Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Resembling a gigantic weed, lemongrass is an aromatic
tropical plant with long, slender blades that can
grow to a height of 5 ft (1.5 m). Believed to have a wide
range of therapeutic effects, the herb has been used forcenturies in South America and India and has also become
popular in the United States. Aside from folk medicine,
lemongrass is a favorite ingredient in Thai cuisine
and dishes that boast a tangy, Asian flavor. While there
are several species of lemongrass, Cymbopogon citratus
is the variety most often recommended for medicinal
purposes. Native to Southeast Asia, lemongrass can also
be found growing in India, South America, Africa, Australia,
and the United States. Only the fresh or dried
leaves of lemongrass, and the essential oil derived from
them, are used as a drug. Cymbopogon citratus , which
belongs to the Poaceae family of plants, is also referred
to as West Indian lemongrass.
Not to be confused with lemon balm, which is an
entirely different herb, lemongrass is considered by
herbalists to have several useful properties, including antibacterial,
antifungal, and fever-reducing effects. Some
of these claims have been supported by animal and laboratory
studies. In one test-tube investigation, published
in the medical journal Microbios in 1996, researchers
demonstrated that lemongrass was effective against 22
strains of bacteria and 12 types of fungi. Scientific research
has also bolstered the herb’s reputation as an analgesic
and sedative. A study conducted in rodents suggests
that myrcene, a chemical found in the essential oil
of Cymbopogon citratus, may act as a site-specific pain
reliever. Unlike aspirin and similar analgesics, which
tend to alleviate pain throughout the body, myrcene
seems to work only on particular areas. A study involving
people indicates that lemongrass may also affect the
way the body processes cholesterol.
More recently, lemongrass has been shown to have
antimutagenic properties; that is, researchers have found
that it is able to reverse chemically induced mutations in
certain strains of bacteria.
While they may not be aware of it, most Americans
have already tried lemongrass in one form or another.
Citral, a key chemical found in Cymbopogon citratus, is
an ingredient in a variety of foods and beverages (including
alcohol). It can be found in candies, puddings, baked
goods, meat products, and even in certain fats and oils.
Citral is a pale yellow liquid that evaporates rapidly at
room temperature. Like other essential oils, lemongrass
is also used as a fragrance enhancer in many perfumes,
soaps, and detergents.

General use

While not approved by the Food and Drug Administration
(FDA), lemongrass reportedly has a wide variety
of therapeutic effects. Because the herb has not been
studied extensively in people, its effectiveness is based
mainly on the results of animal and laboratory studies as
well as its centuries-old reputation as a folk remedy.
Lemongrass is one of the most popular plant medicines
in Brazil, where it is used to treat nervous disorders and
stomach problems. In the Amazon, lemongrass is highly
regarded as a sedative tea.
When taken internally, lemongrass has been recommended
for stomachaches, diarrhea, gas, bowel
spasms, vomiting, fever, the flu, and headaches and
other types of pain. The herb (or its essential oil) may be
applied externally to help treat acne, athlete’s foot,
lower back pain, sciatica, sprains, tendinitis, neuralgia,
and rheumatism. To treat circulatory disorders, some authorities
recommend rubbing a few drops of lemongrass
oil on the skin of affected areas; it is believed to work by
improving blood flow. Like many essential oils, lemongrass
is also used in aromatherapy.
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).
Considered an antiseptic and astringent, essential oil
of lemongrass is also used by some people to cleanse
oily skin and help close pores. Some herbalists recommend
mixing a few drops of lemongrass with a normal
portion of mild shampoo to combat greasy hair. Lemongrass
essential oil can also be used as a deodorant to curb
Last but not least, the herb has a strong reputation as
an insect repellent. It is an important ingredient in several
products designed to keep bugs at bay. Some authorities
recommend rubbing the crushed herb directly on exposed
areas of skin to avoid insect bites when enjoying
the great outdoors.
The relative safety and stability of lemongrass oil
has recommended it to pharmaceutical researchers who
are testing new methods of quantitative analysis.
oil has been used to demonstrate the superiority of
near-infrared spectroscopy to older methods of determining
the chemical content of plant oils.


The optimum daily dosage of lemongrass, which is
available as fresh or dried herb or as lemongrass oil, has
not been established with any certainty. Because lemongrass
has been recommended for so many different purposes,
and can be used internally and externally, consumers
are advised to consult a doctor experienced in the
use of alternative remedies to determine proper dosage.
There is a significant difference between the external use
of a few drops of essential oil, and the use of larger
amounts of the herb in a tincture or tea.
Lemongrass tea can be prepared by steeping 1–2 tsp
of the herb (fresh or dried) in a cup of boiling water. The
mixture should be strained after 10–15 minutes. The tea is
generally taken several times a day. In Heinerman’s Encyclopedia
of Healing Herbs & Spices , John Heinerman recommends
using one cup of lemongrass tea every four
hours to reduce fever. In the Green Pharmacy, prominent
herbalist James Duke recommends drinking one to four
cups of lemongrass tea a day to benefit from its anti-fungal
properties. The used tea bags can also be applied externally
as fungi-fighting compresses, according to the author.
To alleviate gas or persistent vomiting, Heinerman
recommends a dose of 3–6 drops of lemongrass oil (the
Cymbopogon citratus variety). It may be placed on a sugar
cube or mixed with 1 tsp of real vanilla flavor before swallowing.
For sciatica, lower back pain, sprains, tendinitis,
and rheumatism, the author suggests rubbing 10 drops of
the essential oil onto the skin of the affected areas.


Lemongrass is not known to be harmful when taken
in recommended dosages, though it is important to remember
that the long-term effects of taking the herb (in
any amount) have not been investigated. The essential oil
should not be used internally by children, women who
are pregnant or breast-feeding, or people with liver or
kidney disease.
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.
Avoid getting lemongrass (herb or oil) in the eyes.
Citral has been reported to irritate the respiratory tract in
sensitive people as well as the eyes and skin.

Side effects

When taken internally in recommended dosages,
lemongrass is not associated with any bothersome or significant
side effects. Cases have been reported, however,
in which people have developed skin rashes after drinking
lemongrass tea.


As of 2003, lemongrass is not known to interact adversely
with any drug or dietary supplement.

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