Lemon grass Herbal Medicine

This article discusses the medicinal uses, health Benefits, side effects and warnings of Lemon grass.

Lemon Grass is an herb largely popolar for its citrus flavour with a trace of ginger. It is widely used in cooking served to spice various Asian cuisines from Thai to Filipino dishes. Lemon grass is not only good for flavouring but it has been traditionally used as herbal medicine to treat various medical condition. Read on to discover the amazing uses of this lowly but useful herb.

Lemon grass

Scientific Name: Cymbopogon citratus

Also knows as:

Brazil: Capim-cidrao, Capim-santo; Egypt: Lemon grass; English: Lemongrass, Citronella, Squinant; Ethiopia: Tej-sar Hindi: Sera, Verveine; Indonesian: Sereh; Italian: Cimbopogone; Malaysia: Sakumau; Mexico: Zacate limon; Swedish: Citrongräss; Thailand: Ta-khrai; Turkish: Limon out; USA and UK: Citronella

Lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus), a native herb from temperate and warm regions such as India, Philippines and Malaysia, is widely used in Asian cooking and is an ingredient in many Thai and Vietnamese foods. Lemon grass use in cooking has become popular in the Caribbean and in the United States for its aromatic citrus flavor with a trace of ginger.

Lemon grass is a member of a specie of grass that grows to as high as 1 meter with leaves of 1 to 1.5 centimeters in width that grows from a stalk of about 30 to 80 cm long with bulbous lower end. Lemon grass is a perennial and tufted grass that is commercially cultivated in Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and China. Lemon grass is also cultivated in United States specifically in California and Florida. Propagation is by dividing the root clumps.

Lemon grass oil is extracted by steam distillation. Lemongrass oil has a lemony, sweet smell and is dark yellow to amber and reddish in color, with a watery viscosity. It is also known as 'choomana poolu' and is also referred to as 'Indian Verbena' or 'Indian M`elissa oil'. Lemon grass oil is a valuable ingredient in cosmetics, perfumes and as fragrances for soaps and insect repellant's.

Lemongrass is reportedly has a wide variety of therapeutic application and helath benefits. With limited research and studies conducted on humans, Lemon grass' effectiveness is based mainly on the results from animal and laboratory studies as well as its reputation as a folk remedy.

Lemon grass Traditional Medicinal Uses

Lemon grass is largely used in traditional herbal medicine for various conditions.

Antiseptic, antibacterial and antimicrobial. Lemon grass is an antiseptic herb. It is used in treating Staph Infections and combating Skin Infections. It is an effective wound wash. It is a natural insect repellent. It prevents the development of insect borne diseases.

Prevents body odor. The aromatic scent of lemon grass is used to control excessive sweating and body odor. The antibacterial action of lemon grass also neutralize the microorganisms that cause odor.

Improves body metabolism.  Lemon grass stimulates body metabolism and prevents accumulation of unwanted fats thereby toning the body and helps in weight loss.

Lemon Grass is a diuretic herb. It stimulates the passing of body fluids flushing out harmful toxins.

Lemon grass relieves gout. The diuretic activity of Lemon Grass helps to flush out uric acid that is the primary cause of gout.

Combats bad cholesterol.  Lemon grass has antihyperlipidemic and anticholesterolemic properties are useful in regulating the levels of Cholesterol in the body. Lemon grass reduces the LDL cholesterol and keeps the level of triglycerides under control.

Lemon grass is powerful antioxidant. It helps to prevent cancer by attacking the cancer cells while protecting the normal cells. The antioxidant activity of lemon grass prevents the oxidation of free radicals eventually  lowering  the risk of Cancer.

Improve bowel movement. Lemon grass is a good herbal remedy in treating gastrointestinal disorders such as indigestion, imbalance of good and bad bacteria and gastrointestinal parasites.

Pain reliever. Lemon grass has analgesic action that relieves pain from migraine and headache associated with fever, colds and flu. It is also used for back pain, rheumatism, sprains and other body pains.

Relaxant. Lemon grass is used in baths or vapor scents, can revitalize the body and relieve the symptoms of jet lag, headaches, anxiety and stress related exhaustion

Useful for respiratory infections. Lemon grass is used to treat sore throats, laryngitis and fever and helps prevent spreading of infectious diseases.

Insect repellent. The aromatic and citrus scent of lemon grass is an effective insect repellent. It helps to keep pets clean of fleas, ticks and lice.

In Asia and Africa, Lemongrass is used as antiseptic, antitussive, and anti-rheumatic and to treat backache, sprains, and hemoptysis. Infusions of its leaves are used in alternative medicine as sedative, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory.

In some African countries, it is used to treat diabetes

Other Scientific Studies Relating to Lemon grass

Antimutagenicity of Lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus Stapf) to various known mutagens in salmonella mutation assay.

A study done in the Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Thailand found that Lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus Stapf)  possess antimutagenic properties towards chemical-induced mutation in Salmonella typhimurium strains TA98 and TA100. Mutagenicity of AFB1, Trp-P-1, Trp-P-2, Glu-P-1, Glu-P-2, IQ, MNNG and AF-2, was inhibited by the extract of lemon grass in a dose-dependent manner, but no effect was found on the mutagenic activity of benzo[a]pyrene. Source: Mutation Research - Genetic Toxicology and Environmental (Nov 1994)

Lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) essential oil as a potent anti-inflammatory and antifungal drugs.

In the present study, lemon grass essential oil was evaluated for its in vivo topical and oral anti-inflammatory effects, and for its in vitro antifungal activity using both liquid and vapor phases
Lemon grass oil extract exhibited promising antifungal effect against Candida albicans, C. tropicalis, and Aspergillus nige. In addition, topical application of LGEO in vivo resulted in a potent anti-inflammatory effect, as demonstrated by using the mouse model of croton oil-induced ear edema. Source: Libyan Journal of Medicine (Sept 2014)

The effect of lemongrass oil on clinical isolate mastitis pathogens

The aims of this study were to investigate the antibacterial activity of lemongrass oil (LG) and its major components which were citral, geraniol and myrcene, against four strains of clinically isolated bovine mastitis pathogens, including Staphylococcus aureus, The results demonstrate that S. agalactiae and B. cereus are more susceptible to Lemon grass, citral and geraniol than S. aureus and E. coli. Moreover, they also inhibit S. aureus biofilm formation and exhibit effective killing activities on preformed biofilms. The Lemon grass appears to have multiple targets in the bacterial cell, depending on concentration used as well as the amount of its components. Source: Research in Veterinary Science ( Dec 2011)

Activation of intrinsic apoptotic signaling pathway in cancer cells by Cymbopogon citratus polysaccharide fractions.

In the present study, polysaccharides from C. citratus were extracted and fractionated by anion exchange and gel filtration chromatography. Using these polysaccharide fractions F1 and F2, anti-inflammatory and anticancer activities were evaluated against cancer cells in vitro and the mechanism of action of the polysaccharides in inducing apoptosis in cancer cells via intrinsic pathway was also proposed. These polysaccharide fractions exhibited potential cytotoxic and apoptotic effects on carcinoma cells, and they induced apoptosis in these cells through the events of up-regulation of caspase 3, down-regulation of bcl-2 family genes followed by cytochrome c release. Source: Carbohydrate Polymers – Journal (Jul 2014)

Link of Lemon grass to Cholesterol

The link between lemongrass and cholesterol was investigated by researchers from the Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Wisconsin, who published their findings in the medical journal Lipids in 1989. They conducted a clinical trial involving 22 people with high cholesterol who took 140-mg capsules of lemongrass oil daily. While cholesterol levels were only slightly affected in some of the participants--cholesterol was lowered from 310 to 294 on average--other people in the study experienced a significant decrease in blood fats. The latter group, characterized as responders, experienced a 25-point drop in cholesterol after one month, and this positive trend continued over the course of the short study. After three months, cholesterol levels among the responders had decreased by a significant 38 points. Once the responders stopped taking lemongrass, their cholesterol returned to previous levels. It should be noted that this study did not involve a placebo group, which is usually used to help measure the effects of the agent being studied (in this case, lemongrass oil).

Neurobehavioral Effects :   (1) Study of myrcene in rats suggests anxiolytic activity. (2) Study of essential oil produced marked CNS depression in mice, similar to chlorpromazine effect. Also, it increased sleepness time, similar to a thiopental effect.

Antinociceptive / Analgesic :   Myrcene extract from the essential oil has been shown to have an antinociceptive effect.
Antitumoral :   (1) Study showed a-myrcene possess antimutagenic activity in mammary cells. (2) Plant compounds, a-limonene and geraniol showed inhibition of liver and intestinal mucous membrane cancer in mice. (3) Study in Thailand showed inhibition of colorectal neoplasia in mice. (4) Study showed inhibitory effects on early phase hepatocarcinogenesis in rats after initiation with diethylnitrosamine.

Lemon grass Usage, Dosage

Where can I get or buy Lemon grass?

Lemon grass leavesLemon grass thrives in the wild even without too much care. It can be grown in pots and gardens. The stalks and leaves are harvested and used. Fresh Lemon grass can also be bought in most Asian markets by bundles.

Lemon grass oil extract can also be bought in most grocery and health foods stores. Lemon grass comes in various forms, such as powder, dried leaves and essential oil. Amazon lists Lemongrass Essential Oil. 10 ml.

Lemon Grass Tea Preparation

  1. Pound or cut about 10 leaves of lemon grass
  2. Then add in 2 cups of boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes,
  3. Strain, add sugar and a slice of ginger to taste.
  4. Let it cool and drink a cup three to four times a day.
  5. Make new lemon grass herbal tea as needed.

When symptoms persist or irritation occurs stop the use and consult your doctor.

Lemon grass oil (food grade) can also be used to make tea by diluting 2 teaspoon of lemon grass oil to a cup of boiling water.

Lemon grass Liniment Preparation

  • Boil equal amounts of chopped leaves and roots with freshly made coconut oil
  • You can also mix 2 drops of Lemon grass oil to an ounce of your usual oil used such as coconut oil, olive oil, etc.

Lemongrass Baths and Compress

Chop about a cup of lemon grass leaves to a liter of water. Let it boil and strain. You can add it to your bath or you can use it as herbal compress for skin infections.

Lemon grass oil can also be added to a bath or warm water for hot compress. a tablespoon of oil for every 500ml for compress is suggested.

Lemon grass use Warnings and Side Effects

When cooked and properly prepared, eating Lemon grass has been proven beneficial even for young children, pregnant women and breast feeding mothers.

Lemongrass is not known to be harmful when taken in recommended dosages. However, individuals should always take caution before using any treatment.

Pregnancy and Breast feeding. The essential oil should not be used internally by children, women who are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Liver or kidney disease. When used for various medication, There are reports of the following

  • Burning sensation(s)
  • Skin Irritation, discomfort, and rash
  • Lowered blood glucose

While Lemongrass is not known to have an adverse effect with known drugs and supplements. Nonetheless It is advisable to limit the use of Lemongrass for the following medical conditions

  • Individuals taking oral diabetes drugs
  • Individuals taking anti-hypertensive drugs
  • Individuals with diabetes and / or individuals who are hypoglycemic

Allergies. In rare cases, lemongrass essential oil has caused allergic reactions when applied to the skin. To minimize skin irritation, dilute the oil in a carrier oil such as safflower or sunflower seed oil before application. As with all essential oils, small amounts should be used, and only for a limited time.

Can cause eye irritation. Avoid getting lemongrass (herb or oil) in the eyes.

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Article last reviewed 10.18.2016