Aromatherapy: How to Use Citronella Oil

Citronella is the quintessential aromatherapy oil. Whereas other essences stimulate the mind and body to improve your circulation, lift your mood or relax your muscles, with citronella the smell itself is all important: its lemony, slightly sweet aroma is a wonderful natural insect repellent.

citronella botanical

As such, it can be used in body lotions and sprays to repel mosquitoes on holiday, on pet collars to prevent flea infestations and as a fragrant candle to keep biting insects away from your al fresco dining table.

Glass of China

Citronella essential oil is most often extracted from citronella grass (also known as 'grass of China) which is native to Java, Central America and Haiti. It is also found in the citrosa plant (a genetic crossbreed between citronella grass and African geranium) and catnip. The euphoric effect of catnip has on cats is mirrored in the uplifting and stimulating response citronella vapour produces in humans.

Active Ingredients of Citronella


This aldehyde is responsible for the lemony aroma that insects so hate. It is antiseptic and sedative, helping to kill germs and balance emotions.


The alcohol geraniol, which adds to the potent aroma of citronella, is responsible for the oil's uplifting qualities. It is also antiseptic and antiviral.


This mildly stimulating monoterpene relieves pain, kills bacteria and helps to expel excess mucus from the body.

Practical Uses of Citronella

A potent insect repellent, citronella has been used in commercial products since the 19th century. You can reap its benefits in candle and oil form.

On Your Holidays

Use citronella oil to make your own natural mosquito-repelling spray or lotion:

Add a few drops to your bath before venturing out.

Mix 5 drops in 25ml base oil, shower gel or body lotion.

aromatherapy tools air sprays

Keep a spray-on insect repellent with you on holiday, so that you can re-apply after swimming or throughout the day. As essential oils don't mix easily with water, it's best to dilute them in an alcohol base such as a shop-bought body spray or perfume.

Boost insect-repellent properties by blending with geranium, eucalyptus and/or lavender oils.

Keeping Pets Flea-free

Citronella makes a great natural flea spray for your pets.

Leave your pet's collar to soak in a weak dilution of citronella oil overnight (5 drops to 500ml water). When the collar has dried, put it back onto your pet.

Catnip contains the same chemicals found in citronella grass - the leaves release the scent when brushed.

On Your Mind

The geraniol contained in citronella has a euphoric effect. It lifts our moods, heling to banish headaches and feelings of depression.

Burn a citronella candle or vaporiser oil during convalescence. Its uplifting qualities stimulate the digestive system, while its antiseptic properties keep a sickroom sterilised.

Magical Citronella

The citrose plant has long been known to repel mosquitoes by African and Native American tribesmen.

In magic, citronella is considered to protect, cleanse and clear the aura, strengthening the life-force. It is often used in Native American purifying rituals.

Citronella's mind-clearing properties encourage self-expression, making it good for writers and actors.

It can be used to stimulate the Throat Chakra, which governs communication.