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Family Poaceae
Cymbopogon winterianus Jowitt.

Zhao wa xiang mao

Scientific names Common names
Cymbopogon winterianus Jowitt ex Bor Citronella (Engl.)
  Citronella grass (Engl.)
  Java citronella grass (Engl.)
Cymbopogon winterianus Jowitt ex Bor is an accepted name. No synonyms recorded. The Plant List

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.

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%). (see study below) (10)

The citronella oil from steam distillation considered rubefacient, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, sedating, analgesic.
- Studies have suggested anti-candidal, hypotensive, vaxo-relaxant, acaricidal, molluscicidal, sedative, analgesic, mosquito repellent properties.

Parts used
Leaves, oil.


- 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.

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. (2)
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.  (3)
Anticonvulsant / Essential Oil Analysis: Phytochemical analysis of essential oil yielded geraniol, citronellal and citronellol. Study showed a possible anticonvulsant activity of the essential oil. (4)
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. (8)
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. (9)
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. (see constituents above) (10)
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. (11)
Larvicidal / Molluscicidal: Study evaluated the molluscicidal 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. (12)
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. (13)
Leaf Essential Oil Complexed in ß-Cyclodextrin / Orofacial Antinociceptive Effect: Study evaluated the orofacial antinociceptive effect of C. wintrianus essential oil (LEO) complexed in ß-cyclodextrin (LEO-CD) and the possible involvement of the CNS. Male Swiss mice were subjected to formalin-, capsaicin-, and glutamate-induced orofacial nociception. Results suggest the LEO-CD had orofacial antinociceptive profile, probably mediated by activation of the CNS without changing motor coordination. (15)
Antifungal Against Trichophyton mentagrophytes / Essential Oil: Trichophyton mentagrophytes is a causative fungal agent of dermatophytosis. Study evaluated the antifungal activity of C. winterianus essential oil against T. mentagrophytes using measures of mycelial growth, germination of spores, fungal viability, morphogenesis, cell wall and cell membrane leakage test. Results showed antifungal activity. The action did not involve the cell wall but may involve the fungal plasma membrane. Study suggests a potential antifungal product, especially for treatment of dermatophytosis. (16)

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.

                  Abuse and Plagiarism of the Compilation on Philippine Medicinal Plants Under the Guise of Fair Use

Updated Dec 2019 / Oct 2014
June 2010

Photo © Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Flora of China / FOC | Family List | FOC Vol. 22 | Poaceae | Cymbopogon
Anti-Candida activity of Brazilian medicinal plants / Maria Cristina Teixeira Duarte et al /
Journal of Ethnopharmacology, Vol 97, Issue 2, 28 February 2005, Pages 305-311 / doi:10.1016/j.jep.2004.11.016
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
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
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
Medical Toxicology of Natural Substances: Foods, Fungi, Medicinal Herbs, Plants, and Venomous Animals / By Donald G. Barceloux / Google Books
Sorting Cymbopogon names / Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher, / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE /Copyright © 1995 - 2020, The University of Melbourne.
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 / http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1517-83822011000200004
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): pp 415-26. / doi: 10.1007/s00210-010-0494-9 /
PMID: 20237771
Volatile constituents and behavioral change induced by Cymbopogon winterianus leaf essential oil in rodents /
Bárbara L. S. Leite, Thais T. Souza, Angelo R. Antoniolli, Adriana G. Guimarães, Rosana S. Siqueira, Jullyana S. S. Quintans, Leonardo R. Bonjardim, Péricles B. Alves, Arie F. Blank, Marco Antonio Botelho, Jackson R. G. S. Almeida, Julianeli T. Lima, Adriano A. S. Araújo and Lucindo J. Quintans-Júnior* / African Journal of Biotechnology Vol. 10(42), pp. 8312-8319, 8 August, 2011 / DOI: 10.5897/AJB10.509
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
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
Evaluation of anti-mosquito properties of essential oils
/ Mohini Makhaik, Satya Narayan Naik, and Dhananjay Kumar Tewary / Journal of Scientific & Industrial Research, Feb 2005; Vol 64: pp 129-133
Cymbopogon winterianus / The Plant List
Preparation, Characterization, and Pharmacological Activity of Cymbopogon winterianus Jowitt ex Bor (Poaceae) Leaf Essential Oil of β-Cyclodextrin Inclusion Complexes / Priscilla L Santos, Adriano A S Araujo, Jullyana S S Quintans, Makson G B Oliveira, Renan G Brito, Mairim R Serafini et al / . 2015; 2015: 502454 / doi: 10.1155/2015/502454 / PMID: 26246838
Effects of Cymbopogon winterianus Jowitt ex Bor essential oil on the growth and morphogenesis of Trichophyton mentagrophytes / Fillipe de Oliveira PereiraI; Paulo Alves Wanderley; Fernando Antônio Cavalcanti VianaI; Rita Baltazar de Lima; Frederico Barbosa de Sousa; Sócrates Golzio dos Santos; Edeltrudes de Oliveira Lima / Braz. J. Pharm. Sci., Jan-Mar 2011; 47(1) São Paulo / http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S1984-82502011000100018

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