Family • Poaceae - Cymbopogon winterianus Jowitt. - CITRONELLA GRASS - Zhao wa xiang mao

Scientific names

Cymbopogon winterianus Jowitt ex Bor

Common names

Citronella (Engl.)
Citronella grass (Engl.)
Java citronella grass (Engl.)

Other vernacular names

CHINESE: Feng mao, Zhao wa xiang mao, La ding mei Zhou xiang mao.
DANISH: Ægte citrongræs.
FRENCH: Citronelle de Java.
GERMAN: Java Citronellgras, Java Zitronengras, Maha-Pengiri-Gras.
ITALIAN: Citronella di Giava.
PORTUGUESE: Citronela de Java (Brazil), Maha pengiri (Brazil).
RUSSIAN: Tsitronellovoe, Tsimbopogon Vintera.
SPANISH: Pasto de camellos.
THAI: Dton ja kai ma koot.

Gen info
• The species C. winterianus Jowitt is believed to have originated from Cymbopogon nardus, type Maha Pengiri, referred to as Ceylonese (Sri Lankan) commercial citronella. C. winterianus was named after Winter, who raised it as a separate species in the 19th century, subsequently introduced in Indonesia to become commercially known as Javanese citronella, eventually making it to India for commercial cultivation in 1959. source
• Citronella oil is a steam distillation product of the fresh or partially dried leaves from citronella grass (C. nardus, producing “Ceylon-type” citronella oil) or Java citronella grass (C. winterianus Jowitt, producing “Java-type” citronella oil)


Plant is a perennial, shallowly rooted rhizome. Culms are tufted, robust, up to 2 m tall. Leaf sheaths are glabrous, reddish inside; leaf blades relatively thin, drooping 2/3 of their length, 40-80 cm tall, 1.5 to 2.5 cm wide, abaxial surface glaucous, adaxial surface light green, margins scabrid, base narrow, apex long acuminate. Spathate compound panicle large, lax, up to 50 cm. Sessile spikelets are elliptic-lanceolate; lower glume, flat or slightly concave, 2-keeled, 3-veined between keels.

– Recently introduced.
– Cultivated in the Baguio area.


Additional Sources and Suggested Readings

(1) Flora of China / FOC | Family List | FOC Vol. 22 | Poaceae | Cymbopogon

(2) Cardiovascular effects induced by Cymbopogon winterianus essential oil in rats: involvement of calcium channels and vagal pathway / Igor Alexander Cortes de Menezes, Italo Jose Alves Moreira et al / Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, Volume 62 Issue 2, Pages 215 – 221 / Published Online: 19 Mar 2010 / DOI 10.1211/jpp.62.02.0009

(3) Phythochemical screening and anticonvulsant activity of Cymbopogon winterianus Jowitt (Poaceae) leaf essential oil in rodents / L.J. Quintans-Junior, T.T. Souzaa et al / FreeLibrary

(4) Phenotypic and RAPD diversity among Cymbopogon winterianus Jowitt accessions in relation to Cymbopogon nardus Rendle / A K Shasany, R K Lal et al / Genetic Resources and Crop Evolution, Vol 47, Number 5 / October, 2000 / DOI 10.1023/A:1008712604390

(5) Medical Toxicology of Natural Substances: Foods, Fungi, Medicinal Herbs, Plants, and Venomous Animals / By Donald G. Barceloux / Google Books

(6) Sorting Cymbopogon names / Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher, / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE /Copyright © 1995 – 2020, The University of Melbourne.

(7) Antifungal activity of Cymbopogon winterianus jowitt ex bor against Candida albicans / Wylly Araújo de Oliveira *; Fillipe de Oliveira Pereira; Giliara Carol Diniz Gomes de Luna; Igara Oliveira Lima; Paulo Alves Wanderley; Rita Baltazar de Lima; Edeltrudes de Oliveira Lima / Braz. J. Microbiol. vol.42 no.2 São Paulo Apr./June 2011 /

(8) Comparative anticonvulsant activities of the essential oils (EOs) from Cymbopogon winterianus Jowitt and Cymbopogon citratus (DC) Stapf. in mice. / Silva MR, Ximenes RM, da Costa JG, Leal LK, de Lopes AA, Viana GS. / Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol. 2010 May;381(5):415-26. / doi: 10.1007/s00210-010-0494-9. Epub 2010 Mar 17

(9) Acaricidal properties of the formulations based on essential oils from Cymbopogon winterianus and Syzygium aromaticum plants / Valéria de Mello et al / Parasitology Research, September 2014

(10) Molluscicidal and larvicidal activities and essential oil composition of Cymbopogon winterianus / Rodrigues KA, Dias CN, do Amaral FM, Moraes DF, Mouchrek Filho VE, Andrade EH, Maia JG / Pharmaceutical Biology, 2013

(11) Evaluation of anti-mosquito properties of essential oils / Mohini Makhaik, Satya Narayan Naik, and Dhananjay Kumar Tewary / Journal of Scientific & Industrial Research, Vol 64, Feb 2005, pp 129-133

• Phytochemical analysis of essential oil yielded geraniol (40.06%), citronellal (27.44%)and citronellol (10.45%) as the main constituents.
• Both Ceylon- and Java-type citronella oils contain over 80 constituents, primarily monoterpene compounds and minor amounts of sesquiterpenes.
• Main constituents of the Ceylon oil is citronellal and citronellol. Ceylon oil contains lower concentrations of citronellal and citronellol and higher concentrations of isomethyleugenol compared to the Java-type citronella oil.
• Phytochemical analysis of leaf essential oil yielded a mixture of monoterpenes, as citronellal (36.19%), geraniol (32.82%), and citronellol (11.37%).

• The citronella oil from steam distillation considered rubefacient, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, sedating, analgesic

Parts used and preparation

– No recorded folkloric use in the Philippines.
– Elsewhere, used for hypertension.
– In Brazilian folk medicine, used for anxiolytic, analgesic and anticonvulsant properties.

• Mosquito Repellent / Fumigant: Citronella oil and candles commercially popular as traditional mosquito repellents and household fumigants.
• Food Flavoring: Citronella oil also used as food flavoring agent, in beverages, baked goods, cereals, candies, dairy products, gelatins and puddings.
• Veterinary: Oil also a component of veterinary deterrent product for dogs seeking to mate.
• Aromatherapy: Also used in aromatherapy.

Study Findings
• Essential Oil / Anti-Candidal: Essential oils and ethanol extracts from the leaves and roots of 35 medicinal plants commonly used in Brazil were screened for anti-Candida activity. The essential oils of 13 plants, including C. winterianus, showed anti-Candida activity.
• Cardiovascular Effects: Study showed the essential oil of C. winterianus induced hypotensive and vasorelaxant effects probably mediated through Ca-channel blocking. Higher doses were noted to induce transient bradycardia and arrhythmias from cardiac muscarinic activation secondary to a vagal discharge.
• Anticonvulsant / Essential Oil Analysis: Phytochemical analysis of essential oil yielded geraniol, citronellal and citronellol. Study showed a possible anticonvulsant activity of the essential oil.
• Antifungal: Study investigated the activity of essential oil of Cymbopogon winterianus against C. albicans. Phytochemical analysis of EO yielded citronellal, 23.59%, geraniol, 18.81%, and citronellol, 11.74%. The EO showed concentration -dependent antifungal activity, similar to amphotericin B and nystatin.
• Anticonvulsant: Comparative study was done on the effect of EOs of Cymbopogon citratus and C. winterianus on three models of convulsions on male Swiss mice. The mechanism of anticonvulsant effect of the EOs was, at least in part, dependent upon the GABAergic neurotransmission. Their effects on inflammatory biomarkers may also contribute to their CNS activity.
• CNS Behavioral Effect: Study in animal model characterized a psychopharmacological effect of leaf essential oil on the CNS. The LEO increased the sleeping time induced by sodium pentobarbital in a dose-dependent manner, decreased ambulation without altering motor coordination. Results suggest LEO has CNS activities, as hypnotic, sedative, and antinociceptive, which might involve a central GABAergic system.
• Acaricidal: Study showed an acaricidal effects of contact formulations of essential oils when compared to commercial chemical products, and suggests further studies for an alternative for controlling cattle ticks.
• Larvicidal / Molluscicidal: Study evaluated the mollusicidal and larvicidal activities of essential oil of C. winterianus. Results showed moderate larvicidal activity against the larvae of A. salina and can justify its use in the aquatic environment without affecting other living organisms.
• Anti-Mosquito Property: Study evaluated essential oils from C. deodora, E. citriodora, C. flexuosus, Cymbopogon winterianus, P. roxburghii, S. aromaticum and T. minuta for bioactivity against adults of Culex quinquefasciatus and Aedes aegypti. Results showed C. winterianus and S. aromaticum to be equi-effective and most effective against both mosquito species.

Safety concerns
• GRAS: In the U.S., citronella is listed as GRAS, generally recognized as safe.
• In Europe, Java type citronella is Category 1 (not considered a safety concern at levels consumed), while Ceylon-type is a Category 3 (items with safety concern associated with the active ingredient), because of the presence of isomethyleugenol.

Citronella oil, commercially and in the cybermarkets.