BETTER air freshener: The fragrant benefits of citronella oil

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citronella-oil(NaturalHealth365) That scent of linen or lavender from your favorite “air freshener” may be comforting, but (in too many cases) toxic chemicals are lurking under that pleasant fragrance.  These include such “nasties” as phthalates, acetone, benzene and formaldehyde – compounds which have been linked to migraine headaches, asthma, and even birth defects and cancer.  But, today, we’ll focus on citronella, a better alternative to toxic scents.

Citronella, an essential oil made from an Asian grass, is a non-toxic alternative to the “chemical cocktail” contained within air freshener sprays, gels and candles.  Antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral, citronella even contains terpenes that were shown in one early study to inhibit the growth of liver cancer cells, causing scientists to praise citronella’s potential as a future cancer therapy.

To discover the many ways to use citronella oil for your house – and your health – keep reading.

Refresh your home naturally

Use a spray bottle to combine citronella oil with water, in a ratio of 10 to 15 drops of oil per ounce of water. Shake well, then spritz unpleasant odors away.

Because essential oils don’t dissolve well in water, you may need to shake the bottle often.  In addition, you can add a natural emulsifier such as Solubol to promote mixing.

For a non-toxic antibacterial wipe for counters and tabletops, add 5 to 10 drops of citronella oil and a tablespoon of unscented castile soap to 12 ounces of purified water.  And, yes, science does support citronella’s ability to inhibit pathogens.

In one review, investigators noted that citronella oil was active against both S. aureus and E. coli bacteria, two common culprits in foodborne disease.  Not only did citronella oil inhibit these pathogens, but it combated the formation of biofilms (treatment-resistant communities of bacteria).

Turn to citronella for soothing pain relief

Citronella oil has significant anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving properties.  It also contains antioxidant constituents, such as citronellal and geraniol, that are capable of scavenging harmful free radicals that can cause oxidative damage to tissues and cells.

Natural health experts recommend citronella oil, applied topically, to help care for joint pain and arthritis.  Citronella oil also has the beneficial effect of dilating blood vessels, with many natural healers endorsing it to treat muscle spasms, cramps and sore muscles post-workout.

Remember, before citronella can be applied to skin, it must be diluted in a carrier oil such as coconut or jojoba. The National Association of Holistic Aromatherapists advises using 15 drops per ounce of carrier oil.

If your skin is sensitive, use only 6 drops.  And, you should also do a small patch test first to check for reactions.

Aromatherapists report that citronella helps to regulate serotonin – a neurotransmitter needed for stable, relaxed mood – and advise using it in an aromatherapy diffuser to relieve stress, invigorate mood and promote relaxation.

Like many essential oils, citronella oil is not to be taken orally without checking (first) with an expert in essential oils.

Achieve clearer skin naturally with citronella

Antibacterial and antiseptic qualities allow citronella to act against the bacteria that cause acne.  In addition, it helps to reduce buildup of pore-clogging skin oil called sebum.

To handle acne breakouts, natural beauty experts advise combining 5 drops of citronella oil, a teaspoon of witch hazel and a half cup of water and dabbing it on the affected area.

This versatile oil has been used to promote wound healing and ease skin disorders – including eczema and athlete’s foot – and has been shown to be particularly effective against C. albicans, a common fungal overgrowth.  For this use, experts advising mixing citronella oil half-and-half with a carrier oil.

Citronella’s strong antifungal properties mean it can help fight off dandruff and scalp flaking, as well. Massage a mixture of citronella oil and coconut oil into the scalp, then rinse. For particularly stubborn cases of dandruff, leave the mixture on overnight.

You may even notice that citronella adds volume and shine to your hair, as a “bonus” benefit.

Citronella earns its time-honored reputation as an insect repellent

Because it is packed with bug-unfriendly constituents (camphor, eucalyptol, eugenol, linalool and citronellal), citronella oil can be used to discourage mosquitoes and other biting pests, some of which can carry diseases.  In fact, this fragrant oil has been shown to repel the A. aegypti mosquito which carries the Zika virus.

Unlike the chemical DEET, which can cause eye irritation, soreness, blistering of the skin and adverse neurological effects, citronella oil is non-toxic.  And, while conventional “wisdom” would say that this essential oil is not as effective as DEET … scientists report that citronella still scored a respectable 56 percent reduction over six hours – without the chemical toxins.

Although citronella candles smell wonderful and help to create a festive nighttime mood, these, by themselves, are probably not enough to keep bugs from your backyard cookout.

Applying diluted citronella oil to the skin – or spraying the water-based solution on your clothes and surroundings – is a better bet.  Keep in mind, you may need to reapply it frequently – as the effects are not particularly long-lasting.

You may even want to make your citronella bug repellent more effective by adding a few drops of peppermint oil, tea tree oil or vanillin.

Surprising possibilities: Liver cancer cell study yields encouraging results

In a German study published in Archives of Biochemistry and Biophysics, researchers found that citronellal, a terpene found in citronella oil, could inhibit the growth of liver cancer cells.  Interestingly, they found that the citronellal affected an olfactory receptor known as OR1A2.

And, despite the name, the receptor was found not in the nose but in the liver.  With the administration of citronella, this receptor triggered a molecular reaction which created increased calcium concentration in the liver cancer cells.

The result?  Inhibition of the growth of the liver cancer cells.

Naturally, more study is needed … but, researchers are hopeful that their work on the connection between the OR1A2 receptors and citronellal may hold the key to a new liver cancer therapy.

Action step: Always opt for the highest quality essential oils

Citronella is available in two varieties, Cymbopogon nardus (Ceylon type) and Cymbopogon winterianus (Java type). No matter which variety you choose, the label should bear the scientific name.

Although citronella oil is made from lemongrass, it is not the same as lemongrass oil (C. citratus). These are two different oils with two different sets of effects.

For maximum benefit, look for high-quality, organic, therapeutic-grade oil from a reputable vendor.  And, remember: because citronella oil degrades in light – it should be sold and stored in a dark-colored bottle.

Whether you are looking to freshen up your scents at home, address a skin rash or soothe sore muscles, you might want to replace potentially toxic products with lemony, summery-smelling citronella oil.

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