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Cymbopogon nardus


Andropogon nardus L., Andropogon confertiflorus Steud., Andropogon nilagiricus Hochs., Andropogon nardus L. subsp. nilagiricus Hack., Andropogon nardus L. var. luridus Hook., Andropogon thwaitesii (Hook.f) Willis, Cymbopogon confertiflorus (Steud.) Stapf., Cymbopogon thwaitesii (Hook.f) Willis, Cymbopogon nardus (L.) Rendle in Heirn var. confertiflorus (Steud.) Bor. [1]

Vernacular Names:

Malaysia: Serai Wangi
English:  Ceylon Citronella, Citronella Grass, Geranium Grass, Nardus Grass
China:  Ya Xiang Mao
Indonesia:  Serai Wangi
India:  Ganjni (Hindi), Guchcha (Sanskrit), Kamachipillu (Tamil), Kamakher (Bengali), Kama-kher, Kamakshikasuvu (Telkagu), Kamakshi-pillu (Malayalam)
Thailand:  Ta Khrai Hom (Central); Cha Khai Ma Khutt, Ta Khrai Ma Khutt (Northern); Ta Khrai Daeng (Nakhon Si Thammarat)
Vietnam:  Củ sả
Japan:  Kou suigaya, Seiron shitironera, Shitoronera, Shitoronera gurasu
French:  Citronelle, Citronnelle de Ceylan
Dutch:  Citroenmelisse
Portuguese:  Citronela de Ceilan, Citronela do Ceilão (Brazil), Lenabatu (Brazil)
German:  Ceyloncitronell, Citronellgras, Nardusgras
Italian:  Citronella di Ceylon
Danish:  Citronella, Lenabatugræs
Polish:  Palczatka szczetna
Spanish:  Zacate limón
Swedish:  Citronellagräs [3]

General Information

Description Cymbopogon nardus is a member of the Poaceae (Graminaceae). It is a tall, tufted perinnials; culms up to 2.5m tall. The leaf blade is harsh, scrabid and glaucous beneath and measures up to a meter long and 1.5cm wide, narrowing gradually at the base, and drooping for 1/3 of its length. The false panicle is large, linear, congested, interrupted, and measures up to 60cm long. The spatheoles are narrowly elliptic measures 10-25mm long, and russet in colour. The racemes measures 1-1.5cm long, ciliate with hairs measurin 0.5-3mm long and the lowest pedicel not swollen. The sessile spikelet oblong-elliptic in shape, measures 3.5-4.5mm long and 1 mm wide; lower glume flat or slightly concave on the back, with 0-3 intercrainal nerves, narrowly winged above; upper lemma bidentate, with or without an awn measuring 6-10mm long. [1]
Plant Part Used
Leaves, stems [2][3]
Chemical Constituents
Alpha-terpineol; betapinene; benzoic acid; borneol; L-borneol; bourbonene; camphene; L-camphene; camphor; β-caryophyllene; Δ3-carene; carvacrol; carvone; cinnamic aldehyde; capric acid; caprylic acid; carbone; citral; citronella oil; citronellal; citronellol; citronellyl acetate; citronellyl butyrate; coumarin; p-cymene; decanoic acid; delta-3-carene; elemol; eugenol; eugenol methyl ether; isoeugenol methyl ether;farnesol; formaldehyde; furfural; geraniol; geraniol acetate; geranyl acetate; geranyl butyrate; geranyl formate; hydrocyanic acid; isovaleraldehyde; lavandulol; limonene; D-limonene; L-limonene; limonene oxide; trans-limonene diol; linalool; linalyl acetate; menthol methyl heptenone; methylisoeugenol; methyl eugenol; methol; methyl isoeugenol; myrcene; nerol; nerolidol; ocimene; cis-ocimene; trans-ocimene; octyl alcohol; patchoulene; phellandrene, D-α-phellandrene; D-β-phellandrene; phenylethyl alcohol; α-pinene; β-pinene; α-pinene; sabinene; safrole; sesquiterpenoids; γ-terpenene; α-terpenene; terpineol, α-terpineol; terpineols; terpenin-4-ol; terpinolene; α-thujene; tricyclene and vanillin
Traditional Used
C. nardus is grown today mainly for the citronella oil that is produces. This oil is used in the fragrance and flavours industry. In the fragrance industry citronella oil is used to enhance the floral scents in perfumes, soaps and toilet water. It is also used in insect repellent products.  The plant is considered anodyne, carminative, dentifrice, diaphoretic, disinfectant, insecticide, insect repellent, rubefacient, stimulant and sudorific. It is being used by tropical societies for the treatment of various diseases. 
In Malaysia the Malay traditional midwives add C. nardus leaves in a decoction which is used to bathe women after delivery. It is considered a diaphoretic which would induce sweating in an attempt to invigorate the women after the process of delivery and remove toxins from the body. It is included in steam baths. As a vaginal wash the leaves of C. nardus is boiled together with the leaves of Gendarussa vulgaris and Piper betel. The decoction is used to cleanse the genitalia after each micturation. The leaves is also included together with leaves of Blumea balsamifera, Morinda citrifolia and Languas galanga in the wrappings of heated stones which is applied over the uterus (a process called “bertungku”) to enhance the involution of the uterus. For the treatment of postpartum headache and the avoidance of “angin meroyan” the leaves of C. nardus is grind together with the seeds of Nigella sativa and used as a poultice on the head. [2] 
The oil extracted from the leaves of C. nardus is considered an emmenagogue. In Thailand the stem is considered an abortifacient. [3] The oil could also be used as a lactagogue.  C. nardus oil is rubbed over the abdomen to relieve abdominal distension and stomachache. For diarrhoea and epigastric pain the leaves of the plant together with those of Andrographis paniculata is boiled and the decoction is given together with a teaspoonful of honey. [4]  The leaves of C. nardus is included in a decoction for cough together with the rind of Citrus nobilis Lour. and rhizome of Zingiber officinale. In Guyana the leaves alone are boiled and used to treat colds and cough. [4] [5]  Citronella oil has been used as an antiseptic and is known to have antifungal properties. It has been incorporated in aromatherapy bath as a skin cleanser. However, due to its mild irritant effects to the skin small amounts of the oil should only be used. [6] 

Pre-Clinical Data

Antimicrobial activity 
In a screening exercise to evaluate the antibacterial activity of 21 essentials oils against six bacterial species, it was found that citronella oil was able to inhibit the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Proteus vulgaris and Escherichia coli in a dose dependent manner. It appears that the Gram negative bacteria were more susceptible to Citronella oil than the Gram positive ones. [7] When tested against Pseudomonas putida a bacteria responsible for deterioration of meat, Citronella oil showed a high antibacterial activity. [8] The essential oil of C. nardus has some inhibitory effects on methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), when they did the test on 91 essential oils. [9]  The antifungal activity of essential oil of C. nardus was done and it was found that the two active compounds which were able to completely inhibit the growth of various species of Aspergillus, Penicillium and Eurotium were citronellal and linalool. [10]  The anthelmintic properties of C. nardus had found that the essential oil of this plant was comparatively more active than Piperazine. [11] However, the methanol extract of the leaves of C. nardus did not show any effects on Ascaris lumbricoides. [12] 
Cytotoxicity activity 
A comparative study of the cytotoxic activity of essential oils of C. nardus and Cymbopogon citratus showed that the latter was more effective. This is attributed to the higher content of neral and geranial in the essential oil of Cymbopogon citratus. [13]  Toxicities It has not been known to be toxic when ingested unless there is pulmonary aspiration which could cause aspiration pneumonia. The ingestion of an estimated 25ml of citronella oil by a 16-month old child was not associated with any systemic toxicity. [14] However, older documentation seems to associate ingestion of citronella oil with respiratory distress, hypotension, and subsequent death. [15] There have been reports of contact dermatitis following exposure to cosmetics containing the closely related compound hydrocitronellal. [16] It was reported that a 21 month old child died after taking three teaspoonfuls of a preparation containing citronella oil. The child developed cyanosis, seizures and vomiting before dying on the 5th hour. [17] 

Clinical Data

Clinical Trials
No documentation
Adverse Effects in Human
There have been reports of allergic reaction to citronella oil. [18] Those with sensitive skin should avoid its use.  
Used in Certain Conditions
Pregnancy / Breastfeeding
The use of Citronella oil should be avoided during pregnancy. However, it can be used to stimulate milk flow for lactating mothers. [14]
Age Limitations
Neonates / Adolescents
No documentation
No documentation
Chronic Disease Conditions
No documentation


Interactions with drugs No documentation Interactions with Other Herbs / Herbal Constituents No documentation


Contraindications No documentation Case Reports No documentation

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  1) Cultivation

  2) Malaysian Herbal Plant

  3) Essential Oil


  1. M. D. Dassanayake, Francis Raymond Fosberg. A revised handbook to the flora of Ceylon Volume 8. Boca Raton: CRC Press; 1994.464.
  2. A. Noraida. Penyembuhan semula jadi dengan herba. Kuala Lumpur: PTS Litera Utama; 2005.214-215.
  3. R.F. Norman and B. Nuntavan. Thai Medicinal Plants Recommended for Primary Health Care System. Bangkok: Medicinal Plant Information Center; 1992.143–145.
  4. H. Arief. Tumbuhan Obat & Khasiatnya 3. Jakarta: Niaga Swadaya; 2008.72.
  5. A.L. Deborah, D.A. Charles, O.T. Ulric. A guide to the medicinal plants of coastal Guyana. London: Commonwealth Secretariat Publications; 1992.98.
  6. K. Erich. Aromatherapy Handbook for Beauty, Hair, and Skin Care. Rochester: Inner Traditions International; 1991.28.
  7. P. Seenivasan, J. Minickkam and I. Savarimuthu. In vitro antibacterial activity of some plant essential oils . BMC: Complementary and Alternative Medicine; 2006.6:39.
  8. O. Mounia, C. Stéphane, S. Linda and L. Monique. Antimicrobial effects of selected plant essential oils on the growth of a Pseudomonas putida strain isolated from meat. Meat Science. June2006; 73(2):236-244.
  9. C. Sue, Y. Garyu, O. Craig and N. Karen. Inhibition of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) by essential oils.Flavour and Fragrance Journal. 2009; 23:444 –449.
  10. N. Kazuhiko, S.A. Najeeb, Y. Tadshi, T.T.N. Huong and T. Gassinee. Chemical Composition and Antifungal Activity of Essential Oil from Cymbopogon nardus (Citronella Grass). JARQ. 2003;37(4): 249-252.
  11. K.S. Chandrashekar and A.B. Joshi. Chemical composition and anthelmintic activity of essential oils of three Cymbopogon species of South Canara, India. J.Saudi Chem Soc. 2006. 10(1): 109-112.
  12. I. Tuwangye and D. Olila. The Anthelmintic Activity of Selected Indigenous Medicinal Plants Used by the Banyankole of Western Uganda. Journal of Animal and Veterinary Advances. 2006. 5(8): 712 – 717.
  13. K. Koffi, S. Komla, G. Catherine, R. Christine, C. Jean-Pierre and N. Laurence. In vitro cytotoxic activity of Cymbopogon citratus L. and Cymbopogon nardus L. essential oils from Togo, Bangladesh. J Pharmacol.2009;4: 29-34. 
  14. W.A. Temple, N.A. Smith, M. Beasley. Management of oil of cintronella poisoning. Clinical Toxicology.1991;29:257 – 262. 
  15. A.K. Mant. Assoication proceeding VI. A case of poisoning by oil of citronella. Med. Sci. Law. London: Burnsbury Publishing; 1961.1:170 – 171.
  16. C.D. Calnan. Unusual hydrocitronellal perfume dermatitis. Denmark: Contact Dermatitis; 1979. 5:123
  17. C.D. Richard. Medical toxicology Lippincott. Philadelphia:Williams and Wilkins;2004.1688.
  18. M. Brigitte. Healing Herbal Teas: A Complete Guide to Making Delicious, Healthful Beverages. Laguna Beach: Basic Health Publications, Inc.; 2006.121-122.

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