The plant is native to Sri Lanka but grows well in any warm and temperate climate. China has become a major grower and distiller of Citronella.
The essential oil is obtained by steam distillation of the grass leaves.
Citronella is harvested for essential oil production all year round, but in common with many plants the yield of essential oil is higher in the summer months and even more so when the grass is picked in the early morning. The grass is left to grow until it’s around a metre tall and should be harvested before the flowers bloom. It’s most commonly harvested by hand, preferably on a dry day. Mechanical harvesting is possible but results are generally regarded as better when the grass has been hand harvested. Once picked the grass is left to wilt for a day although great care must be taken to avoid any fermentation. The essential oil is then obtained by steam distillation of the grass leaves.
Antiseptic, bactericidal, deodorant, diaphoretic, insecticide, parasitic, tonic and stimulant.
Citronella is mainly found as an ingredient in candles, perfumery, detergents and soaps. It is little used in aromatherapy but is useful for adulterating other oils. There are some claims that it's a good oil to use in massage blends for rheumatism.
Its antiseptic and bactericidal properties mean it's occasionally used (on its own or blended with others) to fight cold and flu symptoms.
Citronella may be added to a burner or vaporiser to ward off airborne viruses and germs. You may also find that it assists in lifting the spirits and any feeling of weakness. According to EU legislation we are not allowed to say that it's good for repelling insects but if you are one of the thousands of people who use it for this purpose then there is no reason to stop doing so.
When added to massage blends Citronella is thought to assist in relieving muscular aches and pains. It may also be useful in combating smelly and excessively sweaty feet. It's also sometimes used in skin care preparations for oily skin.
Citronella has been shown to a very useful oil to use in conjunction with pets. Research has shown that the oil is effective in stopping dogs from persistent barking when used in a citronella collar. The collar contains a microphone and when the dog barks a spray of Citronella is released. The dog finds this so repellent that it quickly learns to stop barking. This is a natural and less unpleasant treatment than the electric shock collars often used in this scenario.
There is also evidence that a spray of Citronella can stop pets from destroying household items such as furniture.
You may find that Citronella blends particularly well with benzoin, cloves, coriander, cardamom, frankincense, ginger, grapefruit, lavender, rosemary and thyme.