Citronella Oil - July/August Featured Essential Oil

Citronella oil is one of the essential oils obtained from the leaves and stems of different species of Cymbopogon (lemongrass). It is a volatile oil which is distilled using steam from the greenish blue, lemon-scented leaves and stem of the plant Cymbopogon nardus (Ceylon citronella) or Cymbopogon winteratus (Java type citronella) with the main constituents being citronellal and geraniol. Citronella oil is categorised into two types:
  1. Ceylon citronella oil - obtained from Cymbopogon nardus Rendle, (inferior type)
  2. Java citronella oil - obtained from Cymbopogon winterianus Jowitt, (superior type)
The Ceylon citronella oil was the more widely produced citronella oil, until the beginning of this century. However, the Java citronella oil slowly began to show dominance in the market because of its higher yield of oil.

Characteristics Of Citronella Oil

Citronella oil is a flammable colourless or light yellow liquid with a characteristic woody, grassy or lemony odour.

Citronella oil may be harmful if ingested in quantity and may irritate the skin and eyes. However, it is not believed to be hazardous to humans, including children and those with sensitive skin, if used according to label instructions. Citronella oil has been widely used since the 1950s without any adverse effects.

Citronella oil has minimal or no risk to wildlife and environment due to its toxic levels being low and its use being limited. Therefore, it can be used around the home with no expected adverse effects.

Uses of Citronella Essential Oil

  1. Aromatherapy: The oil is used extensively as a source of perfumery chemicals such as citronellal, citronellol and geraniol. These chemicals find extensive use in soap, candles and incense, perfumery, cosmetic and flavouring industries throughout the world.

    Citronella essential oil possesses activating and warming qualities both physically and mentally. The aroma is said to be like its relatives lemongrass and palmarosa. However, citronella oil is overlooked in aromatherapy because of its association with insect repellency. When citronella oil is diluted properly in a base oil and is applied to skin, it produces a mild sensation of warmth - which relieves painful muscles and joints. Mentally, the aroma of citronella oil may help with nervous fatigue due to its clarifying properties. It can also ease the pressure of migraines and headaches.

  2. Insect Repellent: Citronella oil is also a renowned plant-based insect repellent, and has been registered for this use in the United States since 1948. The United States Environmental Protection Agency considers oil of citronella as a biopesticide with a non-toxic mode of action.

    Citronella oil repels insects such as mosquitoes, black flies, fleas and ticks, therefore, preventing their bites. It is used on humans and their clothing - in the form of an oil, liquid and patch. Citronella oil is a natural, non-toxic alternative to chemical insect repellents such as DEET , therefore, is usually the preferred choice. Also available are solid products such as citronella oil insect repelling candles and cartridges. Citronella oil is also used in a tablet or pellet form in recreational or outdoor household areas and around trees and shrubs. In addition, there are animal collars and tags containing citronella oil for pets and other domestic animals to repel fleas.

  3. Citronella oil is effective in stopping dogs from barking and has even been used as a successful spray on deterrent against pets destroying household items.

  4. Astringent: Citronella oil is an astringent and if used correctly it may help with oily skin areas. Use a single drop of citronella oil on the skin (usually inner forearm) to test for irritation. Apply two or three drops of citronella oil to a cotton ball and gently wipe the excess oil off the skin. Then complete your regular facial routine.

Special Blends

Add these essential oils to 20ml (4 tsp) carrier oil.
  1. Blend 1: To lift the spirits and relieve anxiety
    4 drops Citronella
    2 drops Neroli
    4 drops Sandalwood
  2. Blend 2: To enable clear thinking
    4 drops Citronella
    2 drops Patchouli
    4 drops Bergamot Mint

Supporting the Spirit

Citronella has a very enlivening and harmonising aroma.

Easing the Mind

Healing the Body


  1. The Essential Oils Handbook, Jennie Harding, Watkins Publishing, London, 2008.