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What Is Citronella and What Does It Smell Like?

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What is Citronella Oil?

Citronella oil is an essential oil obtained from the distilling of the leaves and stems of an Asian yellow-coloured plant called Cymbopogon. It is known for its fruity, citrus-like aroma. Citronella is often mistaken for Lemongrass due to it having a very similar appearance and smell to the Lemongrass plant. Both plants are part of the Cymbopogon family, which is often just referred to as Lemongrass. The plant is native to Southeast Asia, but has since been cultivated in other parts of the world.

What Does Citronella Oil Smell Like?

Lemongrass obtained its name due to its citrus-like, floral scent, making it perfect for a variety of things, with the main components being citronellol, citronellal, and geraniol. Many people find the smell of Citronella very soothing and refreshing.

The two main types are Sri Lanka (Ceylon) citronella oil, and Java citronella oil. Due to containing a higher amount of geraniol and citronellal, Java citronella oil is thought to be higher quality and has a fresher, more fruity, lemony scent when compared to the more herbaceous, wood-like aroma of the Sri Lanka variety.

Citronella oil blends nicely with other scents such as tea tree, Lavendar, and cedar wood, so is often combined with these to create a variety of uplifting aromas.

are citronella candles effective

What is Citronella Oil Used For?

Due to its unique fresh and sweet smell, citronella oil is perfect for use in scented products including candles, perfumes, cosmetics, and soaps. Its use in cosmetics and deodorants is beneficial in decreasing risks of certain health problems such as respiratory problems, congestion, or infection. Its antifungal or antibacterial properties contribute to the elimination of body odors, especially those caused by bacteria under the arms.

A popular use of citronella includes use as a natural, plant-based insect repellent, in particular to keep mosquitos away. Citronella can be added to a candle, or used in its oil form, but studies are indicating that citronella-containing candles are no more effective than normal candles when it comes to keeping pests away.

Lemongrass is added to many natural room sprays and diffusers to provide a refreshing fragrance to the indoor environment, and it is known for its uses in aromatherapy.

It is commonly found in foods and beverages as a flavouring agent. Medically, citronella is also used to increase appetite, control muscle spasms, promote wound healing, or regulate urination. In Chinese and Indonesian medicine, the oil contributes part of the treatment for rashes and infections.

Concerns with Citronella Oil

There have been previous safety concerns about the toxicity of citronella oil fumes. For this reason, its uses have been limited in certain parts of the world. Prior to using citronella oil, it is recommended to take a skin test, and to avoid applying to oil to sensitive areas of the skin.