Citronella Oil – The Safe and Natural Insect Repellent

Human Nature citronella bug spray

Citronella oil is the safe and all-natural alternative to DEET-containing insect repellents. Obtained from the stems and leaves of the Cymbopogon species of grasses, citronella oil is an aromatic essential oil which has exhibited a well-documented insect-repelling activity. In the United States, the US Envirommental Protection Agency has classed citronella since 1948 as a biopesticide with a non-toxic mode of action. The US Food and Drug Administration has also declared citronella oil as safe.
The specific plant source of citronella oil is Cymbopogon winterianus, named after Mr. Winter, an oil distiller who was the first to cultivate and distill citronella oil in Ceylon, Sri Lanka. Lemongrass or Cymbopogon citratus, closely related to citronella, is used in almost all of Asia as a herb to flavor soups and stews.

The Danger of Commercial Insect Repellents
Dengue fever– the sometimes fatal tropical disease caused by the bite of the female Aedes aegypti mosquito– has brought about the use of insect repellents. Yet most commercial insect repellents, even those marketed as safe for kids, contain DEET or N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide which is implicated with a wide range of deleterious effects. Some of the health problems associated with DEET use are neuronal or brain cell death, consequent memory loss and muscular coordination problems as well as behavioral anomalies.
The problem with DEET is that it is absorbed through the skin to the blood. It is documented that as much as 50% of DEET applied topically gets absorbed by the skin and 17% is then absorbed into the blood. The absorption is even greater when there are cuts and wounds in the skin. In addition, the hazards of DEET are compounded when it is mixed with alcohols and permethrin which are, unfortunately, common additives in insect repellents.
Children are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of DEET because their nervous systems are yet developing and their body weights are still low enough to result in higher concentrations of the pesticide.

The Advantages of Citronella Oil
Citronella oil is considered safe for the reason that it is even used as an herb in many countries, the Philippines included. There are, however, a few reports of individuals being allergic to citronella oil. As such, prior testing is recommended. This is done by applying a small amount of the oil on the inside of the elbow and inspecting the skin after an hour for signs of contact dermatitis and rashes.
It is good to know that aside from its well-researched insect repellent activity, citronella oil has also been found to be an effective repellent against head and body lice. Moreover, this oil has also shown antifungal activity.
Perhaps the only downside with citronella oil is that it needs to be applied every 30 to 60 minutes as the oil is volatile and easily evaporates with time. But surely this is a minor minus point compared to the serious health risks associated with commercial insect repellents.

The brand of citronella insect repellent I use is Human Nature.  It’s the only brand I’ve come across, that’s why.  What is your brand?

Photo Credit: http://humanheartnature.com

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