Citronella Benefits

Latin Name

Cymbopogon nardus

Also Known As

Barbed Wire Grass, Silky Heads, Citronella Grass, Cha de Dartigalongue


South and Central America, Asia, Australia

Parts Used

Whole part of plant

Traditional Use and Health Benefits

Not to be confused with Lemongrass, Citronella is a zesty herb from the same family that is most famous for its insect repelling abilities. It is most commonly used in essential oil form, although the leaves have also been used for their aromatic and medicinal properties.

Citronella has a rich history on in Asia where it has been used for over 2,000 years in religious ceremonies and to make perfume. In many cultures it has been traditionally used to reduce fevers, as an insect repellent, for digestive issues and to expel intestinal parasites.

Citronella Benefits

Insect Repellent

With a strong reputation for repelling biting insects, Citronella essential oil contains volatile oils that irritate mosquitoes in particular. Whilst there is much controversy about the effectiveness of Citronella and its protection from bites, there is certainly research to back it up. In 2011, an analysis of 11 studies on the capabilities of Citronella oil to repel mosquitoes was published in the “Journal of Tropical Medicine & International Health”. Researchers found that when combined with vanillin, the oil did indeed provide protection for up to three hours. Additionally, research was published in “The Israel Medical Association Journal” which showed how Citronella can be effective in helping to prevent head lice too.

If you are using this oil as an insect repellent, it is vital that it is diluted at around a 2% dilution to avoid skin irritation. If Citronella is being used alone to repel insects, research indicates that it needs to be reapplied every 30 minutes to 1 hour to remain bite free. Some researchers recommend mixing Citronella with other bug battling essential oils such as lemon eucalyptus, neem and lemongrass.

Due to its anti-fungal and antiseptic qualities, Citronella can be used to help to heal bites too.


Citronella oil is rich in the compound methyl isoeugenol which imparts powerful antibacterial and antiseptic qualities to this essential oil. In the correct dilution it can be used to disinfect and speed up wound healing and as long as the oil is “food grade”, it can be taken internally to provide relief from infections of the bladder, urinary tract, colon, gastro-intestinal tract and the kidneys.  It can also be used in this way to expel parasites and worms from the intestines due to its high content of geraniol – a phytochemical with strong anti-helminthic activity, able to expel internal parasites without causing any damage to the host.

With an invigorating, fresh lemony scent, Citronella is also an excellent addition to natural house cleaning products. It will disinfect kitchen surfaces, bathrooms, floors, and all whilst leaving a lovely chemical free aroma in the room – this makes it a perfect air freshener too, whilst keeping the home free of airborne pathogens.


Citronella has a naturally uplifting and happy smell, with research showing that it can be both uplifting and relaxing. It appears to work on both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system, providing natural stress relief.

The essential oil can also be used (well diluted), for dogs – not only to keep fleas and ticks at bay, it can help to reduce separation anxiety and constant barking.

Anti-inflammatory/Pain Relief

Whilst inflammation is a valid healing response by the body, persistent low level inflammation can lead to a whole host of problems and exacerbate existing ones such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Citronellal is the chief compound found in Citronella oil, with research studies showing it exhibits a strong anti-inflammatory effect. It also contains potent antioxidant compounds that aid in the removal of free radicals, one of the major causes of persistent inflammation.

It can be extremely soothing when diluted with a carrier oil and massaged into sore tired muscles, swollen joints and into the abdomen for menstrual cramps. Taken internally it can help to inhibit inflammation in the digestive tract, stomach and liver.

Skin Health

This versatile oil can work wonders for the skin. It can help to heal dermatitis and eczema, slow down skin aging and treat fungal infections such as athlete’s foot. As part of a beauty routine, its antibacterial and astringent qualities make Citronella essential oil great for use on oily skin and as a remedy for acne.

Hair Health

The high limonene and methyl isoeugenol content in Citronella oil makes it effective in regulating and decreasing the amount of sebum oil produced by the scalp, combating greasy hair. It also soothes and nourishes a dry or itchy scalp, eliminates dandruff and can prevent head lice.

Typical Use

Citronella Essential Oil

Can be used in the bath, or vaporized in an oil burner. It can be added to a massage oil, cream or water. Use 6-8 drops per bath and 10 -18 drops per 30ml of carrier oil.

Folklore and History

Herbal folklore records Citronella's uses as a fever reducer, insect repellent, anti-parasitic and as a soothing agent for pain, inflammation and skin healing.

It has a long history of use as an ingredient in perfumes, soaps and natural deoderizers. 

It has also been widely used in Southeast Asian countries as a flavouring for foods and beverages. 


Citronella contains; geraniol (18–20%), limonene (9–11%), methyl isoeugenol (7–11%), citronellol (6–8%), and citronellal (5–15%).


Not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Citronella Essential Oil must be well diluted with a carrier oil to avoid skin irriatation.