You’ve probably at least heard about citronella essential oil, after all, it’s one of the most common oils used in both homemade and commercial insect repellents, as it naturally repels mosquitoes and many other bugs. Even the EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency), considers it to be a “biopesticide” that offers a nontoxic way of fighting off insects.
Of course, it’s not all that surprising that it offers many other benefits too, thanks to its antifungal, antimicrobial and antiseptic properties. But what is it exactly?
Citronella essential oil is a concentrated form of phytochemicals and antioxidants that is extracted from the leaves and stems of two varieties of the Asian grass plant citronella, Cymbopogon nardus and Cymbopogon Winterianus. In both cases, the oil is extracted by steam distillation of the fresh plant. It’s been used for hundreds, if not thousands, of years in places like Sri Lanka, Indonesia, and China to help lower inflammation – the root of nearly all diseases and illnesses – decrease rashes and fight infections, relieve pain and battle a number of other health conditions. It has a rich, citrusy aroma, hence its name.
So, why should your home, and every other home, have at least one bottle of citronella essential oil?
8 Clever Uses For Citronella Essential Oil
1. Repel insects
Unless you’re living in a bubble, you probably have to deal with insects at least occasionally, which is arguably the number one reason people keep a bottle of citronella essential oil in the house. Since 1948, it’s been registered as a gentle but effective plant-based insect repellent in the U.S. It’s even been found to repel the potentially very hazardous mosquito species known as Aedes aegypti, which is capable of spreading dengue fever.
If you’re wondering why you shouldn’t just pick up a bottle of insect spray that contains DEET, which is designed to repel rather than kill insects and is used by about one-third of the U.S. population each year, it’s not without some rather high risks. It may be approved by the EPA, but it has the potential to cause eye irritation, a rash, soreness or even blistering of the skin. It’s also been linked to neurological issues. In fact, the EPA has recorded at least 18 cases of children suffering adverse neurological effects – and two adults have died. All were associated with DEET.
DEET has also been shown to adversely affect wildlife, our water sources and the environment as a whole. It’s toxic to both aquatic life and birds and has been found in approximately 75 percent of waters sources in the U.S., including the Mississippi River.
While you could simply apply a few drops of citronella essential oil mixed with a spoonful of a carrier oil like coconut oil like a lotion on all exposed areas of your skin, using it as part of a natural bug spray recipe may be the most effective way to fight bugs. And, thankfully, it’s easy to make your own right at home, without DEET or harmful chemicals using the recipe below:
- 2 ounces purified water (or boiled water)
- 1.5 ounces witch hazel
- 20 drops citronella essential oil
- 15 drops peppermint essential oil
- 10 drops tea tree essential oil (all essential oils can be purchased from here on Plant Therapy)
- 4 ounce or larger glass spray bottle
Add the 2 ounces of purified or boiled water to your spray bottle. Then pour in the witch hazel and various essential oils. Shake well. Use it to spray on any exposed areas of the skin as well as your hair and clothing, but be careful to avoid your eyes.
2. Reducing inflammation and relieving the pain of arthritis
Citronella oil offers powerful anti-inflammatory properties along with calming and soothing effects for internal inflammation. Coupled with its potent antioxidant compounds and ability to improve blood flow, it’s often used for naturally treating osteoarthritis as well as rheumatoid arthritis, and can relieve pain and soreness almost immediately. To use it, combine a few drops with a carrier oil such as sweet almond oil, olive oil or coconut oil, and massage it into swollen, painful joints and muscles.
3. A natural deodorant
You can make a pleasant smelling natural deodorant with citronella essential oil that doesn’t contain the potentially harmful chemicals found in mainstream deodorants, such as parabens, aluminum, and propylene glycol. Parabens, which are generally used as a preservative, can mimic the hormone estrogen which could contribute to breast cancer. A study published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology in 2004 found that long-term, low doses of parabens (which is what humans are typically exposed to) can accumulate intact in the body. They tested 20 women with breast tumors and found a significant amount of live intact parabens in the tumors of all of them. The aluminum in deodorants has been linked with health problems too, including the neurological damage associated with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as conditions like anemia, Lou Gehrig’s disease, glucose intolerance, memory problems and Parkinson’s disease. Propylene glycol is common in both antiperspirants and antifreeze. It quickly enters the bloodstream through the skin – so fast, in fact, that the EPA has warned factory workers to avoid all contact with skin to prevent kidney, liver and brain abnormalities.
Fortunately, the wonderful lemon citrus scent of citronella can disguise body odor, while its antibacterial properties help to kill the buildup of potentially bad smelling underarm bacteria.
To make a DIY lemon deodorant, use the following recipe:
- 2 tbsp baking soda
- 2 tbsp arrowroot powder
- 4 tbsp coconut oil
- 4 drops lemon essential oil
- 4 drops citronella essential oil
- An empty deodorant container
Add the baking soda and arrowroot to a small bowl and mix well. Then, add in the lemon and citronella oil and coconut oil, and mix well again. Transfer the mixture to your empty deodorant container and place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. After that period, it will be ready for use. Keep in mind that as the coconut oil warms upon contact with body heat, use light strokes to avoid a mess – and, be sure to store it in a cool place when not in use.
4. Fight acne and other skin conditions
Because citronella essential oil contains antibacterial properties, it’s extremely effective when it comes to fighting bacteria that can cause acne. It can also help heal eczema and dermatitis, slow skin aging and treat some types of fungal infections on the skin, as well as speed wound healing, get rid of warts, fade age spots and treat boils.
Citronella is very good at reducing sebum buildup and calming down oily skin. To use it to fight acne, mix in five drops of citronella essential oil and a teaspoon of witch hazel in a half cup of water. Use it as a solution to cleanse your face. In addition to battling acne, it may help your skin look younger and smoother.
5. Natural shampoo and conditioner
Many personal care products and beauty products you find on store shelves contain a host of potentially harmful ingredients. In fact, there have been more than 12 toxic ingredients found in shampoos and conditioners linked to causing cancer as well as other disease and illness, such as triclosan, sodium lauryl sulfate, retinyl palmitate, and polyethylene glycol.
Instead, make use of that citronella essential oil bottle you now have (or should have soon) in your house, as one of its most popular uses is for cleansing and conditioning the hair and scalp. It helps to eliminate excess oil while adding shine and fighting off dandruff too as it contains antifungal properties which aid in controlling flakes and other scalp infections. It can help protect the hair against damage by the sun, detangle tough knots and even add volume. The easiest way to use citronella as a hair cleanser is to mix a few drops with almond oil or coconut oil in its liquid form and then massage the oil into your scalp – you can leave it on and use it as an overnight treatment, or rinse it immediately.
To condition your hair, warm up about a nickel-size portion in your palms and then gently rub it through the ends of your hair – no need to rinse.
6. Calm an out-of-control pet
While the exact reason behind it is unknown, citronella oil can be a great thing to have around if you have a barking dog, or a pet that keeps getting up on your furniture. It’s said to be great at keeping them calm, and the scent seems to deter them from using items it’s been sprayed on. Plus when you spray it onto places like sheets or furniture, it also helps to keep them free from odor, pests, and bacteria.
All you have to do is add a few drops to some water in a spray bottle, shake well and then spray it throughout your home, and especially on items they’re attracted to. Research published in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association, stated that a dab of citronella from an anti-barking collar was much more effective and obviously more humane when it comes to preventing nuisance dog barking than the typical electric shock collar. While citronella dog collars are available, you can manage your dog’s barking behavior by making your own homemade citronella barking spray.
Simply combine a half-cup of purified water with a half-cup of witch hazel with 15 drops citronella essential oil in a spray bottle. Whenever your dog starts to bark, spray a light mist in its direction to stop the barking. Don’t, however, spray a stream of the solution directly at your dog, or spray if your animal is barking from stress, anxiety or fear. Generally, it’s best to ignore bad behavior, while rewarding and praising positive behavior.
7. Natural room deodorizer
As citronella has a refreshing, clean citrus scent, similar to lemons, it is often used in products like perfumes, candles, soaps and cosmetics. You can add a few drops to the cycle of your laundry machine or dishwasher to deodorize those appliances, and use it to make your own non-chemical room deodorizer that brings to mind the smells of a spring or summer day.
To make a DIY deodorizer, you’ll need:
- 2 tbsp white distilled vinegar
- 30 drops citronella essential oil
- Purified water
- Spray bottle
Add all ingredients to your spray bottle and mix well. Be sure to shake again each time before using, and store it in a cool, dry place.
8. Natural household cleaner
Thanks to its powerful antibacterial and antifungal properties, citronella makes a great natural household cleaner too. Use it to clean your bathroom, kitchen or other surfaces without having to resort to harsh chemicals. It’s even effective for getting rid of foodborne pathogens and harmful bacteria.
To make an all-purpose citronella cleaning spray, you’ll need:
- 16 oz. spray bottle
- 1 1/2 cups (12 ounces) + extra purified water
- 1 tbsp unscented liquid castile soap
- 10 drops pure tea tree oil
- 5-10 drops citronella essential oil
Fill your spray bottle with the purified water. It should be about three-quarters of the way full. Add the liquid castile soap, tea tree oil, and citronella essential oil. If you still have room, fill the bottle the rest of the way with additional purified water. Place the lid on and then shake well to combine.
Where To Buy Citronella Essential Oil
Citronella essential oil is one of the more affordable essential oils, but to experience the benefits it is important you opt for a 100% pure, undiluted, unadulterated and free of additives oil.
On Natural Living Ideas, we always recommend Plant Therapy Essential Oils for their high quality oils at affordable prices. You can purchase Plant Therapy Citronella Oil in 10ml, 30ml and 100ml bottles from this page on their official website.
You might also want to browse their expansive collection of pure essential oils here to see if there are any other oils you’d like to add to your collection. You can also find a large selection of Plant Therapy products available on Amazon.