HOME      •      SEARCH      •      EMAIL    •     ABOUT

Family Gramineae
Cymbopogon tortilis (J.Presl) A.Camus
Ya xiang mao

Scientific names Common names
Andropogon hamatulus Hook. & Arn. Balaniu (Bon.)
Andropogon nardus subsp. hamatulus (Hook. & Arn.) Hack. Citronella grass (Engl.)
Andropogon nardus var. tortilis (J. Presl) Merr. Ceylon citronella (Engl.)
Anthistiria tortilis J.Presl.  
Cymbopogon hamatulus (Nees ex Hook. & Arn) A. Camus  
Cymbopogon tortilis (J.Presl) A.Camus  
Cymbopogon tortilis (J.Presl) Hitchc.  
There is a confusing crossover of synonyms for Andropogon tortillis, A. nardus, Cymbopogon nardus, C. tortilis. MMPND / The Plant List / GLOBinMED
The vernacular names below are for Cymbopogon nardus (L.) Rolfe MMPND
Also see: Citronella (Cymbopogon winterianus)
Cymbopogon tortilis (J.Presl) A.Camus is an accepted name. The Plant List

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.

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 2 centimeters 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%.
- Study of leaf oil was dominated by geranial (32.0%) neral 19.1%), Cis- and trans-7-hydroxy-3,7-dimethyl-3,6-oxyoctana. (8)

- 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.

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. (3)
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. (6)
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. (7)


Updated December 2019 / October 2014

© Godofredo Stuart / StuartXchange
IMAGE SOURCE: Cymbopogon nardus / Citronella grass / Jose Hernandez @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA
OTHER IMAGE SOURCE: Cymbopogon nardus / Citronella grass / Jose Hernandez @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / USDA

Additional Sources and Suggested Readings
Cymbopogon tortilis (J.Presl) A.Camus / Synonyms /The Plant List
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.
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
Cymbopogon tortilis (J. Presl) A. Camus / Chinese names / Catalogue of Life, China
Sorting Cymbopogon names / Maintained by: Michel H. Porcher, / MULTILINGUAL MULTISCRIPT PLANT NAME DATABASE / Copyright © 1997 - 2000 The University of Melbourne.
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.
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): pp 267 - 272
GC (Retention Indices), GC-MS, and 13C NMR of Two Citral-Rich Cymbopogon Leaf Oils: C. Flexuosus and C. tortilis / Josephine Ottavioli, Ange Ribhelli, Joseph Casanova, Bui Thi Bang and Pham Van Y / Spectroscopy Letters, 2009; 42(8) / https://doi.org/10.1080/00387010903022350

It is not uncommon for links on studies/sources to change. Copying and pasting the information on the search window or using the DOI (if available) will often redirect to the new link page. (Citing and Using a (DOI) Digital Object Identifier)

                                                            List of Understudied Philippine Medicinal Plants

HOME      •      SEARCH      •      EMAIL    •     ABOUT