Is mosquito plant poisonous? Debunking the myth

Perfumes and fragrances have been an integral part of human culture for centuries, with the scents of plants often playing an important role. One such plant that has gained popularity in recent years is the mosquito plant (Pelargonium citrosum), also known as “citronella” or “citrosa”. It is often touted as a natural mosquito repellent, but concerns about its toxicity have raised questions among enthusiasts and gardeners. In this article, we will delve into the subject and answer the most common question: Is mosquito plant poisonous?

The Mosquito Plant: An Introduction

The mosquito plant, formally known as Pelargonium citrosum, is a perennial herbaceous plant native to certain parts of Africa. It belongs to the mint family (Geraniaceae) and is characterized by its distinctive lemony fragrance. The plant is often marketed as an effective mosquito repellent due to the presence of citronella oil, which is known for its insect repellent properties.
Despite its popularity, there has been some confusion about the safety of the mosquito plant. Some people believe that the plant is poisonous, while others claim that it is completely safe for humans and pets. To gain a full understanding of the issue, it is important to review the available scientific evidence.

The truth about mosquito plant toxicity

Contrary to popular belief, the mosquito plant is not considered highly toxic to humans or animals. While it is true that the plant contains certain compounds that can have mild toxic effects, the concentration of these substances is generally too low to cause significant harm. It is worth noting that reactions to plants can vary from person to person, and some people may be more sensitive than others.

One compound found in the mosquito plant that has caused concern is geraniol. Geraniol is a naturally occurring alcohol found in several essential oils, including citronella oil. In high concentrations, it can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in some people. However, the amount of geraniol present in the mosquito plant is usually not enough to cause such reactions unless an individual has a specific sensitivity to the compound.

Safe handling and use of mosquito plants

Although the mosquito plant is generally considered safe, it is still advisable to take precautions when handling or using it. Here are some guidelines to ensure safe handling:

1. Skin Sensitivity: If you have a known sensitivity or allergy to plants or essential oils, it is recommended that you use caution when coming into contact with the mosquito plant. Consider wearing gloves or protective clothing to minimize direct skin contact.

2. Ingestion: Although the mosquito plant is not intended for consumption, accidental ingestion is unlikely to cause serious harm. However, it is still best to keep the plant out of the reach of children and pets to prevent any potential adverse effects.

3. Allergic Reactions: If you experience any signs of an allergic reaction, such as skin redness, itching, or difficulty breathing, discontinue use and seek medical attention.

Alternative Mosquito Repellent Options

If you have concerns about using the mosquito plant or prefer alternative methods of mosquito control, there are several other options available:
1. DEET-based repellents: DEET (N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide) is a common active ingredient found in many mosquito repellents. It is considered safe for use when applied according to the directions on the product label.

2. Picaridin-based repellents: Picaridin is another effective alternative to DEET and is known for its long-lasting mosquito repellent properties. It is generally considered safe and is available in a variety of formulations.

3. Natural repellents: Essential oils such as eucalyptus oil, lavender oil, and peppermint oil have been shown to have mosquito repellent properties. Always dilute essential oils before use and perform a patch test to check for adverse reactions.

The Final Verdict: Mosquito Plant Safety

In conclusion, mosquito plant, or Pelargonium citrosum, is generally safe to use and is not considered to be highly toxic. While it may contain compounds that can cause skin irritation or allergic reactions in some individuals, the concentration of these substances is usually too low to pose significant risks. By following safe handling practices and considering alternative mosquito repellent options, you can enjoy the benefits of the mosquito plant without undue concern.
It is important to note that if you have specific health concerns or are unsure about using the mosquito plant, it is always best to consult a healthcare professional for personalized advice.


Is mosquito plant poisonous?

Yes, the mosquito plant, also known as Citronella plant (Cymbopogon nardus), is not considered toxic to humans or pets when used as intended.

Can you consume the mosquito plant?

The mosquito plant is primarily grown for its strong citrus-like fragrance, which is believed to repel mosquitoes. While it is not typically consumed as a food, the leaves of the plant are sometimes used to flavor certain dishes and teas.

Are there any reported cases of poisoning from the mosquito plant?

There are no widely reported cases of poisoning from the mosquito plant. However, as with any plant, some individuals may have allergic reactions or sensitivities to specific compounds present in the plant, so it’s always a good idea to exercise caution if you have known allergies or sensitivities.

Are there any potential side effects of using mosquito plant products?

When used as intended, such as using citronella oil derived from the plant or using the plant itself as a repellent, there are generally no significant side effects reported. However, some people may experience skin irritation or allergic reactions, so it’s advisable to test a small area of skin before applying the product more widely.

Can the mosquito plant be harmful to pets?

The mosquito plant is generally considered safe for pets such as cats and dogs. However, it’s always a good idea to monitor your pets when introducing any new plant or product into their environment, as individual sensitivities can vary.