About Citronella

The Plant

Citronella is a tall, fragrant, perennial grass that is native to Sri Lanka, where it still grows wild and is called managrass.  Domesticated citronella is cultivated in two types, Ceylon type (Cymbopogon nardus) and Java type (Cymbopogon winterianus).   The shape of the leaves differ, as do the amounts of active compounds. 

The Oil

Citronella oil from the Ceylon type is yellow to yellow-brown, with a powerful, fresh, lemon scent.  Oil from the Java type is pale yellow and sweet smelling.  Although both types have similar amounts of geraniol, the Java type has a much greater quantity of citronellal, making it preferred for use in perfumery, while the Ceylon type is frequently used in food products and drinks.

Story Time

The big story of citronella is its use as an insect repellent.  Although it will also repel ants, moths, lice, fleas, and biting flies, Citronella has been most widely used in the west for the last fifty years as a mosquito repellent.  Lurking behind almost every memory of a camping trip or an evening backyard gathering is the distinctive smell of citronella—a smell so distinctive that it works as an insect repellent by making  it difficult for some pests to locate a host.

Because it is a non-toxic repellent when used in a limited amount, citronella poses no risks to people, pets or the environment.  In fact, citronella works on insects without harming or killing them.  Backyard torches and candles, and sprays, lotions and wipes made with citronella are all big sellers come mosquito season.

Current Uses

Chemicals extracted from citronella oil are widely used in perfumery, soap, cosmetics, detergents, and as flavoring for foods and drinks.  

Citronella can be found in many insect repellents for personal, home, and garden use.

Herbal folklore records citronella use in treating fevers, skin problems, digestive problems, and intestinal parasites, among other maladies. 

Citronella has also shown promise as a fungicide.







pankaj karnwal

this is nice article thanks for sharing with us.


p1hMAS Excellent article, I will take note. Many thanks for the story!