Native to India and Southeast Asia, Cymbopogon, or commonly known as lemongrass, is a herb that is widely utilized all over the world for its medicinal and culinary uses. It is characterized by long and slender blade-like leaves connected to a white and magenta stem. It also has a fragrant, citrusy scent which closely resembles that of lemons. Lemongrass can either be used fresh, dried, or powdered and added as a flavoring to soups and curries. It is also made into a soothing tea that can heal various illnesses, from simple fevers to gastric problems and even cancer.
History of Lemongrass
For more than five thousand years, people all over the world have been harnessing the culinary and medicinal uses of lemongrass. It has been grown and cultivated in Asia, particularly in India, Sri Lanka, and the Philippines where the locals combined it with other herbs to create medicinal tonics which they called ‘fever tea’. It was then administered to patients with fever, stomachaches, irregular menstruation, and diarrhea.
Its oil has also been used by the Indians for thousands of years to treat fungal infections. It was believed that lemongrass oil has been exported as early as the 17th century by the Philippines, which the Filipinos call tanglad. However, lemongrass wasn’t commercially cultivated until 1947 in Haiti and Florida. After the people discovered how to extract citronella oil, it was displayed at the World’s Fair in 1951 where it quickly became popular.
Today, lemongrass is commercially cultivated in many tropical countries such as China, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam. India is the largest producer of quality lemongrass oil which is used in perfumes, soaps, and household disinfectants. It is also used as a natural pesticide in vegetable gardens.
Top 15 Health Benefits of Lemongrass
Insect and bug repellant
Using lemongrass oil as a natural insect and bug repellent is an effective way to prevent contracting insect-borne diseases such as malaria, filariasis, and dengue fever. The citral, which is responsible for the lemony scent, keeps the bugs and insects away when applied to the skin.
Heals respiratory problems
Lemongrass is rich in vitamin C, which strengthens your immune system’s ability to fight infections. Drinking a medicinal tea made from boiled lemongrass will heal different kinds of respiratory problems such as colds, cough, asthma, and bronchitis.
Reduces stress and depression
Citronella, an essential oil found in lemongrass, helps reduce stress and provides a calming effect. Since depression is worsened by lack of sleep, inhaling the pleasant aroma of lemongrass will help induce sleep and counter the effects of depression.
Relieves pain from arthritis
The anti-inflammatory properties of lemongrass also relieve joint pains caused by arthritis and rheumatism. Its essential oil helps relax the muscles and promotes blood circulation throughout the body.
Eases menstrual cramps
Aside from joint pains, lemongrass also relieves menstrual cramps experienced by some women during their period. Applying lemongrass oil on the abdomen will greatly help in soothing the pain and discomfort.
Regulates blood pressure
Lemongrass is rich in zinc, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, and sodium. These minerals are all important in the body’s metabolic processes and the regulation of normal blood pressure and heart rate.
Improves development of the fetus
The leaves and stems of the lemongrass herb are good sources of folate. Folate is an essential nutrient that is needed during cell division and DNA synthesis, and it can help prevent neural tube defects in the fetus when consumed by pregnant women.
Kills fungus and bacteria
Plenty of skin diseases is caused by fungal and bacterial infections, such as yeasts, ringworms, athlete’s foot. Citral, the chemical component of lemongrass, has anti-fungal properties that effectively kill the fungi and prevents it from coming back.
Detoxifies the body
Lemongrass is diuretic in nature so drinking lemongrass tea will cause you to urinate more frequently, which is good for your body. This process cleans out your system by flushing out the toxins and harmful bacteria from your body.
Cleanses the skin
Facial cleansing products also use lemongrass oil as one if their ingredients because of its astringent properties. It tones the pores, kills bacteria, and removes dirt from clogging up your pores, which is one of the main causes of acne.
Since it is also an antipyretic, drinking lemongrass tea or applying lemongrass essential oil can also relieve fever and significantly lower the temperature of the patient.
Prevents stomach problems
The essential oils myrcene, citronellol, methyl heptanone, dipentene, geraniol, limonene, geranyl acetate, and nerol all contain anti-microbial properties that prevent pathogens from infecting the stomach. It also stimulates proper bowel movement and good digestion.
Inhibits growth of cancer cells
Studies have shown the effect of citral on cancer cells by inhibiting the growth of the mutated cells without affecting the healthy ones. Lemongrass has been proven to be an effective herb that counters skin and breast cancer.
Lowers cholesterol levels
Regular consumption of lemongrass-infused beverages and dishes can reduce your risk of experiencing cardiac problems such as atherosclerosis. Lemongrass prevents the accumulation of lipids in the walls of the blood vessel, thereby promoting the proper flow of blood and oxygen in the body.
Applying lemongrass oil on your temples will relieve the tension in the muscles and alleviate the pain and discomfort of headaches. Inhaling its scent will also help you sleep better, which speeds up your recovery.
Lemongrass Nutrition Facts
For every 67 grams (1 cup) of raw lemongrass, you will get the following nutrients:
- 3 Calories (3% Daily Value)
- 0 grams Total Carbohydrate (6% Daily Value)
- 3 grams Total Fat (1% Daily Value)
- 0.1 grams Saturated Fat (0% Daily Value)
- 0.0 grams Monounsaturated Fat
- 0.1 grams Polyunsaturated Fat
- 20.8 milligrams Total Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- 92.4 milligrams Total Omega-6 Fatty Acids
- 2 grams Protein (2% Daily Value)
- 0 IU Vitamin A (0% Daily Value)
- 7 milligrams Vitamin C (3% Daily Value)
- 0 milligrams Thiamin (3% Daily Value)
- 1 milligrams Riboflavin (5% Daily Value)
- 7 milligrams Niacin (4% Daily Value)
- 1 milligrams Vitamin B6 (3% Daily Value)
- 2 micrograms Folate (13% Daily Value)
- 0 micrograms Vitamin B12 (0% Daily Value)
- 6 milligrams Calcium (4% Daily Value)
- 5 milligrams Iron (30% Daily Value)
- 2 milligrams Magnesium (10% Daily Value)
- 7 milligrams Phosphorus (7% Daily Value)
- 484 milligrams Potassium (14% Daily Value)
- 0 milligrams Sodium (0% Daily Value)
- 5 milligrams Zinc (10% Daily Value)
- 2 milligrams Copper (2% Daily Value)
- 5 milligrams Manganese (175% Daily Value)
- 5 micrograms Selenium (1% Daily Value)
- 0 milligrams Phytosterols
- 3 grams Water
- 2 grams Ash
Potential Side Effects of Lemongrass
- Lemongrass is safe when consumed as a food and applied topically as a medicine in the skin in moderate amounts.
- Avoid excessively inhaling the aroma of this plant as it might cause lung complications. Keep lemongrass oil-based products out of reach of children since swallowing of the product will cause fatal poisoning.
- For pregnant women, lemongrass is safe but it is best to consume it in small amounts since it stimulates menstruation, which might cause miscarriage.
- For people who have kidney diseases, the use of lemongrass is also strongly discouraged.
- In India, lemongrass is used to preserve important manuscripts in many research institutes. The hydrophobic nature of the lemongrass oil keeps the manuscripts dry and prevents the erasure of the text due to decay and humidity.
- Lemongrass is nicknamed as the ‘mosquito grass’ since it is widely used as an insect repellent that drives away mosquitos and bugs.
- Kadha, a medicinal brew used in Ayurvedic medicine, uses lemongrass as one of its main ingredients to relieve coughs and nasal congestion.
- A certain species of lemongrass called Cymbopogon nardus is an invasive species that can grow abundantly in pasturelands and starve the cattle since it cannot be eaten.
- Lemongrass was once featured on a 4 riyal Qatari stamp.
Lemongrass Essential Oil
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