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Citronella essential oil benefits are generally regarded as primarily related to bug repellents, but it can do so much more. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if many people didn’t even realize citronella was an essential oil until recently (or even now!). Few oils are one-hit wonders, though, and citronella oil uses, with its unsung effects, is no exception.

Citronella Profile & Properties

There are two different types of plants that citronella essential oil may be derived from. Cymbopogen nardus is referred to as Ceylon citronella and is more commonly used. Cymbopogon winterianus Jowitt is Java citronella and can be more expensive.

Both types of citronella essential oil uses come from the same family as lemongrass, and the scents and actions are shared to prove it. In both types of citronella, the chemical composition is heavy in geraniol, citronellol, and citronellal. Java citronella has more citrus tones in the scent, while Ceylon is a bit more rustic.

These main chemicals are found in multiple other essential oils – such as geranium and lemongrass – thus explaining the wide range of oils we can use when formulating a bug spray.

Bug Repellent Superstar

By far, the most expected and hailed use of citronella essential oil is that of bug repellent. Citronella has been marketed widely in the commercial world, though not necessarily as pure essential oil content.

The popularity of citronella as a bug repellent makes it in high demand, and for essential oils, that can spell cut corners and low quality products.

True citronella essential oil uses, though, set the bar for bug repellent ingredients, with some of its main components defining effective bug repellents.(1) When formulating a bug spray of any sort, citronella’s compounds will be the goal, no matter which plants you find them in. Combining some of the essential oils that fit the bill can also help to incite that incredible synergistic reaction that we enjoy in essential oils.

But that’s not all citronella has to offer – not by a long shot.

4 More Benefits of Citronella Essential Oil

If your citronella oil sits on the shelf all winter while the bugs are tucked away out of the cold, you’re missing the boat. Citronella oil is full of benefits that make it a worthwhile oil all year long. Here are just a few of the exceptional actions you can put to use with citronella essential oil.

1. Pain Management

Citronellal, found more prominently in the Java variety, takes us far outside of our bug spray expectations right off the bat. Brazilian researchers looked closely at the actions that citronellal had on the body, and what they found was exciting and promising.

When testing mice for pain receptors and responses, the application of citronellal changed their responses significantly. Pain responses slowed, pain tolerance increased, and the researchers were able to identify pathways in which the changes occurred. (2)

The study can’t be mimicked at home – it was definitely lab results of a live murine study. But it can tell us a bit about the potential that citronella oil carries. And because it’s safe in topical dilutions, there’s no reason not to give it a try!

Application: Dilute into coconut oil or other topical preparation as a potential pain relieving massage.

2. Appetite Control

Diverting again from expected applications or results, this time we will look at the inhalation of citronella essential oil. If you’ve used it for some time as a bug repellant, diffusing in an ultrasonic diffuser or inhaling it will likely remind you of summertime!

Scent memory aside, another test – this one from 2015 – gives us an idea of the effects that inhalation of citronella could have. When rats were fed a high-fat diet and “treated” with citronella inhalation, they wound up with lowered appetites as well as a lower body weight. (3)

Weight loss can be tricky to manage, and there’s never going to be a magic bullet to take care of it in one shot. But essential oils like citronella can be a supportive weight loss tool to make the process easier.

Application: Diffuse or inhale during “snacky” times when appetite is difficult to control.

3. Lice Prevention

Technically, this could still fall under the umbrella of bug repellent. Head lice is so much more invasive, difficult to control, and completely different from typical pests that it deserves its own mention.

In one study on citronella and head lice, a slow-release formula was developed and applied on children’s heads when they were at risk for head lice contraction. The study was conducted as a blind control, so they were able to compare prevention results. At the end of four months, the kids who had citronella were much less likely to contract head lice than the kids without. (4)

Application: Citronella essential oil won’t be slow-release, but it can still be used beneficially. Mix a drop into morning shampoo when lice is a threat. Wash, then rinse off.

Learn more about eliminating lice here.

4. Pet Care

Perhaps the strangest and most interesting benefit of citronella essential oil is its effect on pets – dogs, to be precise. You might expect that citronella would be used for bug control on man’s best friend, but that’s not the case with this study. The focus? Barking.

In a veterinary hospital, dogs were given a control collar, scentless bark collar, or citronella bark collar. The scentless collar helped more than half of the dogs to cut back on barking. But the citronella collar cut it back by nearly 80%! (5)

Application: Try adding a drop of citronella oil to your dog’s collar to see if it helps him to tone it down a bit.

As you can see, citronella use extends far beyond bug control and can be applied in any number of ways. The fun part is experimenting with blends to see how you can enjoy the fragrant summer oil in new and health-promoting ways. Try this spray mix that can be used for bugs, hair, and pets as you like.

Quick Citronella Bug Control Spray
  • 4 oz 190 proof alcohol or vodka
  • 5-10 drops Citronella
  • 5-10 drops Geranium
  • 5-10 drops Sweet Orange
  • 5-10 drops Ylang Ylang
  1. Drop essential oils into spritz bottle.
  2. Pour alochol into spritz bottle to fill.
  3. Shake to mix.
  4. Spray as needed.



12 Healing Oils of the Bible

Scripture is filled with natural remedies & sacred plants. Study 12 Healing Oils of the Bible for a greater appreciation of God's provision!
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