of this oil in a spray bottle and spray it in your room to deodorize the room and to keep insects at bay. You can also diffuse this oil to relieve stress and depression.

Side effects and precautions of citronella oil

Citronella oil is not recommended for internal use though it can be used topically. Citronella oil has been used extensively since 1948 without any reports of adverse effects. In animal-based studies, citronella oil shows little or no toxicity.

Pregnant women and children under six months of age should not use citronella oil. Begin using citronella oil in small amounts and always do a patch test before use. Dilute this essential oil with a carrier oil before you use it.

People taking medication, undergoing surgery or those who are a higher risk of strokes, heart attacks or atherosclerosis, should consult with their doctor before taking citronella oil.

Though citronella oil is one of the more affordable essential oils, you must opt for 100 percent pure, and organic oils.

Final thoughts

Citronella oil is extracted through steam distillation of certain species of the grasses of the Cymbopogon group of plants. The main active ingredients in citronella are citronellal, Geraniol, and citronellol. It has strong antibacterial, antifungal, and diuretic properties.

Citronella oil is an effective natural mosquito repellent, deodorizer, and cleaner. It prevents depression, expels parasites, treats skin infections and eliminates toxins.

Always use pure and organic citronella oil to gain its maximum benefits.