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Citronella oil: Mosquito remedy demystified

Lemongrass is the source of citronella oil

It’s summer time, and for a lot of us that means mosquito season. Those pesky little blood suckers have us running for shelter and itching for relief. But these warm sultry evenings make it hard to stay indoors. So many of us opt opt for the mosquito repelling powers of citronella oil and strangely scented candles.

How does citronella oil work?

A more humanitarian and less tedious solution than simply swatting at mosquitos and trying to systematically kill them off, citronella oil will drive them away harmlessly. Or so it seems.

Yes, it’s true that citronella oil doesn’t really harm the little critters. But it’s not that they find the smell unpleasant and so choose to flee the premises. What citronella oil and its powerful scent actually do is saturate the air with aroma, causing confusion and disabling the mosquitoes’ keen sense of direction.

With their most important sense overwhelmed, mosquitoes have a hard time zeroing in on their prey. So if you’re hanging out by the campfire or the BBQ, and you can see the skeeters buzzing all around, go ahead and light up those citronella candles. Just don’t expect the bugs to vanish into thin air.

Instead, you can just hope that as they linger around your summertime get-together, they won’t be able to make out the difference between the odor of tender human flesh and the smell of fresh cole slaw.

For more insect repelling relief, check out Ruth’s Basta Bug Spray.

Where does citronella oil come from?

With most essential oils, we can easily identify the plant it comes from. Lavender oil comes from a lavender bush, rose oil comes from rose petals, and so on. But what the heck is a citronella bush? And is the oil extracted from the leaves, the flowers, the roots or the bark?

In fact, if you go looking for a citronella plant, you’re not going to find one. The oil actually comes from the lemongrass plant, any species of the fragrant Cymbopogon genus. The stems and blades of this grass, native to Asia, Africa and Australia, are particularly aromatic.

What else is lemongrass good for?

Lemongrass makes a great addition to soups and stews. It’s especially delicious in Asian dishes like curry. Leaves and stems of lemongrass can also be steeped in boiling water to make a simple and refreshing tea.

Possible medicinal benefits of lemongrass include providing relief for anxiety and a variety of intestinal ailments. In the Hoodoo folk tradition, lemongrass is an important ingredient in spells for summoning spirits. It is also associated with bringing good luck and romance, and warding off evil.

And it turns out that mosquitoes are not the only insects who can be tricked by this marvelous plant. Beekeepers also use lemongrass because its scent mimics a bee pheromone and can therefore be effective in luring bees to a hive.

Further reading

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PHOTO CREDIT: Lemongrass is the source of citronella oil (Wikipedia)

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