All About Citronella Essential Oil: Uses & FAQ

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Citronella essential oil comes from the Gramineae botanical family.

With an intensity of 3, citronella essential oil has a sweet, citrusy, slightly fruity aroma.

Citronella Essential Oil is a fantastic oil well known for chasing away annoying mosquitos and other bugs. It is a key element in our DIY outdoor spray that is perfect to take camping or hiking (or if your yard is like mine and infested with flying blood-sucking bugs during the summer months). It is also great for supporting muscle, bone, and skin health, emotional wellbeing, and is stimulating to diffuse or wear.

Citronella essential oil is great for helping support your muscles and skin... plus is great for enjoying the outdoors without being annoyed

Chemical composition of citronella essential oil

Citronella is rich in

  • Alcohols (>35%): geraniol, citronnellol, and borneol
  • Phenols: methyl ether, methyl isoeugenol, and isoeugenol
  • Monoterpenes: d-limonene
  • Aldehydes: citronella

17 ways to use citronella essential oil

Citronella's primary use is as an insect repellant, though it does have other benefits and uses as well that specifically help support muscles, bones, skin, and emotions.

** PLEASE NOTE ** Don't be fooled by clever marketing. Not all essential oils are created equally. Make sure you're not wasting your money on fake or altered essential oils (even if they're labeled as “pure essential oil”). Don't miss our explosive report outlining the dirty little secrets of the essential oil industry to ensure you're not wasting your money on brands of oils that legally mislead you through deceitful marketing practices.

  • Support your muscles and bones, and your skin with citronella
  • Stimulating in the diffuser
  • Outdoor Annoyance-Free Spray: 10 drops citronella, 15 drops lavender, 10 drops lemongrass, 10 drops geranium, and 5 drops patchouli in a 4oz spray bottle filled 1 part witch hazel and 3 parts water. Shake and spray as needed.
  • Dilute 1 drop of citronella essential oil with 1 ml of your favorite carrier oil and apply topically before and during outdoor activities.
  • Use Citronella's bright scent to sweeten a custom fragrance or diffusion blend.
  • Dilute and apply topically to refresh and moisturize skin.
  • Use as an alternative to deodorant by using 2 drops each of tea tree and citronella in a tsp of coconut oil (or your favorite carrier oil), and applying to your armpits
  • Combine with Tea Tree essential oil in your favorite DIY deodorant for added strength.
  • Create a DIY floating candle bowl to create a peaceful ambiance and pleasant aroma during outdoor parties.
  • Dilute and apply to your abdomen to relieve intense menstrual cramps
  • Purify the air and reduce odors in your home by diffusing
  • Add to your favorite homemade bathroom cleaner to combat mildew
  • Clam your mind and reduce overwhelming feelings by diffusing when stressed
  • Dilute and rub over your hands or other joints to help reduce aching stiffness
  • Itch Relief Roller Blend: 3 drops tea tree, 2 drops each of lemongrass, clove, geranium, orange, and citronella, with 1 drop each of eucalyptus and peppermint essential oils in a 10 ml roller bottle filled the rest of the way with your favorite carrier oil. (keep in mind this blend containing orange is photosensitive and should not be used in a place on your body that will be exposed to direct sunlight within the following 12 hours)
  • Add to your favorite pet shampoo to help with bug prevention
  • Add citronella to your favorite diffusing jewelry to help ward off unwanted bugs and lighten your mood
  • Diffusing may help reduce headaches
  • DIY Your own Outdoor Spray: 8oz glass bottle, 6oz witch hazel, 1 cap of Thieves Cleaner, 10 drops purification essential oil blend, 10 drops each of peppermint and citronella essential oils, and 5 drops each of rosemary and kunzea essential oils

​*** Citronella should not be used on children under 6, and should be diluted heavier than usual on children over 6

A carrier oil can be any cold-pressed, seed-based oil (ideally organic and unrefined). This includes most cooking oil, like coconut oil, avocado oil, and olive oil. Personally, we LOVE using sweet almond oil, grapeseed oil, and the V6 Carrier oil (made by Young Living). This is the best way to dilute your essential oils for topical use.

Spiritual uses and benefits of citronella essential oil

  • Spiritually cleansing
  • Diffuse or use in a homemade room spray to clear negative energies and purify your life force
  • Encourages expression… perfect for writers, artists, musicians, and content creators
  • Stimulates the Throat Chakra to clarify communication efforts

DIY Diffuser Blends using Citronella essential oil

  • Beach Bonfire Diffuser Blend: 3 drops cedarwood, 2 drops each rosemary and sandalwood, and 1 drop citronella
  • Bye-Bye Summer Flies Outdoor Diffuser Blend: 5 drops each lavender and tea tree with 3 drops each of eucalyptus and citronella
  • Go Away Bugs Diffuser Blend: 2 drops each spearmint, peppermint, citronella, and lemongrass essential oils
  • The Great Outdoors Diffuser Blend: 3 drops citronella with 2 drops each of wintergreen, blue cypress, and pine
  • Night on the Patio Diffuser Blend: 3 drops each lemongrass and citronella with 2 drops each of peppermint and thyme
  • Peaceful Nights Diffuser Blend: 3 drops each geranium, patchouli, and citronella essential oils
  • Summer Nights Diffuser Blend: 3 drops each Purification, citronella, and peppermint
  • Wildflower Wanderlust Diffuser Blend: 4 drops citronella, 3 drops lavender, 2 drops patchouli, and 1 drop geranium

Safety info for using citronella essential oil

Be sure to ALWAYS dilute citronella before applying it to your skin with your favorite carrier oil. I highly recommend grapeseed oil because it absorbs quickly, but any cold-pressed seed oil will work just fine (think coconut, sweet almond, jojoba, sunflower, apricot seed, olive, avocado… etc)

  • DO NOT apply around or on your eyes, in your nose, in your ears, or on a sensitive area.
  • If you do accidentally get citronella essential oil in your eyes DO NOT RINSE WITH WATER!!! Oil and water doesn't mix, and the water will make it worse. Use a carrier oil instead.
  • Citronella essential oil IS NOT a photosensitive oil, so you do not need to worry about sun exposure after application.
  • Repeated use of citronella on the same location without proper dilution may cause sensitization and skin irritation.
  • Inhaling too much citronella in too short of a time frame may result in dizziness, lightheadedness, and may cause an increase in heart rate. Be sure to diffuse safely!
  • While citronella is classified by the US FDA as “generally regarded as safe” for ingesting, we do not promote ingesting citronella essential oil.

Which oils does citronella blend with the best?

Citronella essential oil blends really well with bergamot, cedar wood, geranium, lemon, orange, and pine essential oils.

Frequently Asked Questions about Citronella Essential Oil

What is a good alternative to citronella essential oil?

Lemongrass makes an excellent replacement for citronella essential oil.

Lemongrass and citronella are closely related (the citronella plant was actually derived from lemongrass long ago), and often can be used interchangeably. For more information about lemongrass, see our 40+ uses for lemongrass essential oil article.

Is citronella essential oil safe to use while pregnant?

Yes, if used cautiously in very small doses.

If you're using oils while pregnant, I highly recommend this reference guide. It contains some great advice for using essential oils while pregnant, plus some DIY Recipes you'll love too.

Is citronella essential oil safe for kids and babies?

Generally, yes for children over 6.

While essential oils may be safe for kids to use, please do not have your child use an essential oil internally without being under the direct guidance of a naturopathic doctor.

Can you be allergic to citronella essential oil?

There are a few reasons why you would experience an allergy-like reaction to essential oils. Usually, this is caused by not diluting the oil you're applying (or not diluting it enough). Please refer to our essential oils and allergies article for more in-depth information.

Is citronella essential oil safe for dogs and cats?

Citronella essential oil is safe to use with your dogs. You should avoid using citronella essential oil around cats.

If you're using essential oils around your family pets, be sure to allow them access out of the room and into a room where you're not diffusing. This way they're able to escape when they feel they've had enough. Please also consider picking up a reference guide specific to using essential oils with animals.

Should you use citronella essential oil if you're taking medication?

This is a very personal question, and really depend on which medications you're taking. I have an entire article dedicated to known medication contraindications that I highly recommend you check out… in addition to having a lengthy conversation with your local aromatherapist or pharmacist.

How often should you use citronella essential oil?

This is also a personal question. This depends on what you're using it for and how experienced you are using it. For beginners, I recommend only diffusing for 30 minutes at a time, then giving your body an hour break. If you diffuse too much, you could end up light headed. Personally, I have a diffuser running most of the day intermittently (using the intermittent setting on our diffuser). Or I'll wear a piece of diffusing jewelry with 3 drops of oil on it throughout the day (those 3 drops usually last a few days). Check out our article about diffusing essential oils safely for more info.

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Where to Buy High Quality Citronella Essential Oil

We purchase our oils through Young Living because they set a higher standard for essential oils than what the rest of the industry expects. Their Seed to Seal guarantee is unmatched, and shows their dedication to a farm-to-table type of approach.

Warning: DO NOT purchase your Citronella essential oil through Amazon or similar websites!

Any website that allows anyone to sell on, such as Amazon, eBay, Walmart… etc… are terrible places to purchase essential oils. While you may get a “good deal,” knowing who you're purchasing from is difficult. There are many counterfeit essential oils being sold that are causing health ailments, major skin reactions, and a lot of misery. These are NOT high quality essential oils. They are fakes being sold purely for profit.

I also do NOT recommend purchasing from grocery stores, Walmart, Target, department stores, or drug stores. Many of the brands found at those stores have been proven to not actually contain any essential oil (which is perfectly legal to do).

I STRONGLY suggest you know the company that makes your oils, how the plants are cared for, what they do for distilling, how and how many times each batch is tested (and when), and their bottling processes. Many companies throw out fancy language for marketing purposes, but actually have no clue how their oils are made because the oils come from a broker (which are almost always diluted in solvents). Transparency is key.

I highly encourage you to check out our How To Find Quality Essential Oils post for in-depth information about why quality matters, and what to look for.

Where we purchase our citronella essential oil, and why

We purchase our citronella essential oil through Young Living because they set a higher standard for essential oils than what the rest of the industry expects. Their Seed to Seal guarantee is unmatched, and shows their dedication to a farm-to-table type of approach. This company has proven to me time and time again to be the closest thing out there to buying from your local farmer. They are totally transparent in their processes, and even open their farms so you can see for yourself (or involve yourself in the process).

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