1. Pain Management
Citronellal, found more prominently in the Java variety, takes us far outside of our bug spray expectations right off the bat. Brazilian researchers looked closely at the actions that citronellal had on the body, and what they found was exciting and promising.
When testing mice for pain receptors and responses, the application of citronellal changed their responses significantly. Pain responses slowed, pain tolerance increased, and the researchers were able to identify pathways in which the changes occurred. (2)
The study can't be mimicked at home – it was definitely in vitro lab results. But it can tell us a bit about the potential that citronella oil carries. And because it's safe in topical dilutions, there's no reason not to give it a try!
Application: Dilute into coconut oil or other topical preparation as a potential pain relieving massage.
2. Appetite Control
Diverting again from expected applications or results, this time we will look at the inhalation of citronella essential oil. If you've used it for some time as a bug repellant, diffusing or inhaling it will likely remind you of summertime!
Scent memory aside, another in vitro test – this one from 2015 – gives us an idea of the effects that inhalation of citronella could have. When rats were fed a high fat diet and “treated” with citronella inhalation, they wound up with lowered appetites as well as a lower body weight. (3)
Weight loss can be tricky to manage, and there's never going to be a magic bullet to take care of it in one shot. But essential oils like citronella can be a supportive weight loss tool to make the process easier.
Application: Diffuse or inhale during “snacky” times when appetite is difficult to control.
3. Lice Prevention
Technically, this could still fall under the umbrella of bug repellent. Head lice is so much more invasive, difficult to control, and completely different from typical pests that it deserves its own mention.
In one study on citronella and head lice, a slow-release formula was developed and applied on children's heads when they were at risk for head lice contraction. The study was conducted as a blind control, so they were able to compare prevention results. At the end of four months, the kids who had citronella were much less likely to contract head lice than the kids without. (4)
Application: Citronella essential oil won't be slow-release, but it can still be used beneficially. Mix a drop into morning shampoo when lice is a threat. Wash, then rinse off.
4. Pet Care
Perhaps the strangest and most interesting benefit of citronella essential oil is its effect on pets – dogs, to be precise. You might expect that citronella would be used for bug control on man's best friend, but that's not the case with this study. The focus? Barking.
In a veterinary hospital, dogs were given a control collar, scentless bark collar, or citronella bark collar. The scentless collar helped more than half of the dogs to cut back on barking. But the citronella collar cut it back by nearly 80%! (5)
Application: Try adding a drop of citronella oil to your dog's collar to see if it helps him to tone it down a bit.
Quick Citronella DIY
As you can see, citronella use extends far beyond bug control and can be applied in any number of ways. The fun part is experimenting with blends to see how you can enjoy the fragrant summer oil in new and health-promoting ways. Try this spray mix that can be used for bugs, hair, and pets as you like:
1 oz witch hazel or vodka
Blended with 5-10 drops each:
Pour into spritz bottle and add 3 oz water. Shake, spray.