Category: Medicines - plant based
Introduction and description
Citronella, a perennial multi-crop of industrial importance, is cultivated in parts of tropical and subtropical areas of Asia, Africa and America. Its essential oil is of great value on account of its wide use in the pharmaceutical, perfumery and cosmetic industries.
Citronella oil is also the main constituent in mosquito repellent and sanitary preparations. Commercially, citronella oil is regularly fractionated to yield three major constituent chemicals: namely, citronellal, citronellol and geraniol, which are widely used for different purposes.
The citronella oil-yielding grass species (Family – Poaceae) belong to the genus Cymbopogon. About 140 species of Cymbopogon are known; these are distributed widely in the semi-temperate to tropical parts of the world.
About 20 species of Cymbopogon are reported to occur in India. These are either indigenous or introduced. The citronella oil-yielding species cultivated in India are C. winterianus Jowitt and C. nardus Rendle, commercially known in trade as ‘Java citronella’ and ‘Ceylon citronella’, respectively (Husain, 1994). Winter recognized the taxonomic differences between the then-cultivated varieties of C. nardus, Lena Batu and Maha Pengiri, and raised the status of the erstwhile variety Maha Pengiri to that of a separate species called C. winterianus.
How many Mahapengiris?
Since then, the species has been introduced to many different geographical locations and has undergone further genetic differentiation through domestication and human selection.
C. winterianus acquired the commercial name, Java citronella, upon its extensive cultivation for oil in Indonesia. Cymbopogon winterianus (Jowitt) was then introduced into India from Indonesia during 1959 (Virmani et al., 1979) and subsequently acquired by CIMAP to improve and develop agronomic practices for its wide cultivation. During an acclimatization trial at CIMAP, two distinct forms (designated Java I and Java II) were identified from the introduced material. Java II was found to be superior to Java I in growth and yield attributes, and was subsequently adopted as a cultivated variety in India, covering a sizeable area in Assam, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Maharastra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu (Gupta, 1973). Java II was used for further improvement at the Regional Research Laboratory, Jorhat (Ganguly et al., 1979) leading to the development of the Jorhat strain, suitable for the north eastern parts of India. At CIMAP, several improved varieties were similarly developed through clonal selections, mutagenesis, somaclonal variation, etc.
This point is important because although any chemical differences may make little difference in the perfume industry or in mosquito repellents, they may make a world of difference medicinally.
Folk medicine practitioners in the Brazilian Northeast use the infusion of the fleshy leaves for the treatment of epilepsy and anxiety.
Dr Duke has made a detailed analysis of the contents, but which plant was used and from where is not known, however, an analysis of the essential oil of the Brazilian variety has also been made by L.J. Quintans-Júnior et al and they found the following
Chemical composition and retention indices of the constituents of the EO
Dr Duke's analysis of Chemicals in: Cymbopogon winterianus JOWITT (Poaceae) -- Java Citronella, Mahapengiri
BETA-ELEMENE Plant 40 - 70 ppm
CARYOPHYLLENE Plant 84 - 147 ppm
CITRAL Plant 8 - 14 ppm
CITRONELLAL Plant 1,000 - 2,289 ppm
CITRONELLOL Plant 440 - 770 ppm
CITRONELLYL-ACETATE Plant 80 - 280 ppm
CITRONELLYL-CITRONELLATE Plant 66 - 233 ppm
CYMBOPOL Plant 60 - 105 ppm
ELEMOL Plant 40 - 420 ppm
EO Plant 4,000 - 7,000 ppm
EUGENOL Plant 66 - 233 ppm
FARNESOL Plant 24 - 42 ppm
GAMMA-CADINENE Plant 40 - 158 ppm
GAMMA-CADINOL Plant 60 - 105 ppm
GERANIOL Plant 1,064 - 3,150 ppm
GERANYL-ACETATE Plant 120 - 556 ppm
GERANYL-BUTYRATE Plant 66 - 233 ppm
GERANYL-FORMATE Plant 100 - 175 ppm
L-LIMONENE Plant 80 - 350 ppm
LINALOL Plant 40 - 105 ppm
LINALYL-ACETATE Plant 80 - 140 ppm
METHYL-EUGENOL Plant 20 - 60 ppm
METHYL-ISOEUGENOL Plant 92 - 161 ppm
NEROL Plant 308 - 539 ppm
Cymbopogon winterianus (Poaceae) is used for its analgesic, anxiolytic and anticonvulsant properties in Brazilian folk medicine. The phytochemical analysis of the essential oil has shown the presence of geraniol (40.06%), citronellal (27.44%) and citronellol (10.45%) as the main compounds. Studies in rats demonstrated that the Essential oil caused “depressant activity on the CNS” and that when administered concurrently, it “significantly reduced the number of animals that exhibited pentylenetetrazole (PTZ) and picrotoxin (PIC) induced seizures in 50% of the experimental animals”.
The observations provide other uses, but it is unclear which variety is being used, and it may be important to know.
References and further reading
- Guenther, E., 1950. In: Guenther, E. (Ed.), Essential Oils. Van Nostrand Co., Inc, London
- Phythochemical screening and anticonvulsant activity of Cymbopogon winterianus Jowitt (Poaceae) leaf essential oil in rodents - L.J. Quintans-Júnior et al
- Wealth of India, 1985. A dictionary of Indian raw materials and industrial products. In: Raw Materials, vol. 1. A. Publications and Information Directorate CSIR, New Delhi.
- Rao, B.R.R., Bhattacharya, A.K., Mallavarapu, G.R., Ramesh, S., 2004. Yellowing and crinkling disease and its impact an the yield and composition of the essential oil of citronella (Cymbopogon winterianus Jowitt.). Flavour Frag. J. 19, 344–350
- Anti-Candida activity of Brazilian medicinal plants 020544
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Cymbopogon winterianus JOWITT (Poaceae) -- Java Citronella, Mahapengiri 019301
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Anticancer (pancreas) activity 018464
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antihelicobacter activity 018402