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Citronella oil is derived from a grass typically found in some Asian countries and islands as well as in Africa and assorted Latin American and South American countries. The oil typically comes from two main varieties of citronella grass. The oils are extracted from the grass by processing the fresh plant with steam distillation. The name citronella refers to the strong lemony smell of the plant stem and leaves as well as its extracted oil. It most commonly is used as an insect repellent, but some herbalists use it as an anti-bacterial agent and an anti-inflammatory treatment, among other medicinal uses.
It is commonly found in commercially-produced scented candles and topical ointments to fend off outdoor pests such as mosquitoes. The strong scent is generally believed to be so unpleasant to these insects that they avoid any areas where the scent is evident.
Some commonly believed health benefits of citronella include its antibacterial, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory and antifungal properties. Citronella may also help treat depression, spasms, fevers, parasitic intestinal worms and stomach aches. Some also believe citronella acts as a natural stimulant as well.
Its antibacterial and antiseptic effects have been reported to eradicate wound infections, ease the irritation of insect bites and destroy head and body lice. Bacterial diseases of the prostate, kidneys, stomach and intestines have reportedly been cured by citronella oil. The oil has also been used to treat maladies of the urethra, bladder and urinary tract.
Simple heartburn as well as side effects from alcohol and drug abuse have reportedly been eased by citronella oil. It may also help treat inflammations of the digestive system and fungal infections, and may help eliminate toxic substances from the body. Metabolism has reportedly been increased and the immune system boosted by citronella oil as well.
People who suffer from depression have reportedly found relief by taking doses of citronella oil. The ingestion of the oil has also been attributed to the relief of menstrual cramps and muscle spasms. By increasing perspiration, it has been touted as a toxic cleanser that reduces fever and prevents certain infections.
Used as a topical treatment, citronella oil may also help prevent body odor and improve the tone of human muscles. Rubbing it on the skin may promote blood circulation and increase the discharge of glandular enzymes and hormones. Oily skin and hair are reportedly improved by the application of citronella oil.
No life-threatening toxic side effects have been found by using this oil either externally or internally. It has, however, been reported to occasionally cause skin irritations when topically applied. It is not generally recommended to treat skin ailments on small children or pregnant women.