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In all there are more than 30 species of Cymbopogon. Citronella is native to southeast Asia and the perennial tropical grass, with tall blue-green, lemon-scented leaves, is grown commercially in Sri Lanka, India, Burma, Indonesia and Java. The leaves have been used for their fragrance and value as a medicine for centuries. Citronella is renowned for it's use as an excellent insect repellent. The Chinese use the leaves more specifically for rheumatism. Other uses have included fevers, intestinal parasites, digestive and menstrual problems.
Citronella grass is the source of commercial citronella oil. Steam distillation of the fresh, partly dried, and wholly dried grass is used to extract the oil. Light, fresh, soothing and uplifting, it is a natural deodorizer. The oil has a yellow-brown color, and because of the powerful, slightly sweet, lemony aroma, is commonly used in the perfume and soap industry. Inexpensive soaps sold in Asian markets are scented with citronella oil. The oil is also mixed with other vegetable oils and used in massage.
Avon Skin-so-Soft, which has been shown to be an effective insect repellent, contains citronella oil. Citronella candles and incense, however, are less effective. The fragrant oil extracted from citronella grass is much used in aromatherapy. It has a top note and blends well with geranium, lemon, bergamot, bitter orange, pine lemongrass, and cedarwood. Many people find that the vapours help with fatigue, headaches & migraines as well as cases of neuralgia and depression. Practitioners claim it is a stimulant when inhaled or rubbed on the skin, and an antiseptic that can be used to sterilize food preparation surfaces. It is reported that citronella oil also repels cats.
The actions of citronella include antiseptic, antibacterial, antidepressant, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, deodorant, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, fungicidal, insecticide, parasiticide, stimulant, stomachic, tonic (uterine, neurotonic, cardiotonic), vermifuge.
The antispasmodic action helps with gastro-intestinal distress including stomach ache and colitis. It's antibacterial and vermifugal properties find use with intestinal parasites. It is reportedly useful with rheumatism and arthritis pain. This oil can help with minor infection but is more commonly known for its abilitiy to cure colds and flu. This oil is very helpful with excessive perspiration and in conditioning oily skin and hair.
Care: Some individuals experience dermatitis from contact with citronella grass, particularly the concentrated oils. Although the oil is virtually non-toxic it should NEVER be put directly on the skin. It should always be mixed with another oil. Inhaling the essential oil of citronella may increase the heart rate in some people. Avoid during pregnancy.