Family • Gramineae - Andropogon tortilis (Presl) Merr. - CITRONELLA GRASS - Ya xiang mao

Scientific names

Andropogon tortilis (Presl) Merr.
Andropogon hamatulus Hook. & Arn.
Andropogon nardus Rolfe
Anthistiria tortilis Presl
Cymbopogon hamatulus (Nees ex Hook. & Arn)
Cymbopogon nardus (L.) Rendel
Cymbopogon tortilis (Presl) A. Camus
Cymbopogon tortilis (Presl) Hitchc.

Common names

Balaniu (Bon.)
Citronella grass (Engl.)
Ceylon citronella (Engl.)

Other vernacular names

BURMESE: Kaingbyu-mi, Myet-hmwe, Sabalin-hmwe, Singu-myet.
CHINESE: Niu qiao xiang mao, Ye xiang mao.
DANISH: Citronella, Lenabatugræs.
DUTCH: Citroenmelisse.
FRENCH: Citronelle, Citronnelle de Ceylan.
GERMAN: Ceyloncitronell, Citronellgras, Nardusgras.
GREEK: Kitronella, Lemonochorto.
ITALIAN: Citronella di Ceylon.
JAPANESE: Kou suigaya, Seiron shitironera, Shitoronera, Shitoronera gurasu.
MALAYSIA: Serai wangi.
POLISH: Palczatka szczetna.
PORTUGUESE: Citronela de Ceilan, Citronela do Ceilão (Brazil), Lenabatu (Brazil).
SPANISH: Zacate limón.
SWEDISH: Citronellagräs.
THAI: Ta khrai hom.


Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Cymbopogon tortilis (J.Presl) A.Camus / The Plant List

(2) The William Gardener Collection of Chinese Medicinal Plants / William Gardener FLS, manuscripts computerised by: Anthony C. Dweck FLS from old papers donated by Linda Fellows and given back to the world on 22nd. April 1995.

(3) The antifungal activity of essential oils as determined by different screening methods / Delespaul, Q.; Billerbeck, V. G. de; Roques, C. G et al / Journal of Essential Oil Research 2000 Vol. 12 No. 2 pp. 256-266

(4) Sorting Cymbopogon names / Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher, / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / Copyright © 1997 – 2000 The University of Melbourne.

(5) Mosquito Repellent Action of the Essential Oils of Cymbopogon citratus, C. nardus and Eucalyptus citriodoa: Evaluation and Formulation Studies / Bezayit Solomon, Tsige Gebre-Mariam, Kaleab Asres / Journal of Essential Oil Bearing Plants, 2012, 15(5), pp 766-773.

(6) COMPARATIVE CHEMICAL AND ANALGESIC PROPERTIES OF ESSENTIAL OILS OF CYMBOPOGON NARDUS (L) RENDLE OF BENIN AND CONGO / A. A. Abena*, J. D. Gbenou, E. Yayi, M. Moudachirou, R. P. Ongoka, J. M. Ouamba, T. Silou / Afr. J. Trad. CAM (2007) 4 (2): 267 – 272

Balaniu is an erect, stout, leafy and fairly tall grass, 50 to 100 centimeters in height. Leaves are long and narrow, 30 to 50 centimeters long, 6 to 12 millimeters wide. Panicle is large, often supra-decompound; the branches are loosely or closely packed, erect at length, often drooping. Spathes are laxly or closely imbricate, 1 to 2centimeters long, with spikes provided with 4 to 5 pairs of spikelets, sessile, awned.

– In many parts of Luzon, In open grasslands at low and medium altitudes.
– Also occurs from Japan southwards through Taiwan and southeast China.
– Cultivated in India, Ceylon and other tropical countries for its essential oil.

– Culm and leaves yield a small quantity of extractable aromatic oil.
– When the grass is distilled, yields a pale-yellow oil with a strong odor, known commercially as citronella oil.
– Oil reportedly contains an aldehyde, a terpene, an isomer of borneol (citronellol), acetic and valeric acids.
– The local variety tortilis yields an oil used locally to perfume soap. If studied, it is expected to yield citronella oil.
– Major constituents of essential oil are: citronella 31.6, neral 28.6, citronellol 10.6, elemicine 7.3, geranyl acetate 4.6, elemol 3.7, limonene 3.2, and isopulegol 2.7%.


– Oil is considered antispasmodic, carminative, repellent, stimulant.
– Considered astringent, rubefacient, antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal.

Parts used

– Used as antispasmodic, carminative and stimulant.
– In India, the oil is used as external application for rheumatism and is also used to stimulate hair growth.
– Used for muscle pain and neuralgia.

Oil: Although uncertain if the variety tortilis yields citronella oil, the oil distilled from this variety is used locally to perfume soap. Also used in tea preparations and as flavoring.
Insecticide: Ointment made from the oil used as protection against mosquito bites. Oil used in making insect repellent in sprays and candles.
Fodder: Grass provides fodder and pasture for livestock.
Paper: Stem and leaves can be source of paper material.

Study Findings
• Fungistatic / Atmospheric Preservative: Study evaluated 37 essential oils for potential use as atmospheric preservatives. Cymbopogon nardus var. narudus was one of the most active essential oils. By micro-atmosphere method, C. nardus and C. martinii were the most fungistatic.
• Antifungal: Study of C. nardus (citronella oil) showed antifungal activity, suppressing the growth of several species of Aspergillus, Penicillium and Eurotium.
• Mosquito Repellent / Essential Oil: Study demonstrated the potential of essential oil of Cymbopogon nardus as a topical repellent against Anopheles arabiensis mosquitoes under laboratory conditions.
• Analgesic / Essential Oil: Study compared the chemical and analgesic properties of essential oils of Cymbopogon nardus of Benin and Congo. Results showed the two essential oils with comparable effect on acetic acid induced writhings; the Benin essential oil effect was more significant on hot plate model, while the Congolese showed more effect on tail flick test.