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Cymbopogon nardus


Cymbopogon nardus

[span class=alert]In regards to the Traditional Use and Therapeutic Action sections of Essential Oils, the oils are rated as is standard practice in the French school of aromatherapy and others. The ratings ranked from one (+) to four (++++) with four indicating the highest value, indicate the oil’s therapeutic value from a practicing clinician’s point of view. The French rating system mentioned are obtained from this book reference entitle ‘Les Cahiers Pratiques D'Aromatherapie Selon L'Ecole Francaise’ (Authors: Francine Baudry, Pascal Debauche & Dominique Baudoux). However, further clarification might be required and will be updated once additional information of the rating system is obtained.[/span]

Family Name


Genus Name


Vernacular Name

Citronella, citronella grass, nard grass, Ceylon-type citronella

Original Habitat

The Citronella plant can grow from one to two metres tall. This grassy plant is native to warm climates such as India and Sri Lanka but now grows throughout several warm climates worldwide. The grasses, from which the essential oils are produced, are green in colour and grow to about one metre in length.

Plant Part Used

Dried Grass


Citronella essential oil is found in various foods and beverages. It is also used in the fragrance industry in both perfumes and in body care products. In therapeutic aromatherapy it is used as a single oil and in formulation that is condition or purpose specific.


This steam-distilled, thin oil has a sweet citrus, grassy, slightly fruity aroma with a medium note.  Citronella essential oil ranges from a pale yellow to an almost amber colour.[1]

Chemical Constituents

Cis-sabinene hydrate
Germacren-4-ol [2][3]

Medicinal Uses


Antifungal- Studies have shown antifungal activity of C. nardus essential oil. This activity was seen against Aspergillus niger.[4] A separate study found that when combined with basil essential oil (Ocimum basilicum) the mixture was effective against the fungi Fusarium proliferatum and Colletotrichum musae, thereby illustrating the synergistic action of the two oils.[5]

Anti-parasitic- In Africa, farmers lose crops during the harvest to such parasites as Callosobruchus maculatus (known as cowpea weevil). Citronella essential oil was studied as a deterrent to these parasites. The results demonstrated activity against the parasites and decreased the population leading researchers to conclude that this oil may be useful during the harvesting season as a paraciticide.[2]

Cytotoxicity- The potential cytotoxic activity of C. nardus and C. citratus essential oils were tested against the human epidermic cell line HaCat. Although C. citratus oil was shown to be more effective, both oils demonstrated some cytotoxic activity.[6]

Traditional Use

Citronella oil is relatively new to clinical aromatherapy as it has been primarily developed for the fragrance industry.  It has little traditional use information but is currently used for the following:

Headache, migraine rheumatic pain+++
Digestive complaints+
Insect repellant+++
Fatigue++ [1]

 Insect Repellency-  Citronella is commonly used as an insect repellant. When compared to thirty-eight other essential oils, citronella showed repellency for 2 hours when applied undiluted to the forearm of subjects.[7]

Contraindications and Precautions

Citronella essential oil may cause skin irritation at different concentrations.

Not to be used by pregnant or nursing women.

Not to be used internally.


[span class=alert]Keep out of reach of children as oils are highly concentrated.Essential oils are irritating to the eyes.  Avoid contact with eye area.Always dilute essential oils with carrier oil, lotion, cream or gel even when using in diffuser or bath.Essential oils are sometimes prescribed to be used internally, but should only be used internally under professional supervision.[/span]

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  1) Cultivation

  2) Malaysian Herbal Plant

  3) Safety


  1. Lis-Balchin. Aromatherapy Science: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. Pharmaceutical Press; 2006.164.
  2. Ketoh GK. Susceptibility of the bruchid Callosobruchus maculatus (Coleoptera: Bruchidae) and its parasitoid Dinarmus basalis (Hymenoptera: Pteromalidae) to three essential oils. J Econ Entomol. Feb2002;95(1):174-182.
  3. Rendle VS. Volatile constituents of Cymbopogon nardus (Linn.) Flav Frag J. 2002;18(1):73-78.
  4. de Billerbeck VG. Effects of Cymbopogon nardus (L.) W. Watson essential oil on the growth and morphogenesis of Aspergillus niger. Can J Microbiol. Jan2001;47(1):9-17.
  5. Anthony S. Fungal pathogens associated with banana fruit in Sri Lanka, and their treatment with essential oils. Mycopathologia. 2004 Jan;157(1):91-97.
  6. Koffi K. In vitro cytotoxic activity of Cymbopogon citratus L. and Cymbopogon nardus L. essential oils from Togo. Bangladesh J Pharmacol. 2009;4:29-34.
  7. Trongtokit Y. Comparative repellency of 38 essential oils against mosquito bites. Phytother Res. Apr2005;19(4):303-309.

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