Belonging to the grass family of Poaceae and known by the scientific name, Cymbopogoncitratus, lemongrass is famous for its citrus scent and an amazing flavor. It is an herb that is native to East India and has been a significant part of Asian cuisines for a long time. Besides East India, this herb is now commonly cultivated in various regions of Sri Lanka, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Indonesia. It is also widely used for medicinal purposes in Indian herbal medicine.
About the Lemongrass Plant
As compared to the West Indian lemongrass plant, the East Indian lemongrass plant is about 1.5 meters long. The plant is denser than the West Indian lemongrass one and has purple stems and stalk. It usually grows in dense areas with clumps that are attached to a hard bulbous base. The plant’s height is approximately about three feet.
The East Indian lemongrass plant bears leaves that are bright green and also have very sharp corners. They look a lot like typical grass with tall green leaves. Fertile soil with good sandy soils and tropical climates are favorable for the growth of this plant. Among the numerous types and varieties of lemongrass, the East Indian lemongrass is the most widely used in cooking and for medicinal purposes.
Lemongrass plant is commonly planted by division and mostly in the tropical areas. It is best planted during the rainy season in a tropical climate as they bloom during spring. There should be about a 1-meter gap along with 0.5-meter space between the rows of the plant rhizomes.
The lemongrass plant is also harvested for oil distillation, which begins when the lemongrass clumps are about 4 to 8 months old.
Nutritional Profile of Lemongrass
The reason why lemongrass is so popular is that it has tons of medical usage. Lemongrass is rich in minerals, vitamins, electrolytes, and numerous other compounds, such as antioxidants that are crucial for our body. Consuming lemongrass is very beneficial for our health.
The leaves of lemongrass are the reservoirs for dietary fiber, which account for the carbs in this herb. A hundred grams of this herb will supply your body with 99 calories and zero cholesterol. Also, the same quantity of lemongrass contains about 19% of the recommended daily intake of folate. This is crucial for some essential processes in our body, such as cell division and DNA synthesis.
Other essential vitamins and minerals per 100 grams of lemongrass include:
- Vitamin C – Helps in the tissue repairing process and prevention of scurvy
- Vitamin A – Promotes a healthier immune system and is extremely beneficial for better vision
- Magnesium – Crucial element for maintaining strong bone structure, helps in the synthesis of protein, production of energy, and regulates nerve functions
- Selenium – Powerful antioxidant aiding the immune system, boosting cognitive functions, and fertility
- Phosphorus – Helps build bones, cell membranes, and nucleic acids
- Iron – Vital for producing hemoglobin
- Zinc – Essential for the cell metabolism, protein synthesis, healing, and overall growth and development of the body
- Lemongrass oil is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, and this is the reason why it is deemed beneficial for treating dandruff. A study revealed that the use of lemongrass hair products helped enhance the antifungal strength against dandruff.
- As lemongrass is loaded with folate, it is claimed to be extremely effective in improving anemia. A research study revealed that consuming lemongrass tea enhanced the production of red blood cells.
- Lemongrass is also known for its anxiety-relieving effects. Moreover, it helps in boosting mood and lifting the spirits. Lemongrass essential oil is significantly used in aromatherapy for relieving stress, decreasing anxiety, and treating insomnia.
- Research evidence indicates that lemongrass is helpful in the prevention of inflammation of the gums, known as periodontitis. It is also effective in preventing cavities as it has antibacterial as well as anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
Some Important Precautions
Though with all the nutrient-goodness the lemongrass has to offer, there are certain points to keep in mind.
- Lemongrass is not suitable for pregnant or nursing mothers. Although there are investigations underway to claim something definitively, it is said that lemongrass initiates menstruation, which can be a major risk for pregnant women.
- The antioxidant properties of lemongrass are thought to hinder the effectiveness of the chemotherapy.
- This herb might cause a skin allergy, so be wary of any skin rashes or reactions after consuming it. However, this is not very common.
How to Buy and Store Lemongrass
Many people in East India prefer their home-grown lemongrass – which is the best form. They pick fresh lemongrass leaves while cooking. However, when purchasing this herb from the store be mindful of choosing the leaves that:
- Look fresh
- Give off a lemon scent
- Are very fragrant
- Are not yellowish-green
- Do not have spots on them
For storing purposes, you must wash and clean the stems with cold water first. It is best to air dry the leaves and separate the stems. After the leaves are dry, put them in a zipped pouch or an airtight container and refrigerate them. Due to their aroma, it is advised that lemongrass should be stored in a closed bag away from other food as its smell might spread. This method can keep your lemongrass fresh for about 2-3 weeks.
Additionally, you can also freeze the stems of lemongrass for storing them for several months. If you get dry lemongrass powder, then keep it in an airtight bag or container and tuck away in a cool and dry place.
Some Culinary Uses of Lemongrass
East Asian cuisines use lemongrass leaves in a variety of ways – fresh chopped stems, dried herb as a spice, or the leaf buds. As soon as you cut through the lemongrass, you can feel the warm tingling lemon aroma hitting your senses. Some of the common uses of lemongrass in cooking are:
- Lemongrass goes exceptionally well with seafood, fish, meat, and poultry.
- It elevates the taste of the soup, marinades, curries, and stir-fries.
- One of the most popular Thai soups, named Tom Yum, has lemongrass as a star ingredient.
- It is also deemed very flavorful in tea.
- The buds and stems of the lemongrass are widely used as a garnish in salads.
- It is also used in flavoring the pickles.
How lemongrass is used in medicine
- Citral is a compound that is widely utilized for the commercial production of vitamin A.
- Lemongrass helps relieve the conditions of indigestion, colitis, and other gastro-enteritis disorders.
- Lemongrass holds a significant position in aromatherapies. It helps soothe headaches, body pain, strain, and exhaustion.
- It is also known for its use in making medicines for sore throats, bronchitis, etc.
East Indian Lemongrass is popular for its citrus aroma that is widely used in aromatherapies. It is a powerful herb that has numerous vitamins and minerals that are essential for a healthy body. Furthermore, lemongrass is rich in folate, vitamin A and C, etc. It is cholesterol-free and is thus, one of the most beneficial ingredients, which elevates the taste of meat and poultry dishes. It is mostly very easy to grow and harvest.