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Plant Part Used

Leaves (1)

Active Constituents

Citronellic, Borneol, Citronellol, Geraniol, Nerol, Citral, Citronellal, Camphene, Dipentene, Limonene, -terpineol, citronellol, methyl heptenone, dipentene, geraniol, limonene, nerol, farnesol, Borneol, bournonene, camphene, camphor, 1-carvotanacetone, gamma-3-carene, citronellybutyrate, D-citronellal, D-citronellolacetate, D-citronellol-N-butyrate, p-cymene, elemol, ethanol, furferol, geranylactetae, geranylbutyrate, geranylformate, hexanol, limonene, linalol, linalylacetate, methyleugenol, methylisoeugenol, methylheptenone, menthol, myrcene, nerol, nerolidol, cis-ocimene, perillaldehyde, phellandral, alpha phellendrene, alpha and beta pinene, sabinene, alpha terpineol, terpinen-4-ol, terpinolene, thujyalcohol, trans-ocimene, tricyclene. (2) , (3) , (4) , (5)


Cymbopogon nardus (or citronella) is a tall fragrant tropical grass, closely related to the lemongrass (Citronella citratus). Citronella, the more aromatic of the two, is normally applied externally while lemongrass is confined to internal use. It is said to be native to India and Ceylon (6) and was only quite recently introduced to Malaysia. Several forms of C. nardus exist; the two chief forms are known in Ceylon as ‘maha pengiri’ and ‘lenabalu’. Sometimes the former is called Winter’s grass and this name has appeared in the form Cymbopogon winterianus, Jowitt. Another name for it is Old Citronella grass-‘lenabatu’ which is a hybrid of Winter’s grass with the wild species Cymbopogon. It is the Winter’s grass which is grown in Malaysia.

Citronella is a tall, coarse, clump-forming grass that can grow up to a height of 5-6 feet. The leaves are flat, grayish green, and can grow to an average size of 3 feet long and an inch or so wide. It grows wildly in many tropical countries of Asia, America, and Africa whereas in Malaysia it is normally cultivated in home gardens.

In Malaysia, the volatile oils of Cymbopogon nardus are given in small doses to comfort the stomach and to aid digestion. It is also used as an emmenagogue. A decoction of the citrunella leaves with Gendarussa and betel-pepper have been used as an after childbirth wash, (7) , (8)


No standard marker has been reported. Other standard profiles have been documented in the Malaysian Herbal Monograph. (9)

Toxicities & Precautions


This herb should be used in caution. It may cause dermatitis particularly the concentrated oils. Inhaling the essential oils of citronella may increase heart rate in some people.

Side Effects

No information available.

Pregnancy/ Breast Feeding

Use of this herb should be avoided in pregnancy and in lactating women.

Age Limitations

Safety in children and the elderly have not been established.


Pharmacology and Evidence for activity
To date studies on pharmacological effects of this plant on animals have not been reported. The only investigations carried out are on its antifungal and pesticide activities which are as follows.

Antifungal activity
Treatment of Aspergillus niger with essential oils from C. nardus, modifications in cytological structure of A. niger were observed, possibly caused by the interference of the essential oil with enzymes responsible for cell wall synthesis. (10) , (11)

Insecticide activity
The effect of volatile oils from C. nardus on the bruchid beetle, Callosobruchus maculates (F) introduced into cowpea seeds showed a drastic reduction in adult population of the beetle and their egglaying ability. (12) , (13) This could be due to the air vapors diffusing into the eggs and affecting the physiological and biochemical processes associated with embryonic development.

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  1) Cultivation

  2) Safety

  3) Essential Oil


  1. Jaganath, Indu Bala, Ng, Lean Teik. Herbs: The Green Pharmacy Of Malaysia: Vinpress; 2000.
  2. Guenther E. The essential oils. Van Nostrand. 1972.
  3. Ross IA. Medicinal plants of the world: chemical constituents, traditional and modern medicinal uses. Humana Press; 1999.
  4. Chowdhury JU, Yusuf M, Begum J, Mondello L, Previti P, Dugo G. Studies on the essential oil bearing plants of Bangladesh. Part IV. Composition of the leaf oils of three Cympobogon species: C. flexosus (Nees ex Steud.) Wats., C. nardus (L.) Rendle var. confertiflorus (Steud.) N.L. Bor and C. martini (Roxb.) Wats. var. martini. Journal of Essential Oil Research. 1998;10(3):301-6.
  5. Mahawal VS, Ali M. Volatile constituents of Cympobogon nardus (Linn.) Rendle. Flavour and Fragrance Journal. 2003;18(1):73-76.
  6. Burkill IH. A dictionary of the economic products of the Malay Peninsula, Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives for the Govts. Of Malaysia and Singapore, Kuala Lumpur. 1966.
  7. Salleh KM. Tumbuhan Ubatan Malaysia, Pusat Pengurusan Penyelidikan. Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. 2000.
  8. Jayaweera DMA. Medicinal Plants Part III, Publication of the National Science Council of Sri Lanka, Colombo. 1981.
  9. Ismail Z, Ismail N, Lassa J. Malaysian Herbal Monograph. Malaysian Monograph Committee. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. 200;2.
  10. De Billerbeck VG, Roques CG, Bessie(grave)re JM, Fonvielle JL, Dargent R. Effects of Cymbopogon nardus (L) W. Watson essential oil on the growth and metamorphosis of Aspergillus niger. Canadian Journal of Microbiology. 2001;47(1):9-17.
  11. Delespaul Q, DE Billerbeck VG, Roques CG, Michel G, Marquier-Vinuales C, Bessiere J-M. The antifungal activity of essential oils as determined by different screening methods. Journal of Essential Oil Research. 2000;12(2):256-266.
  12. Ketoh GK, Glitho AI, Huignard J. Susceptibility of the bruchid Callosobruchus maculates (Coleoptera: Bruchidae) and its parasite Dinarmus basalis (Hymenoptera: Pteromalidae) to three essential oils. Journal of Economic Entomology. 2002;95(1):174-82.
  13. Raja N, Albert S, Ignacimuthu S, Dorn S. Effect of plant volatile oils in protecting stored cowpea Vigna unguiculata (L) Walpers against Callosobruchus maculatus (F) (Coleoptera: Bruchidae) infestation. Journal of Stored Products Research. 2001;37(2):127-132.

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