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Citronella: Uses, Benefits, Side effects & More!

By Dr Anuja Bodhare +2 more


Steam distillation of freshly obtained or partially dried grasses (Cymbopogon winterianus and Cymbopogon nardus) is done to produce oil of citronella. The essential oil obtained from citronella is a biopesticide that has a non-toxic mechanism of action. It has been registered by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as an insect repellant and an animal repellant.1 Currently, citronella is one of the most commonly used natural repellents in the market and is used in concentrations of 5-10%.2 The oil of citronella is yellow to brown and has a floral or grassy smell.3 

Citronella essential oil has become popular for its use in preventing and managing many diseases. Due to its various constituents like citronellol, geraniol, and citronellal, it has many medicinal properties like wound healing, antimicrobial, anticonvulsant, etc.4 

citronella ayurveda herbs

Nutritional Value of Citronella: 

The chemical composition of the essential oil of citronella differs according to geographical locations. The constant ingredients that have been isolated are alcohols, ketones, esters, aldehydes, and hydrocarbon terpenes.5  

In 100 grams, below are the nutrients found in citronella:  

Nutrients % Daily value 
Total fat- 0.5 grams 1% 
Saturated fat- 0.1 grams  0% 
Total carbohydrate-25 grams 9% 
Sodium- 6 mg 0% 
Protein- 1.8 grams 4% 
Iron- 8.2 mg 46% 
Calcium- 65 mg 5% 
Potassium- 723 mg 15% 
  Table 1: Nutritional value of citronella6    


Because citronella oil has a high concentration of limonene and methyl isoeugenol, it may work well to control and reduce the quantity of sebum oil generated by the scalp and help those with greasy hair. Additionally, in my experience, it may remove dandruff, moisturise a dry or irritated scalp, and keep away head lice.

Dr. Anuja Bodhare, MD

Therapeutic Uses of Citronella: 

Citronella is known to have many medicinal properties due to its major ingredients like citronellal, geraniol, and citronellol. Some medicinal properties of citronella include:  

  • Anthelminthic  
  • Antimicrobial  
  • Anticonvulsant  
  • Antioxidant  
  • Antitrypanosomal  
  • Wound healing activities 4 
  • Anti-diarrhoeal  
  • Anti-inflammatory 
  • Antimalarial activities 
  • Hypoglycaemic and hypolipidaemic  
  • Hypocholesterolemic 5 

Other properties of citronella oil are:  

  • Anti-amoebic  
  • Antifilarial  
  • Larvicidal  
  • Antimutagenic 5 

The skin may benefit greatly from citronella oil. Dermatitis and eczema may be tackled effectively, the ageing process of the skin may be slowed down, and fungal diseases like athlete’s foot may be managed. I strongly recommend citronella essential oil use as it is excellent for use on oily skin and as an acne treatment as part of a cosmetic routine because of its antibacterial and astringent properties.

Dr. Smita barode, BAMS

Benefits of Citronella: 

Benefits of Citronella as a Mosquito Repellent: 

  • Citronella is primarily a mosquito repellent.
  • Citronella oil is effective in repelling Aedes, Anopheles, and Culex mosquito species.
  • Different substances can be combined with citronella to improve its biological activity.
  • These include glycerol, gum Arabic, or gelatin.
  • Adding 5 % vanillin to citronella oil doubled the period of protection of citronella against Anopheles mosquitoes.
  • Applying citronella oil topically is more effective in repelling mosquitoes rather than applying it as a wrist band.7  

Benefits of Citronella as a Fungicidal Agent: 

  • Citronella has an inhibitory effect on a broad range of fungi.
  • Citronellal and linalool obtained from Cymbopogon nardus oil were equally effective against all fungal species.
  • However, citronella does not kill fungal organisms.7
  • Citronella oil is effective against various dermatophytes, including human dermatophytes.
  • Citronella is active against various fungi like food storage fungi, ringworm fungi, and keratinophilic fungi.5  

Benefits of Citronella for Brain, Respiratory & Cardiovascular Systems:  

  • According to studies, citronella reduced blood pressure, respiratory rate, and heart rate following inhalation.
  • Individuals who had taken citronella had reported better mood and were fresher.
  • The alpha and beta brain activities were also improved with citronella.8  

Benefits of Citronella as an Anti-amoebic, Anti-bacterial & Anti-filarial:  

  • Citronella has an anti-amoebic effect and is effective against Entamoeba histolytica.
  • Citronella also acts as an anti-bacterial and is active against various bacterial organisms like Bacillus subtilis, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Salmonella species.

Other Benefits of Citronella: 

  • Citronella is also effective against body and head lice. Citronella oil can be combined with neem and coconut oil for the prevention of head lice transmission.7 
  • Citronella is also used as a fumigant against adult houseflies and red flour beetles.7 
  • Citronella acts as an insecticide. Instead of killing pests, the oil of citronella repels pests. This oil attracts pests due to its scent. This makes it difficult for insects to find their target to feed on.3 
  • Citronella acts as a herbicide. Citronella and its active component citronellal can be toxic to plants and also inhibit the growth of weeds. It works by causing necrosis and subsequent death of plant tissues.7 

Although the body’s natural healing reaction includes inflammation, chronic low-level inflammation can cause a wide range of issues and worsen already existing ones like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. The main component of citronella oil is citronellal, which has been shown to have a potent anti-inflammatory effect. Additionally, it includes strong antioxidants that help remove free radicals, one of the primary causes of chronic inflammation. When diluted with a carrier oil and rubbed into painful and fatigued muscles, swollen joints, and the belly for menstrual cramps, it may be incredibly calming. In my experience, when taken internally, it may assist to reduce inflammation in the liver, stomach, and the gastrointestinal system.

Dr. Rajeev Singh, BAMS

How to Use Citronella? 

Citronella is available in different formulations like: 

  • Liquid  
  • Tablets or pellets 
  • Impregnated material like impregnated collars or tags1 

Citronella can be used along with other botanical pesticides and essential oils. The essential oils that can be used with citronella are cinnamon oil, eugenol, and clove oil. When used in insect repellant candles, waxes like paraffin and beeswax may be combined with citronella.7  

Your Ayurvedic physician will prescribe you the form and dose as per your needs. 

Also Read: Cardamom – Uses, Benefits & Side Effects

According to studies, citronella may be both energising and soothing. It has a naturally upbeat and joyful scent. In order to reduce stress naturally, it appears to affect both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. From my knowledge, in addition to managing fleas and ticks, the essential oil may be used (in diluted form) on dogs to aid with separation anxiety and excessive barking.

Dr. Siddharth Gupta, MD

Also Read: What Causes Roaches: An Insight into Infestation Sources and Prevention

Side Effects of Citronella: 

The side effects of citronella use are: 

  • Citronella oil can produce a mild irritation to the eyes and skin. It might also result in skin allergies in some individuals with frequent or prolonged exposure.  
  • People might cough or have throat irritation after ingesting citronella.3 

Although some individuals might experience skin irritation, risks to human health and the environment are reported to be minimal by the United States EPA. No harm to humans, the environment, or pets is observed when a registered pesticide containing citronella is used as per the label.7  

Also Read: Isabgol – Uses, Benefits, Precautions & Side Effects

Precautions to Take With Citronella: 

Keep the following points in mind: 

  • Children, in particular, might be sensitive to pesticides. Citronella can result in skin irritation or allergic reactions in some individuals when applied topically. Hence, some products containing citronella must not be used in children less than six months old unless prescribed by a physician. Do not allow children to use repellent containing citronella by themselves as children might put their hands inside their mouths after coming in contact with citronella.3  
  • Citronella oil, when used in small amounts topically, is not known to be harmful during pregnancy.9 However, it should be used under the supervision of a doctor.  

Also Read: Nirgundi – Uses, Benefits & Side Effects

Frequently Asked Questions: 

1) What is citronella? 

Citronella is a natural animal and insect repellent obtained from two grass varieties. It is approved by the Food and Drug Administration as a food additive and is categorised as generally recognised as safe (GRAS).3 

2) What are the products containing citronella? 

Citronella is a constituent of many registered pesticide products. Citronella oil can be used to produce sprays, candles, pouches, pellets, and lotions. It is also used in some wristbands, flea collars, and a few sunscreen products.3 

3) Where is citronella commonly found? 

Citronella is commonly found in Indonesia, China, and Sri Lanka.7 

4) What are the other names of citronella? 

The common names of citronella include lemongrass, Ceylon citronella, citronella grass, nardus grass, geranium grass, citronelle, citronelle de Sri Lamka, zacate limon, and citronelle de ceylan. The preferred common name of citronella is citronella grass.6 

5) Can citronella be used for sterilising? 

Oil of citronella can be used for sterilising food preparation surfaces.10 

6) What are the uses of citronella in Chinese medicine? 

Citronella oil is used in Chinese and traditional medicine for the management of digestive problems, fever, rheumatism, and intestinal problems. It is also utilised in aromatherapy to cure headaches, colds, and flu.10  

Also Read: Spanish Fly: Debunking Myths and Understanding Potential Effects


  1. US EPA-Pesticides. Fact sheet for oil of citronella. [Internet] Available from: https://www3.epa.gov/pesticides/chem_search/reg_actions/reregistration/fs_PC-021901_1-Feb-97.pdf 
  1. Marta Ferreira Maia and Sarah J Moore; Plant-based insect repellents: A review of their efficacy, development, and testing. Malaria journal. 10, S11 (2011). Available from: https://malariajournal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2875-10-S1-S11 
  1. National pesticide information center. Oil of citronella general fact sheet. [Internet] Available from: http://npic.orst.edu/factsheets/citronellagen.html 
  1. Ruchi Sharma, Rekha Rao, Sunil Kumar, Sheefali Mahant, and Sarita; Therapeutic potential of citronella essential oil: A review. Current drug discovery technologies. 2019 16(4): 330-339. Available from: http://www.eurekaselect.com/article/91780 
  1. Gagan Shah, Richa Shri, Vivek Panchal, Narender Sharma, Bharpur Singh, AS Mann; Scientific basis for the therapeutic use of cymbopogon citratus, stapf (Lemon grass). Journal of advanced pharmaceutical technology and research. 2011 2(2):3-8. Available from: https://www.japtr.org/article.asp?issn=2231-4040;year=2011;volume=2;issue=1;spage=3;epage=8;aulast=# 
  1. Nutrition value. Lemon grass (citronella), raw nutrition facts and analysis. [Internet] Available from: https://www.nutritionvalue.org/Lemon_grass_%28citronella%29%2C_raw_nutritional_value.html?size=100+g 
  1. New York State integrated pest management program. Citronella and citronella oil profile. [Internet] Available from: https://ecommons.cornell.edu/bitstream/handle/1813/56119/citronella-MRP-NYSIPM.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y 
  1. Winal Sayowan, Vorasith Siripornpanich, Teerut Piriyapunyaporn, Tapanee Hongratanaworakit, Nalphinich Kotchabhakdi, Nijsiri Ruangrungsi; The harmonizing effects of citronella oil on mood stated and brain activities. Journal of health research. 2012 Mar-Apr 26(2). Available from: https://he01.tci-thaijo.org/index.php/jhealthres/article/view/84661#:~:text=Citronella%20significantly%20decreased%20blood%20pressure,beta%20brain%20activities%20was%20increased
  1. Best use of medicines in pregnancy. Essential oils. [Internet] Available from: https://www.medicinesinpregnancy.org/Templates/Pages/BumpsPIL.aspx?id=98649&epslanguage=en&print=y#:~:text=Citronella%20oil%20is%20often%20applied,when%20used%20in%20this%20way.  
  1. 10. CABI Invasive species compendium. Cymbopogon nardus (citronella grass). [Internet] Available from: https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/120396  

Also Read: Manjistha – Uses, Benefits & Side Effects


The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

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