Deborah Stauss N.D. - Naturopathic Doctor & Master Herbalist

Benefits of using Citronella essential oil

Citronella oil has been used for centuries in China, Indonesia and Sri Lanka to help decrease rashes, inflammation, infections, pain and other health conditions. 

Citronella oil comes from the Asian grass plant known as Cymbopogon nardus. It’s most commonly used as a natural fragrant oil, in insect repellents, as well as in beauty, household and perfume products.

Because it fights infections, bacteria and fungi, historically it’s also been used to sanitize surfaces and treat bites or parasites.

Benefits of Citronella Oil 

According to various studies investigating the effects of these compounds, citronella oil has been shown to have the following benefits:

  • Naturally repels insects
  • Fights free radical damage
  • Fights bacteria and fungi
  • Reduces inflammation
  • Promotes relaxation
  • Fights respiratory infections
  • Supports digestive/intestinal health
  • Relieves muscle pain
  • Helps control pets’ behavior

Citronella essential oil is one of the most common aromatherapy oils and is part of what gives many household sprays and candles their signature scent. Additionally it can be used as a food additive for flavor and preservation, so you can sometimes find it in drinks, dairy products and desserts.

8 Citronella Oil Uses

1. All-Natural Insect Repellent

Citronella has been registered as a gentle, plant-based insect repellent in the United States since 1948. It has even been shown to repel dangerous Aedes aegyptimosquitoes, which are capable of spreading “dengue fever.” It’s also effective for helping to prevent body lice, head lice and flies.

According to some research, you need to reapply citronella oil about every 30–60 minutes for its bug-repelling effects to last. You can combine several drops with coconut oil and spread it on your body like lotion, or add some to a spray bottle with water and cover your skin, hair and clothes. Applying pure citronella oil directly to the body is considered more effective for fighting bugs than citronella candles are.

2. Anti-Inflammatory and Pain Reducer

Due to its antioxidant properties and ability to increase blood flow, citronella is used as a natural arthritis treatment. Combine several (two to three) drops with a carrier oil like coconut oil and massage it into swollen joints, tissue and muscles, or soak in a warm bath of citronella oil to reduce swelling and pain.

3. Digestive Aid

Citronella helps support the digestive organs by reducing inflammation and helping with detoxification and cleansing of the liver, stomach and gut. Certain compounds prevent the growth of bacteria in the digestive tract and can speed up healing of illnesses and wounds. It’s also capable of killing organisms (parasites or worms) within the small and large intestines.

4. Detoxification Enhancer

As a type of natural diaphoretic and diuretic agent, citronella can increase sweating and urination that draws toxins out of the body. Drinking a combination of one to two pure citronella essential oil drops, raw honey and lemon with hot water can improve elimination of excess fats, sodium, uric acid and toxins.


5. Muscle Relaxant

When it comes to dealing with cramps, swelling and pain, citronella can help improve blood flow that lowers muscle spasms and tenderness. Try massaging citronella oil mixed with a carrier into sore muscles or onto the abdomen when dealing with PMS cramps.

6. Kitchen Cleaner

Proven to have strong antifungal and antibacterial properties, citronella can help clean kitchen, bathroom or household surfaces without the need for harsh chemicals. Because of its compounds, including methyl isoeugenol, it’s effective for reducing food-born pathogens and even dangerous bacteria.

7. Natural Skin Care Remedy

Aside from keeping away bug bites, research shows citronella can also help heal dermatitis, naturally treat eczema, slow skin aging, heal bug bite scars and treat some fungal infections on the skin. It enhances penetration of skin and speeds up wound healing, which might be beneficial for remedying acne, getting rid of warts, treating boils and healing age spots.

It can also help skin appear youthful and smoother and even block damage done from sun exposure. Add a very small amount to coconut oil and massage it into the face, or try adding one to two drops to your shower or facial wash. 

8. Pet Controller

Although it might sound strange, citronella oil is effective in calming barking dogs and can even be used on furniture to help keep your pets off. As a bonus, when you spray citronella on your furniture or linens, it keeps them free from bacteria, pests and odors. Add several drops to a spray bottle along with water, shake it up, and spray it throughout your home and on household items.

Citronella Oil Research and Studies

The active ingredients in citronella oil proven to have skin-saving, stress-fighting, bacteria-fighting properties include: citronellol, geraniol, linalol (linalool), citronellyl formate, citral, myrtenol, terpineol and methone. A long list of studies have shown positive effects of either some of these individual components or several used in combination together.

Like many citrus essential oils, citronella contains compounds that fight free radical damage and help reverse oxidative stress. A 2000 review published in the Journal of Agricultural Food Chemistry studied 34 different citrus essential oils and their components for radical-scavenging activities. They found that many citrus volatile components, including the main type found in citronella called geraniol, had high antioxidant capabilities for lowering inflammation and cellular damage.

Research shows that citronella’s geraniol also has strong antihelminthic activity, which means it effectively expels parasitic worms, bugs and leeches from the body by either stunning or killing them without causing any damage to the host. This is precisely the reason that citronella is used to prevent both internal and external infections and illnesses.

When inhaled, citronella gives the pleasure of relaxation, invigoration and pleasant memories. It can serve as a natural and safe temporary remedy for anxiety, stress, trouble sleeping and depression.

Combine citronella oil with other uplifting essential oils, including: geranium oil, orange oil, lemon essential oil, vanilla oil, peppermint oil, lemongrass oil and eucalyptus oil.


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