Citronella Oil: Does It Really Repel Insects?

Citronella Oil: Does It Really Repel Insects?

Mosquitos are perhaps the tiniest threat in the world. Just imagine how a tiny, little, thing can bring sickness and death to yourself and your loved ones? It is indeed disastrous. Thus, many repellent products are commercialized in the market to ward off mosquitoes and prevent mosquito bites. There is a wide variety of products in which you can choose from. There are lotions, incense, and many others that promise to keep you and your family away from mosquitoes. One of which is the well-known citronella essential oil.

There are news articles written on the internet saying that it is effective for repelling insects including mosquitoes. But does it really effective? On how extent? Or is it just pure myth?

In this article, we will try to answer these questions and find the effectivity of citronella essential oil against insects. But first, let us find out what citronella oil is.


What is Citronella Oil?

Cymbopogon genus is a species of plant which is the source citronella oil—an essential oil used in aromatherapy. Nevertheless, citronella is well-known for its natural insect repellent property. It might be because the citronella plant itself has a reputation for repelling mosquitoes. But unlike other insect-repellent products and pesticides, citronella essential oil deems to be less effective. However, it is a natural repellent against parasites including stomach worms and mosquitos. Moreover, it is associated with many health benefits.



In aromatherapy, citronella is effective in treating health problems, including:

Additionally, it has an anti-fungal property that is used to calm dogs. Boosting energy is it’s another used. But most importantly, it is used to protect your skin from insect bites.

In fact, there are a variety of products made with citronella advertise in the market. There are spray repellents, lotions, candles, tiki torches, incense, wrist bands, and even live plants that are efficient in sending the mosquitos away.



Citronella oil is effective because of its three main components known as citronellal, citronellol, and geraniol. These three components are complete among the citronella grasses Cymbopogon nardus and Cymbopogon winterianus which can ward off evil mosquitoes.


Citronella Oil Insect-Repellant Properties

There is a limited study on citronella oil’s health benefits. But evidence about its insect-repellent property is fairly wide.

One study is published in the Journal of Vector Ecology in the year 2009. The study reported that in repelling mosquitoes, diffusers which contains citronella essential oil is of better help than candles containing citronella essential oil.

On another study published 2011, Tropical Medicine & International Health reported that combining citronella essential oil with vanillin (a substance that can be produced by vanilla beans) can give you up to three hours protection against mosquito bites.

Thus, manufacturers provide several ways to familiarize your environment with citronella. Here are some methods and products of citronella that can help repel insects.

Spray Repellent

You can make your own spray repellent by combining a liquid base or other bases such as rubbing alcohol, vodka, olive oil, and hazel to citronella essential oil. Base on your skin, the base can make it dry or smooth. Experiment so you can see which will suits you best. To make your own spray repellent, combine 2 oz. of your chosen base with either 60 or 120 drops of citronella oil. Sixty drops can make a 5% solution while 120 drops will make a 10.

Citronella Lotion

By emulsifying oil and water, a lotion is produced. You can make your own by drizzling 2 oz. of oil in a 2 oz. of water. Whisk it using a wire whisk until it becomes creamy white. Add 120 drops of citronella oil and stir. Transfer it in a bottle and don’t forget to put a label.

Citronella Candles

Lighting a citronella candle can also keep the mosquitoes at bay. Citronella-based tiki torches and incense have the same effect though. Tiki torches are nice if you want to have a party atmosphere. Meanwhile, incenses with citronella oil are now available in the market. The smell from the three choices repel mosquitoes, but it is not as effective as a citronella oil directly applied on the skin. Being close to a lit candle can decrease your insect bite up to 23%.

To increase the effectiveness and adjust the scent of your lotion and spray, add another essential oil such as eucalyptus, lemon, catnip, rosemary, rose, geranium, myrrh, juniper, basil, pennyroyal, and cedarwood.

Remember that applying citronella oil to your skin is dangerous, thus, it is strictly prohibited. However, you may use it in baths by combining it to some carrier oil such as avocado, sweet almond, and jojoba.


Warnings About Citronella

Health care professionals have some advises for the consumers of citronella essential oil.

First and foremost, the essential oil can cause a serious allergic reaction. Thus, if you are using a new repellent, try to test the product first. Apply a small amount in a specific spot in your skin and see if you got any reaction such as a rash. If nothing happens, continue using the repellent.

Moreover, they recommend to keep it away to some people such as:

  • Children – the essential oil is harmful to children because they are prone to taking anything by mouth. Thus, a toddler might swallow a citronella-based insect-repellent.
  • Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers – there is no enough research about the effect of citronella oil to pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers, but experts advise to stay on the safe zone, thus, avoid using citronella essential oil.

Likewise, the essential oil is harmful to the lungs. In fact, there were cases which resulted in lung damage. Thus, do not inhale it directly, or keep it away from mucous membranes as well as eyes.

Mom Pamper

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