When it comes to essential oils, citronella oil is a name that’s bound to come up. Perhaps you’ve heard of citronella candles, which are often used in backyards to keep bugs away. But what exactly are the benefits of citronella oil?
Citronella oil is mainly used as a bug repellent. It can be mixed with water and vodka to make a homemade bug spray, or it can be mixed with wax to make bug-repelling candles. Citronella oil also has many health uses, including fighting infections, anxiety, and depression.
As you can see, citronella has many benefits that you can take advantage of. The good news is that citronella oil is actually very easy to obtain. Let’s take a look at some of the most important properties of citronella oil as well as how you can use it. We’ll also look at some alternative oils that have similar function.
What Is Citronella?
Citronella is a type of plant that many people choose to grow in their yards. Certain types of citronella have the ability to ward off mosquitoes (and they won’t scare off helpful bugs like bees).
Citronella also has uses in certain teas and desserts. Some people believe that citronella has the ability to treat intestinal, kidney, and respiratory issues, as well as wounds and fevers.
What Are the Different Types of Citronella?
When people say citronella, there are actually a few different plants they could be referring to. There’s citronella grass for one, and then there’s a variety of citronella geranium that many people refer to as a mosquito plant.
Despite these being two different plants with two different properties, they are both commonly referred to as citronella.
Citronella grass is the one that most people are thinking of when they refer to citronella. Citronella grass has mosquito-repelling properties and medicinal uses. Citronella geranium, or mosquito plant, surprisingly does not have mosquito-repelling properties, though it does give off a similar smell to citronella grass.
It also produces some attractive purple flowers, so it might still be useful if you’re looking for a beautiful addition to your garden. Mosquito plant is much larger than citronella grass, so it’s very difficult to get the two confused visually.
Does Citronella Repel Mosquitoes?
As mentioned earlier, citronella grass has very good mosquito-repellent properties, but citronella geranium does not, despite the fact that they give off the same scent.
This is because it’s not the citronella grass itself that scares off mosquitoes; instead, it’s the oil that’s inside the grass that possess these mosquito repellent properties. Citronella geranium doesn’t have this oil and therefore doesn’t repel mosquitoes.
Citronella oil won’t only repel mosquitoes. It can also repel many different kinds of flies and lice. In case you’re worried, citronella grass doesn’t scare off bees, so your garden will be safe with citronella around.
How to Make Citronella Oil
It’s important to note that because it’s the oil in the leaves that repels bugs — and not the leaves themselves — simply growing citronella in your garden will not be enough to ward off pests like mosquitoes. You will need to extract the oil from the leaves. In case you don’t know how, we’ll go over this quickly and simply so that you’ll be able to do it yourself.
How to Extract Citronella Oil
In order to extract citronella oil, you must first gather some citronella grass leaves. If your goal is to simply use the oil to protect yourself from mosquitoes, you can crush the leaves and then spread the resulting oil on your body. This will protect you from mosquitoes and other bugs for around 12 hours.
If you need larger quantities of the oil, all you need to do is place the leaves in a pressure cooker with a cup of olive oil. Turn on the cooker and wait for about four hours. Wait for the mixture to cool and then you can put it in a container of choice. You now have your own homemade citronella oil that can be used for any number of things.
Many people using essential oils find satisfaction from growing the plants themselves. However, if you don’t want to have to go through this process, citronella oil can also be purchased pretty easily.
Bottles of citronella oil usually go for around $15, and you don’t have to wait for the plant to grow. We recommend HIQILI’s Pure Citronella Oil (on Amazon).
How to Use Citronella Oil to Make Bug Spray
Now that you have your own homemade (or purchased) citronella oil, you can mix it with water and vodka to create a bug spray. All you need to do is mix two ounces of distilled or boiled water and an ounce of vodka. Add around 60 drops of your citronella oil and then mix. Put this into a spray bottle and you now have a homemade bug spray.
Be warned that this bug spray is only effective for around 2 hours, so you’ll need to reapply regularly. Due to its short effective time, it’s recommended that you mix using this citronella bug spray with some other means of protection such as a bug-repellent flower.
How to Make Citronella Candles With Citronella Oil
You can also use your homemade citronella oil to create citronella oil candles that will protect your outdoor area from most insects when burned. In order to do this, you’ll need some cans or jars that can hold melted wax, a glue gun or tape, a double boiler, old candle wax, wicks with tabs, and your citronella oil.
First, secure the wicks in your jars with either the glue or tape. Then, cut your wax into small flakes and place them into your double boiler. Put your stove on medium heat and allow the wax to fully melt. Once it’s melted, add one ounce of citronella oil and mix.
Turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool a little, but don’t let it cool long enough to solidify. Finally, pour the mixture into each of your cans or jars and let them cool in a cold environment for at least 48 hours.
Once you’ve followed these steps, you’ll have your own homemade citronella candles that you can use anytime. Not only will they keep mosquitoes away, but they’ll also give off that nice citrusy citronella smell.
Alternatives to Citronella
If for some reason you can’t get citronella or don’t want to wait for it to grow, there are several citronella alternatives that you can use. Let’s go through a few to help you decide which is right for you.
Lemongrass is one of the most popular citronella alternatives. Lemongrass has all of the bug-repelling properties that citronella grass has.
In fact, this plant is so similar to citronella that you can actually use it as a substitute for the citronella in our recipes for citronella bug spray and candles above. Try Siva Organics Lemongrass Oil (on Amazon) for this purpose.
Lemongrass also gives off that nice citrusy smell that citronella gives off. This is actually where the name “lemongrass” comes from.
Peppermint is yet another plant that is a very effective bug repellent. Simply crush up the leaves and then spread the result on your skin. But that’s not where peppermint’s benefits end. Peppermint can also be used as a mild pain-reliever.
All you have to do is extract peppermint oil by crushing the leaves again, and then add a few drops to a bottle of coconut oil (on Amazon). This is done because too much peppermint oil can cause skin irritation. Once you’ve mixed the oils, spread the mixture onto the pained areas, and your pain should lessen.
Lavender is good for people who want a bug-repelling plant that’s also colorful. Lavender develops beautiful purple flowers as well as an extremely pleasant scent that it commonly recreated for air fresheners. Lavender is also extremely calming to have around.
Cedar trees have been used to protect from insects all throughout history. Cedar oil (on Amazon) can be used as a citronella substitute in many citronella oil recipes.
Be careful when using cedar oil, since cedar allergies are very common. Make sure you and your family don’t have one before you start spreading it everywhere.
Rubbing garlic oil on your skin has been proven to be an effective way to keep insects away. Many people also claim that eating garlic also repels bugs, but there’s no research that proves this yet, so it’s recommended that you stick to using the oil.
Thyme Oil is another effective mosquito repellent. However, this one may be the least recommended of the options. Thyme oil only remains effective for about an hour, so you’ll have to reapply the oil very often.
Once again, you’ll need to dilute the oil before making it into a spray as thyme oil can irritate your skin if you use too much. This one is mainly recommended for people who need something to make a bug spray and already have thyme oil on hand.
If you’re not interested in messing with oils and just want something you can plant to keep mosquitoes and other bugs away, marigolds are a fantastic option. Marigolds have a wonderful scent that will not only keep flying insects away, but also lice and even rabbits.
If you have a vegetable garden, these flowers will be perfect for you. It’s also worth noting that marigolds are beautiful flowers to have in any garden.
This is yet another beautiful flower that can keep bugs out of your garden. Chrysanthemums can keep away pretty much all kinds of bugs, including ants, roaches, beetles, mites, silverfish, and ticks.
Other Ways You Can Benefit From Citronella
In this article, we’ve been focusing mainly on citronella’s bug-repellent properties, but this amazing plant is capable of so much more.
First off, citronella oil has a history of being used in aromatherapy to ward off signs of depression and anxiety. This is due to its extremely pleasant smell that can relax users to help them to calm down.
Citronella oil also has a history of being used to fight off infections in wounds. It is also believed to be able to fight off infections in the urethra, prostate, and kidneys.
Once again, citronella oil gives off a wonderful citrus-like smell. Citronella oil can be used to make deodorants and body sprays to make you smell nice. This will likely be small quantities of citronella oil though, as it can cause skin irritations in large amounts.
Gets Rid of Toxins
Applying citronella oil to your body can actually cause your body to sweat more. This will help it expel things like toxins, excess water, salt, and fats. This will leave you feeling healthier and lighter.