Citronella Oil: The All-Natural Bug Repellent

If you are a fan of aromatherapy, you’re probably familiar with citronella oil. Citronella is also often added to a variety of personal care and cleaning products and provides numerous benefits.

What Is Citronella Oil?

citronella oilCitronella essential oil is obtained from the Cymbopogon genus plant family. More precisely, it is extracted through steam distillation of the grassesCymbopogon nardus (Jowitt) and Cymbopogon winterianus (Rendal). This results in two types of citronella oil:

  • Ceylon, which is obtained fromC. nardus and is a native product of Sri Lanka (previously Ceylon). Ceylon citronella oil has a warm, citrusy, and wood scent, and has a pale to dark yellow color.
  • Java, which is distilled from C. winterianus. It also has a fresh lemon-like scent but is darker in color. Between the two, java citronella is considered the one with the higher quality.

Uses of Citronella Oil

Citronella oil is popularly used as an insect repellent. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classifies it as a bio-pesticide with a non-toxic mode of action. Citronella oil can be found in dozens of registered pesticide products, such as sprays, lotions, and candles. At times, it is added to sunscreen, wristbands, and flea collars. Due to its anti-fungal properties, citronella oil is also used to treat insect bites.

Citronella essential oil is one of the most common oils used in aromatherapy. It is said that as an aromatherapy oil, citronella can help treat and prevent colds, fevers, and headaches. As a massage oil, it may relieve pain in individuals suffering from arthritis.

The oil of citronella is also widely used in fragrances and personal care products. It is largely imported by Germany and France, two of the largest hubs for the perfume industry. Because of its antiseptic properties, citronella oil is also used in soaps, household cleaners, and detergents.

Citronella oil is also added as a food and beverage flavoring, such as in alcoholic drinks, frozen dairy, and gelatin and puddings.

  • Alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages
  • Baked products
  • Frozen dairy
  • Gelatin and puddings
  • Soft and hard candies

Additional research found that using citronella oil can help calm barking dogs.

Composition of Citronella Oil

Both types of citronella oil contain over 80 constituents, about 50 of which make up 90 percent of each oil. The main components of citronella oil are citronellol, citronellal, and geraniol. The two types of citronella oil vary in the amounts of geraniol and citronellal.

Below are the main constituents of each oil:

Ceylon Citronella Oil Java Ceylon Oil
Geraniol – 18 to 20 percent Citronellal – 32 to 45 percent
Citronellal – five to 15 percent Citronellol – 11 to 15 percent
Citronellol – 6.4 to 8.4 percent Geraniol – 21 to 24 percent
Geranyl acetate – two percent Geranyl acetate – three to eight percent
Limonene – nine to 11 percent Limonene – 1.3 to 3.9 percent
Methyl isoeugenol – 7.2 to 11.3 percent Elemol and sesquiterpene alcohols – two to five percent

Benefits of Citronella Oil

According to a paper in the International Journal of Advanced Research, citronella oil is noted for its efficiency in repelling mosquitoes – it provided about two hours of repellent in the study. It has proven successful in repelling the dreaded Aedes aegypti, a species of mosquito that spread diseases like dengue fever, chikungunya, and yellow fever. Apart from being used on humans, citronella oil is also used to keep ticks away from livestock and pets.

In a 2011 issue of Tropical Medicine & International Health, an analysis of 11 studies on the capabilities of citronella oil found that when combined with vanillin, the essential oil likely provided up to three hours of protection against mosquitoes. The study also pointed out comparable protection time against DEET, a chemical commonly found in chemical bug repellents.

The research stated that oil of citronella has potent anti-fungal properties that help suppress the growth of fungi species, such as Aspergillus, Penicillium,andEurotium. Citronella oil owes its antibacterial and antiseptic nature to compounds like methyl isoeugenol. These compounds prevent the growth of bacteria in your body and help treat wounds, as well as infections that may occur in the colon, urethra, bladder, gastrointestinal tract, prostate, and kidneys.

Citronella essential oil is often used in aromatherapy because it can provide relief from anxiety and a light feeling. It can also provide relief from menstrual cramps and muscle spasms. The oil can also help inhibit inflammation in the liver, stomach, and digestive tract.

How to Make Citronella Oil

Citronella oil is widely available in in natural food and beauty stores. However, commercial oils processed through steam distillation may be pricey. A more practical solution would be to make your own citronella oil at home,

Ingredients/Materials:

  • ¼ ounce nard grass leaves and stems (you may use lemongrass as substitute)
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • Slow cooker (ex. Crock-Pot)
  • Cheesecloth

Instructions:

  1. Mix the olive oil and nard grass leaves and stems in the slow cooker.
  2. Leave and cook the mixture for about four to eight hours.
  3. With the cheesecloth, strain the mixture, which is actually the citronella oil. Remove nard grass.
  4. Repeat steps 1-3 with the strained mixture with fresh nard grass leaves and stems. No need to add more olive oil. Keep on repeating until the oil obtains the desired scent.
  5. Once done, seal the oil in a dark-colored jar. Store in a cool, dry place.

How Does Citronella Oil Work?

While citronella oil helps prevent mosquito bites, it does not kill mosquitoes. It only repels these insects by blocking the scent that attracts these bugs, causing them to become disoriented.

Pure citronella essential oil should never be used directly on your skin, as this may cause sensitivities. It should be mixed with a carrier oil, like olive or coconut oil. Once diluted, citronella oil can also be inhaled. Just place a few drops onto a cloth or tissue, or using a diffuser.

You may use citronella by itself or mix it with other natural agents. I’ve created my own natural insect repellent by combining citronella with other essential oils like lemongrass oil, peppermint, and vanillin. Since this formulation is all-natural, it’s safe and risk-free for both adults and children.

Is Citronella Oil Safe?

Citronella oil is Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The EPA also considers oil of citronella safe, as it has very little or no toxicities. If ingested, the major compounds of citronella are eliminated through urination.

As I said earlier, avoid using pure citronella oil on your skin. Not only can this oil cause skin irritations or allergic reactions in people with sensitivities, it has been found to raise heart rate in some individuals.

Pregnant women should be careful with using citronella oil, as their skin is extra sensitive during those nine months. One research found that there was a loss of spontaneous contractions in the uterus upon the in vitro use of citronella oil. While citronella may be used cautiously as a fragrance during this time, it is important to consult a physician first.

Also, citronella oil should not be used on babies and young children due to their delicate skin. Parents should also be careful when administering the oil near the noses of children. Seek the advice of your pediatrician before using citronella oil on your children.

Cardamom in Aromatherapy

Cardamom (scientific name Elettaria cardamomum) is a perennial herb akin to reeds and is usually found growing in the wild. This herb is also widely cultivated in India and Sri Lanka (formerly known as Ceylon).

Cardamom belongs to the ginger family and its oil is obtained by steam distilling the seeds that have already undergone a prolonged (about three months) drying process. Cardamom seeds that have been dried for a long period yield oils that enclose the best possible levels of chemicals. While cardamom essential oil can be acquired from various regions of the world, currently Guatemala is said to have the most favorable conditions to produce the best quality and most powerful oil. The aroma of cardamom essential oil is sweet and spicy.

Cardamom trees usually grow up to a height of 4 meters (13 feet) and produce long, green glossy leaves. The flowers of cardamom are small and yellowish having a violet tip. Cardamom plants have a large, plump rhizome, akin to that of ginger. After the blossoming, the plants bear oblong-shaped grey hued fruits, each of which encloses numerous seeds.

Even in the ancient times, people were familiar with cardamom as well as its various therapeutic properties. For instance, the ancient Egyptians used cardamom essential oil in incense and perfumes. They also chewed cardamom seeds with a view to make their teeth whiter. On the other hand, the Romans used cardamom for treating stomach disorders whenever they over-indulged.

The early Arabs also pounded cardamom and used the powder in their coffee, while it has traditionally been a vital ingredient in Asian culinary. German physician and botanist Valerius Cordus was the first to steam cardamom to extract its essential oil in 1544 after the Portuguese explorations discovered the East.

Cardamom essential oil is extracted from the seeds of the herb’s fruit by a process known as steam distillation. The fruits are collected immediately before they mature. Usually, the yield of the essential oil varies between 1% and 5%.

Chinese as well as Indians have been using cardamom in their traditional medical practices for over 3,000 years now. This herb was used widely in Ayurveda, the traditional Indian medicine system. Even the early Greek physicians adopted this herb in the 4th century B.C. Hippocrates, who is regarded as the father of medicine in the West, was among the ancient Greek physicians who used this herb extensively. Currently, people widely use cardamom as a spice owing to its composition. Medicinally, the essential oil of cardamom is valued for its ability to heal gastro-intestinal (GI) problems. Traditionally, people have been using cardamom essential oil in the form of a tonic for the digestive, pulmonary as well as urinary systems, and also for reducing fever. In addition, this oil has also been employed by people for several centuries as an ingredient of several sensual aphrodisiac blends.

cardamomseeds

Several scientific researches have been undertaken to explore the therapeutic attributes of cardamom essential oil and it is generally employed for treating problems related to digestive and respiratory problems. In addition, this oil may also have the potential for supporting the health of the muscles. Cardamom essential oil is also said to possess uplifting, stimulating and stress-relieving properties (similar to any other essential oil). This oil also stimulates the mind and brings in clarity.

It is important to emphasize that compared to other essential oils, cardamom is safer as well as gentler for children. In fact, use of a number of essential respiratory and digestive oils like peppermint or eucalyptus is generally avoided for children and it is often difficult to find a suitable alternative solution. On the other hand, cardamom essential oil can prove to be a wonderful substitute for several digestive as well as respiratory requirements.

From the emotional and spiritual point of view, cardamom essential oil is frequently employed for issues related to anger and frustration. In fact, this oil can be used to successfully treat issues like frustration, outbursts, rage, blame, judging others and more. Use of cardamom essential oil is known to assist one in stepping back from any unfavorable situation and assess it from a different perspective, where one is not as attached. This oil may also assist one to bring in changes that necessitate him/ her to be sincere with them and acknowledge the liability for things that they may have been responsible for. Cardamom essential oil also helps one to possess the power to usher in changes in them.

The essential oil of cardamom is known to be very useful for treating muscular as well as respiratory spasms, and, in this way, helps to alleviate asthma, whopping cough, muscle cramps, and muscle pulls.

It is worth mentioning here that the essential oil of cardamom possesses extremely potent antiseptic as well as anti-microbial attributes. This oil is also safe for use by most people, including children. When cardamom essential oil is employed in the form of a mouth wash by adding some drops of it to water, it helps to make the oral cavity germ-free and also gets rid of foul breath. You can also add a few drops of this oil to drinking water to eliminate the germs in it. In addition, people also use cardamom essential oil in foods in the form of a flavoring agent as well as to protect foods form becoming spoiled due to microbial assault. You may also add a few drops of cardamom essential oil to your bath water, as this will help to make your skin and hair germ-free.

Cardamom essential oil is an excellent digestive agent. Consuming this oil improves digestion by invigorating the entire digestive system. This oil also possesses stomach properties – in other words, use of cardamom essential oil aids in sustaining the heath of the stomach and ensure its proper functioning. It also aids in ensuring the correct secretion of digestive fluids, including bile, acids and enzymes, into the stomach. Cardamom oil also works to protect the stomach from being infected.

The essential oil of cardamom helps to invigorate all the systems in our body. As a result of this stimulating or tonic effect, it uplifts the spirits, especially when one is suffering from fatigue or depression. Use of this oil also helps to stimulate secretion of various hormones and enzymes, circulation, peristaltic motion as well as excretion, thereby ensuring appropriate metabolic actions all over the body.

Use of cardamom essential oil has a relaxing or warming effect. In other words, this oil heats up the body, encourages perspiration, aids in clearing coughs and congestion of airways. At the same time, the essential oil of cardamom works to get rid of symptoms related to common cold. This oil also helps to alleviate headaches caused by ailments. You can also use cardamom oil to treat diarrhea due to severe cold.

The essential oil of cardamom also encourages urination, thereby reducing high blood pressure, and helps in losing weight, freeing the kidneys from calcium as well as urea deposits, and eliminating toxins.

Last, but not the least important, the essential oil of cardamom also possesses aphrodisiac properties and, hence, is effective in treating sexual weakness, impotence, erectile dysfunctions in males, frigidity and loss of libido.

General Properties:

  • antibacterial
  • anti-infectious
  • antiseptic
  • antispasmodic
  • aphrodisiac
  • decongestant
  • digestive
  • diuretic
  • expectorant
  • stimulant
  • stomachic
  • tonic
  • warming

Cardamom Blends Well With:

  • bergamot
  • caraway
  • cedarwood
  • cinnamon
  • cloves
  • orange
  • rose

General Uses:

  • anger
  • asthma
  • bad breath
  • common colds
  • cramps
  • diarrhea
  • erectile dysfunctions
  • frigidity
  • headaches
  • high blood pressure
  • impotence
  • loss of libido
  • muscular support
  • sexual weakness
  • stomach infections
  • stress
  • toxins removal
  • weight lose
  • whooping cough

Precaution:

Cardamom essential oil is considered to be safe for most people, as there are no reports of toxic side effects following the consumption of this oil. However, using this oil in excessive amounts may often lead to an overdose. When there is an overdose of cardamom essential oil, it will result in symptoms like uneasiness and too much heating up of the body as well as the digestive system. This may often cause irritation and loose bowels. As the warming effect or irritation caused by excessive use of cardamom essential oil may be detrimental for the baby, it is advisable that pregnant women as well as nursing mothers should stay away from this oil.