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Medicinal properties of citronella: Use and dosage, Precautions for use

Medicinal properties of citronella Internal citronella use Antispasmodic, digestive tonic and calming properties: treatment of digestive and...

Medicinal properties of citronella

Internal citronella use

  • Antispasmodic, digestive tonic and calming properties: treatment of digestive and intestinal disorders; reduction of flatulence and cramps.
  • Bactericidal, anti-inflammatory and hypotensive properties (decoction): against fever and colds or flu-like states.
  • Sedative action on the nervous system: against insomnia, stress and anxiety.

External citronella use

  • Painkillers: calms joint pain (arthritis), rheumatism.
  • Muscle relaxant: treatment of sprains, tendonitis and strains.
  • Tonic: in case of fever or fatigue, including mental fatigue.
  • Repellent action: against insects, especially mosquitoes.
Medicinal properties of citronella

Usual therapeutic indications

Digestive and gastrointestinal disorders; fever, flu-like states; joint and muscle pain; rheumatism; states of fatigue, insomnia, stress, anxiety.

Other proven therapeutic indications

Dental pain, skin problems such as acne and cellulite, helps with weight loss (diuretic action).

History of the use of citronella in phytotherapy

If the medicinal properties of citronella are known since ancient Egypt, on the Indian subcontinent, this plant has been used for even longer. In the West Indies, it is a traditional remedy for lowering fever, while in Africa it is used in the treatment of conditions such as tuberculosis and malaria. In tropical countries, it is often planted around houses to keep insects away.

Botanical description of lemongrass

Perennial plant by its rhizomes (underground stems), lemongrass has in common with lemon only the smell it gives off when you crumple its leaves. Native to southern India and Sri Lanka, this plant of the Poaceae (or grass) family also grows in tropical regions of the Caribbean and Africa, where it is commonly used as a medicinal plant. Lemongrass is a herbaceous plant, with long, narrow, linear, blue-green leaves with sharp edges. 

These leaves, with branch-shaped peduncles, measure 90 cm to 2 m. The stem of the lemongrass is hollow and bulbous: it is its base that is used in cooking to flavor dishes. Lemongrass has given its name to other plants with which it should not be confused: lemongrass verbena, lemon balm and lemongrass aurone.

Composition of citronella

Parts used

In phytotherapy, the parts used are the leaves, which, once chopped and distilled, produce the essential oil.

Active ingredients

  • Citrals (65 to 86%), myrcene, geraniol, folic acid, vitamins B1, B5, B6, minerals.
  • Use and dosage of lemongrass

Citronella Dosage

  • The lemongrass infusion is prepared with 15 g of fresh leaves for 1 l of water. Three cups per day can be ingested, to fight against flu-like conditions. One cup is enough, after the meal, to facilitate digestion or to help falling asleep.
  • As a decoction, lemongrass can be dissolved in bath water or used as a rub to fight against feverish states or mental fatigue. It also stimulates and revitalizes, in foot bath.
  • By macerating 2 handfuls of rhizomes and 2 handfuls of leaves, during one week, in 1 l of rum, then filtering, one obtains a lotion to be used in friction against mosquitoes.
  • The essential oil of citronella must be diluted in St. John's wort macerate or hazelnut oil to be used in massage against rheumatism, joint pain, tendonitis or sprains. If it can be applied undiluted on skin irritations, it is advisable to dilute it for sensitive skin.

Precautions of use of citronella

Citronella leaves contain microfilaments, which can cause damage to the digestive tract. For this reason, it is essential to filter preparations, infusions or decoctions, intended for internal use, with a coffee filter, for example. Essential oil should not be used internally without medical advice.


Lemongrass, used as a medicinal plant, is not recommended for pregnant women and children under 3 years.

Undesirable effects

  • A few rare cases of allergy to lemongrass essential oil have been reported.
  • Interactions with medicinal plants or supplements
  • No known interaction.

Interactions with drugs

  • No known interaction.

Physician's opinion

Recognized benefits

Much used in cooking, lemongrass also has therapeutic virtues. It is essentially the citrals and the myrcene it contains that give it its antispasmodic, antifungal and antimicrobial properties. Generally speaking, citronella will inhibit microbial and bacterial development in the body, whether in the urinary tract, stomach, colon or respiratory system. Citronella can also contribute to weight loss, since it is a diuretic and allows the elimination of water and non-essential nutrients. It can also provide relief for people suffering from lumbago, joint or muscle pain. If other plants offer, for each one of these pathologies, the same effects (and sometimes at higher degrees), lemongrass has the advantage of releasing a very pleasant perfume.


To enjoy all the benefits of lemongrass, it is always recommended to respect the doses, whether it is a homemade preparation (an infusion, for example) or a packaged preparation. In case of doubt or if the symptoms persist beyond a few days, it is necessary to consult a pharmacist or a doctor.

Lemongrass research

Research is being conducted on the hypoglycemic virtues (promoting the lowering of blood glucose levels) of lemongrass leaves, which have a eupeptic property. Even if it is not yet a question of treatment, the usefulness of citronella, for diabetics, seems to be demonstrated. Work is also being done on the effects of citral, the main component of citronella essential oil, in preventing cancer cells from causing cell death. In vitro research has been carried out in this direction, but the results have not been verified on animal species or humans. More promising results have already been obtained in the prevention of certain cancers, particularly colon, digestive tract, lung, liver and skin cancers.

Essential oil of citronella

Medicinal properties of citronella
Properties of the essential oil of citronella from Java and Ceylon


  • Antibacterial +
  • Anti-inflammatory ++++
  • Atmospheric antiseptic ++
  • Deodorant +++
  • Fungicide +
  • Insect repellent ++++
  • In well-being
  • Painkiller +
  • Anti-inflammatory ++++
  • Soothing on stings +++

In beauty

  • Antiseptic +++
  • Deodorant ++
Disclaimer : The essential oil of citronella is not recommended for internal use. It should be avoided in pregnant women in early pregnancy and in children under 6 years. Dilution is essential to avoid skin irritation.

Indications of the essential oil of citronella of Java and Ceylon

  • Skin application (massage): Arthritis, osteoarthritis, joint pain +++, sprain, rheumatism +++, mosquito bite +++, tendinitis
  • Respiratory tract (diffusion, inhalation, olfaction): Mosquito repellent.

Directions for use of essential oil of citronella from Java and Ceylon for health

Skin benefits

  • Insect bite: a pure drop on the bite or diluted with a drop of sweet almond vegetable oil or other. 
  • Excessive perspiration: massage instead of deodorant. 

Joint benefits

Arthritis +, osteoarthritis +, rheumatism +++, tendinitis +: in massage, diluted in a supporting vegetable oil; give preference to essential oil of Java lemongrass. Treat painful areas as well as the spine.

Other benefits

Repellent of biting insects +++: by atmospheric diffusion or anointing on exposed limbs, mainly after 4 p.m. Renew 3 times. At night, put 2 drops of Ceylon lemongrass on the back of the collar of a pyjama or on the back of the pillow.

Tips for using lemongrass essential oil for beauty

Itching after insect bites: apply directly to the bite to reduce itching and redness.

Expert opinion

The essential oil of lemongrass from Java or Ceylon can replace lemon eucalyptus and also act effectively against joint and muscle pain.

Synergies with Java and Ceylon lemongrass essential oil

  • With essential oils of cedar and geranium to repel mosquitoes.
  • With essential oils of lavender aspic and peppermint for a curative effect of mosquito bites.
  • With essential oils of wintergreen, lemon eucalyptus, juniper against rheumatism, arthritis, joint pain, tendonitis.

Precautions for use and contra-indications of the essential oil of citronella of Java and Ceylon.

Ceylon citronella essential oil is generally very well tolerated, even when applied undiluted to an insect bite. However, it is recommended to use a vegetable carrier oil, because lemongrass can dry out the skin, like many essential oils. To avoid its partial dermocaustic effect, an anti-mosquito lotion with lemongrass can be used. The same remarks apply to the essential oil of Java lemongrass.
Characteristics of the essential oil of citronella from Java and Ceylon

Botanical description

Lemongrass from Java or Ceylon is a herb native to Indonesia. It has long narrow leaves, up to 2 m long, with stems and linear inflorescences. 

Depending on the geographical area (Java, Sri Lanka, Vietnam), lemongrass is a large perennial herb, which can belong to wild or cultivated species. 

The Ceylon lemongrass has a characteristic smell, not very appreciated by insects: fresh, green and lemony scent which reminds lemon balm in some aspects. Ceylon lemongrass has a slightly different botanical composition than Java lemongrass. 

Lemongrass has given its name to other plants, with which it should not be confused: lemon verbena, lemon verbena aurone and lemon balm.

Biochemical composition

The biochemical composition of the essential oil of citronella from Java or Ceylon can vary according to the production methods and the geographical origin of the plant.

Method of production and yield

The essential oil of Java citronella is obtained by steam distillation, with a yield ranging between 1.5 and 2%. For Ceylon citronella essential oil, the yield is about the same.

Please note that this information does not constitute medical advice. They are given for information purposes only. For any use for therapeutic purposes, consult an aromatherapist.

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