The herb Lemongrass (Cymbopogon) is known by many names like silky heads, oily heads, citronella, barbed wire grass, Malabar grass, fever grass, and Cochin grass. Lemongrass belongs to the botanical family Poaceae (syn. Gramineae). Lemongrass is a genus in the grass family of Australian, Asian, African, and tropical island plants.
Due to the lemon resembling scent, some species of lemongrass are generally cultivated as a medicinal and culinary herb. Lemongrass has long and slender leaves, and the plant grows up to 1 meter or above. The leaves of lemongrass have glandular hair and are usually distinguished by the presence of silica bristles that are adjusted on the leaf edges.
Lemongrass is mostly used to add flavors to seafood meals, soups, and stir-fries. It is a natural mosquito repellent, and a stunning plant to grow in your home gardens. Lemongrass plants are effortlessly simple to cultivate, even for beginners, since they require minimal care.
Lemongrass inhibits the growth of some yeast and bacteria. Due to the presence of a few substances, the lemongrass is thought to be a swelling and pain reliever. Lemongrass also reduces fever, stimulates the menstrual flow and uterus, and enhances the cholesterol and sugar levels in the blood. The lemongrass also has anti-oxidative properties.
Lemongrass Essential Oils
Several types of lemongrass contain more than seven different essential oils, which are responsible for infusing aroma into the perfumes as well as for flavoring the food. Citral is the most abundant oil which has a vigorous lemon scent. Limonene is another oil present in lemongrass, it has a weaker smell as compared to citral, but is still crucial in cosmetics.
Several oils in lemongrass act as an insect repellent, including borneol, geraniol, and citronellol. These oils are also the main ingredients in citronella candles. Several essential oils in lemongrass destroy bacteria and have antioxidant, anti-irritant, and anti-inflammatory properties.
A Brief History of Lemongrass
Lemongrass plant is native to the regions like Southeast Asia, Oceania, Africa, Australia, and Asia, where it has been used conventionally for culinary, cosmetic, and medicinal purposes. In states like Thailand, India, and China, lemongrass has been used in desserts, as a flavoring agent in liquid refreshments, and other culinary production due to its ability to treat infections, improving digestion, relieving irregularities in menstrual cycles, and enhancing immunity and circulation.
In some cultures, lemongrass is known as “fever grass” because of its ability to reduce fever. Lemongrass was mainly used to making curries, a local drink called “fever tea” and soaps in Sri Lanka and India. The fever tea was used to treat fever as well as other diseases like stomach aches, diarrhea, skin infections, and irregular menstruation.
China had complementary uses of lemongrass, and in the Caribbean and Cuba, Lemongrass is used to boost digestion and lower blood pressure. In 1905, the news about the therapeutic essential oils of lemongrass started to spread, when J.F. Jovit, a Sri Lankan scientist, obtained several “Kochin Sera” plants from South India and cultivated them for research purposes.
In 1947, Haiti and Florida ultimately began to cultivate lemongrass commercially. According to a theory, the success of Lemongrass Essential Oil all around the globe was due to the exhibition of Citronella Essential Oil, in 1951 at the World’s Fair. Due to the several health benefits, adequacy, and an expansive variety of applications, lemongrass is among the top essential oils utilized nowadays.
Types of Lemongrass
Lemongrass comprises of more than 50 different species of grass. Ornamental lemongrass, also known as Cymbopogoncitratus, is the best-known growing variety of lemongrass. Ornamental lemongrass is remarkably featured in Vietnamese, Thai, and Cambodian cuisines. Lemongrass gives flavor and lemony aroma to the teas, soup, curries, and other liquid refreshments. Furthermore, the ideal climate for growing lemongrass is warm and humid.
Following are the most common types of lemongrass:
Sugandhi, a variety of lemongrass, is versatile and adaptable to a broad range of soils. Sugandhi has the highest content of oil, and this red-stemmed variety arrives from India.
2. Ornamental Lemongrass
Ornamental lemongrass is also known as West Indian Lemongrass and oil grass. This type of lemongrass forms thick clusters that generally reaches 3 feet in spread and 6 feet in height. From these dense clumps, lengthy, bendy, light green stems originate.
Pragati is a tall-growing variety of lemongrass, which is also considered as an East Indian Variety. Pragati has a dim purple bundle that develops around the oil-containing, bulbous stem found at the base of the plant close to the ground level. As compared to Sugandhi, Pragati hasa low oil content.
Citronella, also called mana grass and nard grass is a variety from which citronella oil is manufactured. Citronella oil is used as repellent as well as for flavoring and producing perfumes and cosmetics. To enhance the chances of success, split and replant clusters of citronella in late summer or early fall.
5. Java Citronella
Java Citronella, also known as Cymbopogonwinterianus, emerges from Java Island, Indonesia. Java Citronella grows in thick, compact clumps, and builds tall and curving leaf stems. These leaf stems are reddish-purple or tinted yellow. For cultivation, the Java Citronella requires lots of moisture, sun, and sandy loam soil, with a pH of 5.8 to 8.0.
6. Jama Rosa
Jama Rosa is the variety of lemongrass that is resilient and somewhat more cold-tolerant. Due to the vigorous growth of Jama Rosa, during a growth period of 16-18 months, you can cut it several times.
As compared to the other varieties of Lemongrass, Praman is medium-sized and has a high oilcontent. Praman is a variety of Northern Lemongrass, and the leaves of the Praman grass is vertical or erect.
Health Benefits of Lemongrass
Lemongrass is rich with nutrients and offers several health benefits. It contains flavonoids, antioxidants, and phenolic compounds – and these compounds further consist of catechol, quercetin, caffeic acid, luteolin, elemicin, glycosides, chlorogenic acid, and kaempferol. The vital component of lemongrass is lemonal, which has anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties.
The lemongrass is a significant source of vital vitamins like vitamin B6, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), vitamin C, vitamin B1 (thiamine), vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vitamin A, vitamin B3 (niacin), and folate.
Lemongrass contains major minerals as well, like iron, calcium, manganese, potassium, copper, magnesium, zinc, and phosphorous, which are necessary for the human body to function normally. It does not contain any unhealthy fats or cholesterol. Some of the health benefits of lemongrass are:
- Boosts Digestion
Lemongrass has a cooling property that keeps your stomach calm and in check. Lemongrass tea works as an alternative remedy for upset stomach, stomach cramping, and other several digestion related issues. Lemongrass can be helpful in the treatment of gastric ulcers as well.
- Relieves Anxiety
Lemongrass tea has anxiety-reducing properties, and it gives comfort as well. Brazilian study states how the aroma of lemongrass can help people with anxiety. To relieve anxiety and stress, some people also smell Lemongrass essential oils. But there is no scientific evidence about the benefit of inhaling lemongrass essential oil for stress and anxiety.
- Lowers Cholesterol
High cholesterol is linked with many heart-related diseases like stroke and myocardial infarction. A study issued in the Journal of Advanced Pharmaceutical Technology and Research stated that the consumption of lemongrass oil extract made a difference in lowering down the cholesterol.
- Boosts Weight Loss
If you are planning to reduce some extra pounds, adding lemongrass tea to your diet is a great option. Lemongrass tea helps in burning more calories by speeding up metabolism. This tea also makes you feel full and stops you from over-eating. The presence of polyphenols in lemongrass tea increases the amount of energy and fat oxidation, which results in weight loss.
- Regulates Blood Pressure
In an observational study published in 2012, 72 male volunteers took part in the research. They were given either green tea or lemongrass tea to drink. The systolic blood pressure of volunteers who drank lemongrass tea dropped moderately, whereas the diastolic blood pressure mildly increased. They also had notably lower heart rate.
Furthermore, the studies have named lemongrass as a conventional cure for hypertension.
- Full of Antioxidants
Lemongrass tea contains lots of antioxidants that work as a detox to cleanse your body internally. A study issued in the Journal of Agriculture and food chemistry states that the presence of several antioxidants in lemongrass helps rummage disease-causing free-radicals in your body. These antioxidants include swertiajaponin, chlorogenic acid, and isoorientin.
- Fights Cancer
The citral present in lemongrass gives it anticancer capabilities against cancer cells. The elements in lemongrass do this either by enhancing the immune system or by killing the cells directly. Studies have proven that Lemongrass extract is an excellent nontoxic alternative in the treatment of cancer.
- Improves Hair Health
Consuming Lemongrass tea prevents hair fall by nourishing the hair follicles. Lemongrass essential oils do wonder for dandruff. You can get rid of dandruff in seven days by applying the lemongrass essential oil.
- Treats Yeast Infections
Due to the presence of limonene and citral in lemongrass, it is an excellent option to treat yeast infections. Limonene and citral are the main compounds in inhibiting bacterial and fungal growth. They also help withthe treatment of Candida. Lemongrass oil holds an antibiotic-like effect that helps in the treatment of yeast infections.
- Heals Sore Throat
Drinking Lemongrass tea can relieve the sore throat. It is due to its anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. The lemongrass tea also cleanses the toxins from the system of your body and stimulates lymph drainage.
- Improves Skin Health
Lemongrass tea has astringent and antiseptic properties that help in boosting skin health. The essential oils of lemongrass make your skin look toned and radiant. The lemongrass tea also purifies your pores and nourishes the tissues of your skin. Lemongrass contains citral that also prevents skin cancer.
Bacterial infections like cellulitis and folliculitis can also be treated with lemongrass. Moreover, due to the anti-fungal properties, lemongrass tea can help with fungal infections treatment.
Interesting Facts about Lemongrass
- India is the largest producer of thelemongrass plant. The country is responsible for the world’s 80% of lemongrass crops – no other country produces lemongrass in such a massive amount. In India, it is mostly cultivated in the states like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and in the foothills of Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.
- Lemongrass attracts the honeybees and repels mosquitoes and other insects.
- Lemongrass is a long perennial grass, and it can develop up to three feet. Lemongrass can live around four years in the wild.
- There are about 55 species of lemongrass. Cymbopogonflexuosus, Cymbopogonnardus or C. winterianus, and Cymbopogoncitratus, are the three common varieties of lemongrass. Cymbopogonflexuosus is also known as Malabar Grass or Cochin Grassand is native to Burma, India, Thailand, and Sri Lanka.
- In the Caribbean, lemongrass is generally used for treating fever and cold, and it is also known as Sweet Rush.
- Lemongrass is used for the manufacturing of deodorants, cosmetics, soaps, and perfumes. In Jamaica, it is also used in the production of teabags.
- You can use lemongrass in powdered or dried form. And due to the lemony, ginger-like taste, lemongrass excellently complements foods made of seafood, meat, and fish.
- Lemongrassis also utilized for the preparation of sauces, soups, and marinades.
- Caryopsis is a fruit of lemongrass, which is sort of a dry fruit that does not rupture to discharge the seeds.
How to Choose and Store Lemongrass
Pick the lemongrass that has pale-green, firm, and bulbous base stalks. Avoid the lemongrass withwrinkled or dry stalks. Always go for the lemongrass with the lemon smell.
You can store the lemongrass in the crisper portion of your fridge by wrapping it in plastic. In this way, you can reserve the lemongrassfor up to two weeks. To store lemongrass for an extended period, fold it tightly in a foil and store it in the freezer. You can reserve the frozenlemongrassfor up to six months.
Side Effects of Lemongrass
When you take the recommended dosage of lemongrass, it does not produce any significant or troublesome side effects. But there are cases of people who developed skin rashes after consuming lemongrass tea. Taking a high dosage of lemongrass may cause excess urination, dizziness, increased appetite, drowsiness, and dry mouth.
According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, using a high dosage of lemongrass oil can harm stomach mucous membranes and liver. Moreover, the excessive consumption of lemongrass tea can disturb the kidney functions.
- Avoid applying an undiluted paste of lemongrass on your skin as it can result in irritation. To minimize it, dilute it withcarrier oil like sunflower seed oil or safflower. Use the small amounts of all the essential oils and for a limited period only.
- When citral (present in the lemongrass oils) is applied alone, it produces a sensitization reaction. However, applying citral within the whole plant matrix can prevent a sensitization reaction. The reason is that the presence of other components suppresses the sensitization reaction of citral.
- Keep away the lemongrass herb or oil from your eyes as the citral can irritate your eyes. Moreover, in sensitive-people, citral is also known to irritate the digestive tract.
- Taking the recommended amount of lemongrass has not been associated with any harmful effects. But the usage of essential oils internally by people with kidney or liver disease, children, and woman who is breast-feeding or pregnant, is not recommended.
The lemongrass has a high nutritional value, which makes it the best alternative in treating and preventing several significant health-related issues. Moreover, the essential oils and tea of lemongrass are widely famous since they provide a lot of health benefits.