Citronella oil is extracted from the foliage of lemon grass species (Cymbopogon spp) which occurs in tropical Asia and is particularly grown on the islands of Southeast Asia. Lemon grass also occurs in Sri Lanka, and Citronella oil is extracted fur Ayurvedic treatments, too. The aromatic herb is for example known as Pangiri in Ayurveda and has been used for treating toothaches, inflammation of the skin and other infectious diseases as well as rheumatism.
Citronella oil, extracted from this plant, is used worldwide as an insect repellent. Application of the oil directly on the skin can also stop itching after an insect bite. Many travellers prefer Citronella based products, because they are natural and not synthetical.
However, natural products can be poisonous and have side effects, too. There may be disadvantages and risks using natural products, and in the case of Citronella oil, there are. This does not mean, travellers should avoid the use of Citronella. Whoever has good experiences with Citronella shall not be advised to change his attitude, but should be aware, that there are some problematic aspects:
1. Due to its high volatility, citronella oil evaporates quickly off the skin. This makes citronella’s staying power as an insect repellent very limited. It indeed works when first applied, but it stops working within half an hour or mabe an hour. But repeated use of a substance increases the risks of side effects.
2. Some countries have classified citronella as a hazardous substance which can cause allergic reaction.
3. Canada has banned the use of citronella in insect repellents, because natural citronella oil may contain methyleugenol, which has shown cancer causing effects in animal studies. In many other countries, citronella is limited to 10% concentration or less in natural repellents.
4. Tests in laboratory animals also indicated a potential for reproductive toxicity, but only at high dose levels.
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