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Citronella is aromatherapy oil that I always keep in the cupboard at home. This isn't because I love the smell of it but because it is a useful oil to have around.
What is it?
Citronella is obtained from a scented grass called Cymbopogon nardus. This is a grass that grows in the wild in countries like Sir Lanka Java and Burma. The oil that is distilled from the leaves is a yellow brown colour that has a very strong lemony scent. Some people however think it smells a bit like wet grass. I personally think it is a combination of the two. The lemon scent of it is balanced out by grass I think and it certainly doesn't smell to me at least like freshly squeezed lemons. The oil compared to other is quite a thin and viscous oil that is absorbed quickly into the body.
The use of Citronella in aromatherapy
Most people associate citronella with its insect repellent properties but it does have several other benefits too these include being capable of healing and forming scar tissue. It is also has antiseptic, bactericidal, diuretic properties. Some books and references also suggest that it can be used to treat fevers and colds though I have never used it for these reasons. Some people also suggest it can be used to help rheumatism but I have to say I prefer other oils for this such as Chamomile or Lavender as they are more relaxing I find.
Citronella essential oil is considered to be non-irritant and non-toxic aromatherapy oil but it may cause dermatitis in some cases. Citronella should be avoided during pregnancy. The other contraindication is it shouldn't be used if you have heart problems as it can speed up the heart rate according to some studies.
How I use this oil
As with the majority of people I mainly use this oil in the summer to keep midges and other pesky flying insects at bay. I tend to do this several ways the first is if I am out in the garden I will use some of this in a diffuser to burn and keep them away. I equally will use it neat in some drops on wooden furniture as it soaks in well and seems to leave a pleasant aroma around that stops the midges coming near.
The other way at home I use it is if we are sleeping with the windows open on a night I put a couple of drops on the a cotton wool ball and place these in the pillow and duvet to keep the flying pests away and this does seem to work as I never wake up with bites.
The oil is however not only good for keeping them away but if you are unfortunate to get bitten I find that applying a few drops neat to the skin takes away the itchy sensation and helps it heal up faster as citronella is an antiseptic as well. The other benefit of using this oil for this purpose is it reduces the effects of scar tissue so if you have scratched you should find you don't get a nasty scar where the bite has been. What I would say though is if you are using this on children under 8 is to mix it with a carrier oil first as they have more sensitive skin a ration of 10 drops per 25 mls of carrier oil like olive oil should stop any nasty effects.
In the summer when my feet are prone unfortunately to cheesy sweaty smells I try to combat the smell and freshens them up with a mixture of unscented body lotion and citronella and lavender oil. This does seem to make them feel a bit less smelling and they do feel refreshed.
I have also used citronella to treat fungal infections on the skin this is done by applying diluted citronella oil (10 drops per 25 mls of carrier oil) on the affected area using a cotton bud. The reason I use this diluted is often fungal infections like athletes foot cause the skin to crack and break and it is better to use this diluted than on raw flesh in my opinion. Applying this daily to my husband's feet helped the small area clear up in about a week.
Some people find that it is a good oil for reliving mental stress and anxiety and whilst I find this a nice oil to make me feel alert I personally prefer the scent of say Clary sage for when I am feeling stressed.
When I was doing my aromatherapy course I used this oil on someone with rheumatic problems and mixed 50 ml of vegetable oil and 20 drops of citronella. I then rubbed this into the affected joints and area the patient did report it being warming and soothing for her but this is the limit of my experience of using this oil for that treatment.
The final ways I use this oil are not for health reasons but I thought I would mention them as it maybe helpful to people. The first is if I have cats coming into my garden to do their business a few drops of this oil on the soil every couple of days seem to discourage them. I would say do this for a month till their in new habits. The other use is mixed with some vinegar can be used to clean and disinfect surfaces. In the summer months I have tried using this mixture on my windows to try to keep the insects at bay and clean the windows at the same time and it does seem to work a treat. As the smell is strong and deodorizing it can also be used to place a few drops in your garbage bin to keep smells at bay in hot weather. It can be used to treat fleas in animals but my cat never sits still for me to brush this though her so I stick to vet preparations for this.
Overall and recommendation
At around £5 for a 10ml bottle this is one of the cheaper aromatherapy oils but due to its benefits in getting rid of insects and reducing nasty whiffs and smells I do think it is an essential oil to keep in your cupboards. I would definitely recommend buying some of this oil to keep in your medicine cupboard as it helps keep the insects at bay, heals any bites and if you have smelly feet in summer like me it reduces and deodorises the nasty smells.
As far back as I can remember, and though I used to enjoy summer immensely (much more than now), my outdoor activities have always been spoiled by those nasty, buzzy, aggressive little creatures known as wasps. I have been pathologically terrified of them for as far back as I can remember - not necessarily of being stung (though that has never happened); I just hate the little buggers, and I find that once a wasp senses they are within a couple of feet of a human being, there's no stopping them and they will pester relentlessly.
Batting the creatures away with a fly swatter or rolled-up magazine/newspaper just seems to antagonise them, thus making them even more irritating, and being as I'm one of these people who's a great respecter of all life, I hate killing anything - even if it is making my own life a misery, therefore I am loathe to use fly killing sprays (although I will in an emergency), but I often find that spraying fly killer around has more of a detrimental affect on my breathing capabilities, than that of the insect population. I have also tried the method of setting up a container filled with highly sweetened liquid so that it attracts the wasps, whereby they feast on the sweet stuff then fall into the water and drown, but firstly it's not a method I'm happy with on the humanitarian level, and secondly it concentrates all the wasps in one place - as they don't all fall into the water and drown - thereby making the feeling of their presence even more uncomfortable for me.
Well-meaning advice from others such as "sit still and the wasp will leave you alone" doesn't work for me - firstly, all of those people have in their lives been stung on more than one occasion by wasps whereas I never have been, and secondly, it is the mere presence of the wasp which sends me into an uncontrollable arm-flapping frenzy, regardless of whether it is capable of stinging or not; it isn't the sting which causes my fear - it's just the wasp. I am very disturbed by the appearance of them, and the particular pitch of their buzzing does something horrible to my brain.
Since I have become self-employed working from home, and since I moved to where I now live - which is a rural area close to some woods, and infested with all sorts of creepy-crawlies, I have found my summers to be plagued with wasps invading my territory. Due to the nature of my self-employed work, I can't risk a wasp entering an opened window, as my reaction towards its presence is one of uncontrollable hysteria, and I'd thus lose business and income.
Recently I was speaking to a friend, explaining to her that I was dreading the onset of summer with the inevitable wasp onslaught and the detrimental effect it could have on my work and income, when she suggested I try citronella oil, as apparently wasps and most other insects are repelled by the smell. She told me that I could buy citronella candles, burn citronella joss sticks or burn citronella oil in my vapouriser, or I could dot little pieces of cotton wool soaked in citronella around my window frames, adding that some people don't like the smell of it, but if it kept the wasps away, then maybe it was worth putting up with.
I decided to give this wasp repelling method a try, and opted for the last of the above-mentioned methods. The reason why I chose this particular method, is because the cotton wool would hold the citronella oil well, without needing any more topping up than on a once daily basis, and I wouldn't have to bother with constantly topping up water in an oil vapouriser, lighting new joss sticks or fresh candles, at times when my full attention needs to be put into my work without interruption.
Though I was viewing my friend's suggestion with a little scepticism, I thought anything is worth a try, so bought two bottles of citronella essential oil at my local chemist, costing £1.25 for 25ml each. I've used many other essential oils over the years for various different things, but strangely had never heard of or come across citronella.
The bottles I bought come in a little yellow cardboard box, with warnings on the side to keep the product away from babies and children, not to ingest, and to keep away from eyes, plus a warning that the product must under no circumstances be used by pregnant women. On opening the box, the bottle inside is dark brown glass, the same as most other essential oils, with a yellow and white label around the middle, and a white plastic screw top incorporating a child-safety screwing and unscrewing mechanism.
Once I'd managed to open the first bottle, I took a little sniff - and found the smell of the oil very strong, resembling that of various deep heat preparations intended for muscle pain. It isn't an unpleasant smell by any means - just rather powerful. I cut a long strip from a roll of cotton wool (by the way, this particular day was hot, humid and sunny - perfect weather for bringing out legions of wasps - taping the middle and the edges to my window frame, then liberally soaking with the citronella oil. I then waited to see what, if anything, happened.
I was delighted that not one single wasp came anywhere near my window (I had been plagued with them on the previous day, which was just as hot, sunny and humid), and I also noticed that far fewer flies barged into my little home without my prior consent. Since I began using the citronella oil on my window frames, topping up the infusion on the cotton wool religiously each day, I have so far remained completely wasp-free, which is very good for my sanity. I also mix a couple of drops with a base/carrier oil and dab a little on my neck and arms when I go out, and have discovered that the wasp population gives me a wide berth. OK it makes me smell a bit odd, but for me that's a small price to pay for peace of mind.
So, what exactly is citronella oil?
It is taken from a type of grass which grows in tropical regions of Asia, parts of central and south America, and Zimbabwe (I wonder why just Zimbabwe, and not other non-desert African terrain?). The oil is extracted from the grass via a steaming method, stored, and has apparently been used in Chinese medicine for many centuries, to alleviate conditions such as menstrual cramps, rheumatic pains (which could explain why it smells like deep-heat type muscle creams and lotions; they quite likely contain citronella oi), digestive problems and much more....but in more modern times, appears to largely be used as a powerful insect repellent or used by aromatherapists to ease conditions such as colds and flu, migraine, digestive problems and headaches.
Other uses of citronella oil are as food flavourings, as an additive to some perfumes and cosmetics, and in some parts of the world the grass from which the oil is obtained, can be infused in hot water and given as a medicine that can aid as a diuretic, or a muscle anti-spasmodic. Diluted with a neutral base oil, it can also be used to help keep fleas off of family pets, and it is often used as an ingredient in commercial anti-flea preparations. The oil is apparently a very effective mosquito repellant too, and is widely used in countries where mosquitoes carry diseases such as malaria.
A few warnings are issued regarding the use of citronella oil, in that it can cause skin irritations for some people who do have sensitive skin - but I haven't yet found this to be a problem, and my own skin is very sensitive. Although the oil is recognised as being non-toxic, it is strongly recommended that it should not be taken orally, and its use is definitely to be avoided by pregnant women, as there is a possibility it can cause harm to the unborn foetus (despite hunting the internet, I am currently unable to determine the nature of this harm).
Bearing these warnings in mind, it is always best to consult a suitably qualified aromatherapist before considering using citronella oil on the body in any way; I have to confess I haven't done so myself (though I don't in the slightest intend ingesting the oil), and as yet I have suffered absolutely no ill-effects.
So far, I personally have found citronella oil to be 100% effective in keeping wasps well away from my home, and about 95% effective in repelling other insects. I have gone beyond care that I smell a little odd when going out after having dabbed some of the oil onto myself, as being wasp-free is much more what I'm into, as opposed to worrying about what other people think of me.
As long as citronella oil remains effective for me in the area of keeping wasps at bay, I shall continue to use it, as it is no doubt the best, and most humane method I've so far come across as regards repelling insect invasion. It doesn't kill or harm the wasps and other insects in any way; they merely hate the smell, so never fly anywhere near the source of it. I strongly recommend anybody who's loathing of wasps (plus other insects) is similar to my own, to try the cotton wool soaked with a few undiluted drops of the oil around the window frames method, but remember to top it up every day. Only a few tiny drops will be needed to produce the desired effect.
NOTE: All of the above information about citronella has been taken in bits and pieces from lots of different websites on the subject, and completely rearranged into my own words.
Thanks for reading!
Citronella Aromatherapy Oil has long been used to help promote relaxation and reduce stress. Massaging with essential oils enables relaxation and feeling of well-being leading to a reduction in stress and anxiety.