Edition 49: November 2012
Essential oil of the Month
The oil that lets us relax in nature
Citronella also quells caustic speech and calms quick anger
MOST OF US associate the smell of Citronella oil with lazy summer nights in the garden. It might be a candle or coil burning on the alfresco table; or even your friend’s Tinderbox Personal Insect Repellent!
Regardless of the source, we largely associate the oil with one thing - keeping mosquitoes at bay.
And for good reason.
Citronella’s primary use has always been as an insect repellent against mosquitoes, sandflies and also fleas; and it was the main component used commercially before the toxic DDT and other modern insecticides.
Many ethnic cultures enjoyed citronella and still do, as an aromatic flavouring for food and drinks. It is used in Traditional Chinese medicine for arthritis. The leaves were used medicinally for fever, intestinal parasites, digestive and menstrual problems.
Citronella became fashionable in Europe in the 20th Century, and the first cargo of the oil was known as Oleum siree. It was, and still is, a common ingredient of insect repellent candles and merchandise. Citronella stimulates the functioning of the bladder, acting as a diuretic and helping to cleanse the body of toxic buildup and fat deposits.
Citronella acts as a general tonic for the whole body. Its balancing action is of particular help to the muscles of the stomach and intestines, aiding in the overall digestive process and improving the function of many of the main systems.
Blend citronella with tea tree and naouli to give the immune system a boost during colds, flu and minor infections.
Use in convalescence to help restore equilibrium to a body sick and tired of being tired. This recuperative blend is suitable for burning in the sick-room, adding to a warm bath or using in massage. Add citronella to other massage blends to assuage aches and pains.
The nervous system benefits from citronella as it helps combat fatigue, headaches, migraines and neuralgia. Blend it with lavender or peppermint for this purpose.
Massage the feet with refreshing citronella to combat tiredness and certainly quell bad odour.
Citronella essential oil has emmenagogue properties, which means that it can induce and regulate menstruation.
Because of this, it should not be used in high concentrations on pregnant women, though they may benefit from its calming effects when used in small quantities in simple aromatherapy applications.
Citronella is widely used in commercial products such as soaps, detergents, household goods and industrial fragrance. Used in a spray bottle, citronella oil can disinfect surfaces around the home. It's also a fungicidal, so it can be an excellent alternative to commercial cleaners meant for bathroom showers and other places that tend to grow moulds. Mix with clove oil for this purpose.
A blend to beat big bad bugs
CITRONELLA oil is a superlative insect repellent.
Mix citronella with cedarwood as an effective remedy against mosquito attacks. It is best employed in sprays and diffusers to create a repellent environment that is non-toxic to breathe.
The length of repellency time varies with the inert ingredients and the amount of citronella oil in the product. It works on insects without harming or killing them.
Citronella repels various specific insects including mosquitoes, black flies, fleas, and ticks. Its distinctive odour may make it difficult for some pests to locate a host.
It is also of use in blends for ridding dogs of fleas, add some to a shampoo base to de-flea your pets. It could also be used in moth repellent blends for linen cupboards and wardrobes.
Citronella clears the mind, uplifting it from depressive states by lending comfort and courage to confront and resolve conflicts in one’s life.
All of the trivial irritations and frustrations that make us speak out nastily are exposed in the light of citronella energy.
Citronella influences the mental body, transmuting frustration out of the throat chakra that causes caustic speech. The darkest recess of our psyche that withholds petty pessimistic emotions is cast with new fresh light, promoting a more joyful experience and greater acceptance.
When we confront and witness these lurking, obstructing irritations, our whole vibrational frequency is raised and they are less likely to form into full-blown anger. Taking care of all these little conflicts pre-emptively, is very soothing for the nervous system. It is interesting to note that mosquitoes are considered to be attracted to anger in a person’s energy field, as they are to excessive sugar in the blood.
Feelings of anger can create craving for sweets and overloading the adrenal glands with sugar switches on the sympathetic nervous system.
Citronella deals with the roots of this craving, letting us look more closely at the details of how we get wound up and so “stuck”. Citronella calms the personality to be less verbally combative, encouraging different attitudes and courses of action.
Burn citronella in an aromatiser to not only keep bugs away, but to clear residues of anger and irritability vibrating in space. Use the oil on the liver and large intestine meridians to calm feelings of anger.
Citronella, the natural bug deterrent, allows us to completely relax in nature, unhindered by pesky irritations. For to completely relax in nature and embrace its extraordinary beauty, is truly healing.
Latin name: Citronella winterianus (Javan) or Cymbopogon nardus (Sri Lankan)
Other names: Andropogon nardus, Citronella citratus, Citronella flexuosus
Family: Poaceae (Granineae)
Scent: The aroma is said to be like its relatives lemongrass and palmarosa. There are two main types of citronella oil, Sri Lankan and Javan - both of which are extracted from the fresh, part-dried or dried grass by steam distillation. The Sri Lankan citronella is yellowy brown and has a fresh, lemony smell, with sweet rose-like undertones. The other recognisable oil is produced in Java (Maha Pengiri citronella), which yields twice as much oil as the Sri Lankan type. It is more lemony and slightly woodier in its smell and colourless to pale yellow. The Javan oil is preferred for its insecticidal properties. This type of citronella oil is used as a starting material for isolating the constituents: geraniol and citronellal used in commercial/industrial perfumery.
Blends well with: Geranium, lemon, bergamot, orange, cedarwood, pine, lavender, peppermint, petitgrain, sage.
Origins: The Citronella nardus plant is a native of Sri Lanka where it is extensively cultivated in the southern part of the country. There are many related species of scented grasses and this tall, fragrant, perennial grass is thought to have derived from the wild growing “managrass” found in Sri Lanka. The Javan Citronella winterianus plant grows in many parts of Southeast Asia and is cultivated in the tropics; Vietnam, Africa, Argentina and Central America. The Sri Lankan citronella oil was the more widely produced citronella oil, until the beginning of this century. However, the Java citronella oil slowly began to show dominance in the market because of its higher yield of oil.
Uses: Citronella exerts astringent action on oily skin while helping to reduce perspiration and deodorising the skin. Citronella oil can be used on skin wounds to prevent infection and to help with the development of scar tissue; use in a calendula infused oil base fro this purpose. One can also use citronella oil as an anti-fungal to treat certain strains of fungus externally on your skin, scalp, toes or fingers.
Therapeutic properties: Antiseptic, antispasmodic, bactericidal, deodorant, diuretic, diaphoretic, (Induces sweating) febrifuge, (lowers temperature) emmenagogue, fungicidal, insecticide, stomachic, tonic, vermifuge (expels worms),
Precautions: Non-toxic, non-irritant, however it could may cause irritation in some individuals.
What Oil is That?
Potent oil best left to professionals
PENNYROYAL has been used in folk medicine from ancient times, despite being potentially very dangerous if consumed in excess.
Now primarily used as an insect repellent, pennyroyal was originally used as a blood purifier and to sweeten water, with its purifying properties.
The herb was known to be an anti-hysteric, due to its effect on nerves and brain, and it was used to help control hysteria, convulsions, unconscious violent behaviour and fainting.
Traditionally, pennyroyal the herb itself has been in use as a gum-strengthener, which is probably due to its astringent properties, however the oil is too toxic for such a purpose.
The herb was also used in folk medicine as a digestive for intestinal colic, flatulence and dyspepsia, for which it is still listed in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. This property is also present in its essential oil as it promotes digestion by stimulating secretion of digestive juices, however there are safer oils for this purpose (an experienced practitioner should only make decisions to use this oil medicinally).
Pennyroyal oil can also be used in soap, massage oils, pot-pourri, air fresheners, incense and laundry. It is commonly used as a low-cost fragrance in detergents.
A strongly anti-bacterial essential oil, a small amount added to a general antiseptic wash could be effective.
A small amount of pennyroyal used judiciously and well diluted with other oils would be effective in arthritic and rheumatic joint rubs. It helps break up uric acid and acts as a rubefacient, bringing fresh blood and warmth to the affected areas with a slight numbing effect on the nerves.
As it promotes blood circulation it is also beneficial in cases of spasms, flatulence and digestive sickness, being warming and calming to the stomach.
If used in massage, pennyroyal oil stimulates production of certain hormones such as oestrogen and progesterone and thus promotes delayed menstruation and encourages regularity; however, other oils are a safer option - especially if pregnancy is a possibility.
Latin name: Mentha Pulegium
Other names: Pudding Grass
Family: Labiatae (mint)
Scent: Strong, minty and herbaceous odour with earthy undertones. The colourless or pale yellow essential oil of pennyroyal is derived by steam distillation of the fresh plant or slightly dried leaves.
Blends well with: citronella, sage, geranium, lavender, rosemary.
Origins: Pennyroyal is a perennial creeper herb that is native to Europe. It loves to grow around waterways and grows to 50cm with smooth roundish stalks, highly aromatic grey-green oval leaves and small pale purple flowers. It is cultivated mainly in Spain, Morocco, Portugal, Tunisia, Turkey and Yugoslavia. There are varying species around the world. The oil is mainly employed as a source of natural pulegone, which has concentrations of up to 96 per cent in the Moroccan pennyroyal oil.
Uses: The primary use of pennyroyal is as an insect repellent and this oil is very efficient when used in fumigants, sprays and oil blends for this purpose. It is wise to use it in synergy with other suitable insecticides such as lemongrass, lavender, cedarwood and geranium.
Properties: An experienced practitioner should only make decisions to use this oil medicinally; otherwise the uses for this strong smelling oil are quite limited. All the uses listed below are commonly attributed to the herb and the oil, bearing this in mind. Anti hysteric, anti microbial, anti septic, astringent, carminative, digestive, emmenogogue (promotes menstruation), abortifacient, antispasmodic, stimulant, rubefacient: anti rheumatic & anti arthritic, decongestant, depurative, insecticide.
Precautions: Pennyroyal essential oil is an oral toxin. This oil is high in pulegone, a constituent that makes it potentially very poisonous if consumed; thus it should never be taken internally.
Pennyroyal essential oil is a strong abortifacient and not to be used during pregnancy. Being too hazardous, it must never be used to terminate an unwanted pregnancy and could cause fetal damage and potentially cause severe kidney or liver damage if used in excess.
Use this oil mindfully when applying it externally.