Lemongrass is a popular ingredient in Asian cuisine. It is often used in teas, curries, and soups. This versatile and elegant herb has potent antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties as well.
This citrusy essential oil is used in aromatherapy to alleviate sore joints and to encourage relaxation. It is used in many natural cosmetics and cleaning products.
Read on to learn more about lemongrass essential oil and its benefits.
What is lemongrass essential oil?
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon) is a grassy herb that is used for medicinal and cooking purposes. This herb, which belongs to the Poaceae family, grows in clumps up to the height of three feet. Its leaves are bright green and have sharp edges.
Lemongrass essential oil is extracted through the process of steam distillation from the leaves and the stalks of the lemongrass plant. This yellow to amber colored oil has a fresh citrus aroma.
Lemongrass essential oil many therapeutic properties that have numerous applications in the health field. It has an impressive nutritional profile as it includes calcium, copper, iron, manganese, magnesium, several B vitamins, vitamin A, and vitamin C.
It has antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant properties.
Lemongrass belongs to the Poaceae family which consists of 55 varieties of grasses. However, only two have been popularly used over the years. Cymbopogon citratus is used for cooking purpose, while Cymbopogon flexuosus is used for producing oils.
Native to warm and tropical regions like Southeast Asia, Oceania, and Africa, lemongrass has been used in foods and drinks for a long time.
Lemongrass is also used here traditionally to promote digestion, stabilize menstrual cycle, boost immunity, and treat infections. In some cultures, it is also known as fever grass, because of its ability to bring down fever.
It is believed that lemongrass essential oil was exported from the Philippines as early as the 17th century. In 1904 JF Jovit, a Sri Lankan researcher obtained a few Kochin Sera plants from South India and planted them for research.
Lemongrass was cultivated in Florida and Haiti in 1947.
Lemongrass essential oil is now one of the most popular essential oils due to its numerous health benefits.
Benefits of lemongrass essential oil
1. Prevents infections
Lemongrass contains citral and limonene, which provide it with antibacterial and antifungal properties. It is useful in preventing bacterial infections in the stomach, colon, urinary tract, wounds, and respiratory system.
During a 2012 lab study, when researchers added lemongrass essential oil to the staph infection, it disrupted the infection. The researchers concluded that lemongrass essential oil potential against antibiotic-resistant Staph aureus (1).
Another study from 2010 showed lemongrass essential oil to be effective against bacteria that cause intestinal infections, blood infections, pneumonia, and skin infections (2).
Lemongrass essential oil can also prevent infections like ringworm, athlete’s foot, and thrush.
2. Relieves pain
Lemongrass essential oil has potent anti-inflammatory properties, which helps in reducing pain and inflammation. According to a 2017 study, when people with rheumatoid arthritis applied lemongrass oil for 30 days, they noted an 80 to 50 percent decrease in their pain levels (3).
Lemongrass essential oil is also helpful in relieving headaches as it can alleviate the pain, pressure, and tension that cause headaches.
Lemongrass oil helps in easing muscle cramps and aches as it helps improve circulation (4).
3. Reduces stress and anxiety
The fresh and delicate scent of lemongrass essential oil has a calming effect. It helps boost confidence, uplifts spirits, fights depression and reduces stress and anxiety.
During a 2015 study, 40 volunteers inhaled either lemongrass essential oil, tea tree essential oil or distilled water. They were then exposed to an anxiety-causing situation. The results showed that the group that took lemongrass essential oil had reduced levels of anxiety (5).
During another study, 29 volunteers received a massage once a week for three weeks with either lemongrass or sweet almond oil. The results suggest that lemongrass essential oil has harmonizing effects on the function of the nervous system (6).
4. Reduces fever
Lemongrass has been used to relieve fever in traditional medicine. Lemongrass has anti-inflammatory and antipyretic properties, which help bring down high temperatures.
It induces profuse sweating, which helps bring down the temperature and flush out the toxins. Lemongrass oil also helps fight infections that cause fever.
5. Improves digestive health
Lemongrass tea has been used for centuries to relieve diarrhea, ulcers, and gastric pain. Recent research also shows that lemongrass oil is effective in improving digestive health.
According to a 2012 study, lemongrass essential oil helps protect the stomach of animals from damage caused by ethanol and aspirin. The study also suggested that this oil can serve as the lead compound for future development of therapies that combat nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug-associated gastropathy (7).
Lemongrass essential oil also provides relief from stomach pain and gas. It also helps reduce diarrhea. According to a 2006 animal-based study, lemongrass oil helped reduce fecal output in mice with castor-oil induced diarrhea (8).
6. Fights flu and colds
According to research published in the Journal of Advanced Pharmaceutical Technology and Research, as a vaporizer, lemongrass essential oil is effective against bacteria, flu, and colds (9).
Researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University, UK, conducted another study to determine whether lemongrass and geranium essential oil vapors could reduce surface and airborne levels of bacteria.
The result showed that these essential oil vapors inhibited the growth of antibiotic sensitive and antibiotic-resistant bacteria in vitro and reduced surface and airborne levels of bacteria (10).
7. Help reduce cholesterol
Lemongrass essential oil contains terpenoids that inhibit the production of mevalonic acid, which helps produce cholesterol. It also helps reduce inflammation which can lead to plaque build-up.
According to a study from Brazil, when mice were given high doses of lemongrass essential oil for 21 days, it lowered their blood cholesterol levels.
The study concluded that it was safe to take lemongrass essential oil in doses used in folk medicine, and indicated the beneficial effect of lemongrass in reducing cholesterol levels (11).
8. Menstrual cramps
Lemongrass tea helps provide relief from menstrual cramps and nausea. The pain relieving and calming effects of lemongrass are highly beneficial during menstruation.
Drink one or two cups of lemongrass tea a day to ease the pain and discomfort of menstruation. Additionally, you can also apply diluted lemongrass oil on your stomach for relief.
9. Antioxidant properties
Lemongrass essential oil has potent anti-oxidant properties that help eliminate disease-causing free radicals. According to a 2009 study, Citral, one of the critical components of lemongrass essential oil can inhibit the growth of human breast cancer cell line in vitro (12).
10. Improves skin
Lemongrass essential oil has antiseptic and astringent properties. It can be used to ease skin irritation and reduce acne. Its anti-inflammatory properties help treat skin inflammation caused by acne.
Lemongrass essential oil can also help treat candida, cellulite and cold sores. Thanks to its diuretic properties, it also helps reduce puffiness of the skin.
Lemongrass essential oil can provide many benefits for the hair and scalp. It soothes the itchy scalp and reduces dandruff. It strengthens hair follicles and reduces hair fall. It also reduces excess oil from the hair and scalp and keeps them healthy and shiny.
12. Removes toxins
Lemongrass essential oil has natural diuretic properties; they help in flushing out toxins from the body. This property of lemongrass oil also helps reduce high blood pressure. Most medication for lowering high blood pressure induce frequent urination.
13. Treats insomnia
The calming and soothing properties of lemongrass essential oil help in treating insomnia. Lemongrass oil has a soothing, sedating and calming effect on the mind. A cup of warm lemongrass tea before bedtime can induce better sleep.
14. Repels bugs
The high content of citral and geraniol in lemongrass oil helps repel insects, mosquitoes, and ants. This repellent can be sprayed directly on the skin.
Ways to use lemongrass essential oil
There are several different ways to use lemongrass essential oil including using an air diffuser, applying it topically and consuming it internally. You can drink diluted lemongrass oil or lemongrass tea to prevent infection, reduce pain and to improve digestive health.
Topical application of diluted lemongrass essential oil helps provide relief from pain, cramps, headaches, insomnia and improves skin health.
You can use lemongrass oil in the following ways –
- Aromatically: You can use an oil diffuser or vaporizer to diffuse lemongrass essential oil all through your home.
- Internally: The Food and Drug Administration recognize lemongrass essential oil as safe for consumption (13). However, it would help if you always diluted it before you consume it. You can dilute it with water or mix it into a smoothie.
- Topically: Always dilute lemongrass essential oil with a carrier oil like coconut oil before you apply it on the skin. You can also add a few drops of lemongrass oil to your shampoo, lotion, conditioner, and deodorant to enjoy its benefits.
Side effects and precautions
Lemongrass is safe when used as food. However, lemongrass essential oil is highly concentrated and can cause side effects. There have been cases of side effects like lung problems after inhaling lemongrass essential oil.
Topical application lemongrass essential oil can also lead to rashes or a burning sensation. Always dilute the oil before use. Do a patch test on your skin before you use it.
Lemongrass essential oil can stimulate menstrual flow, so pregnant women should avoid it as it can lead to miscarriage.
Women who are breastfeeding and children under two should not use lemongrass essential oil.
Lemongrass is a citrusy herb that is native to the warm and tropical regions like Southeast Asia, Oceania, and Africa. Lemongrass oil is extracted through steam distillation from the leaves of this plant.
Lemongrass essential oil has many health benefits which include preventing infections, relieving pain, reducing stress and anxiety, reducing fever and lowering cholesterol levels.
You can use lemongrass essential oil internally, topically and aromatically. However, you must always dilute it before use.