Lemongrass oil‘s medicinal properties have been widely studied. It contains 65–85 percent citral and myrcene, which have antibacterial and analgesic properties. It also has restorative, digestive, antitussive, antiviral, analgesic, antiemetic,
anticardiopathic, anti-inflammatory (in urinary ducts), diuretic, antispasmodic, diaphoretic, and anti-allergic effects (Negrelle and Gomes, 2007).

Cymbopogon species to which lemongrass belongs are popular spices in Southeastern Asian cuisine, and the grass and essential oil extracts are used in Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine. The lemongrass essential oil is used in beverages, foodstuffs, fragrances, household products, personal care products, pharmaceuticals, and tobacco. Lemongrass is extensively used to flavor soups, salads, and curries in South-eastern Asia, China, and the Caribbean.

It is rich in vitamins and minerals and is a preferred ingredient in Thai food. It is used to spice pickles and marinades and is often paired with garlic, ginger, and cilantro. In Brazil, a tea infused with C. citratus extract is prepared from fresh or dry leaves.

Lemongrass oil is extracted by steam distillation, which separates the oil from the water. The pleasant lemony flavor makes it a popular ingredient in skincare products, cosmetics, soaps, and perfumes. Mixed with virgin coconut oil, it is called Oil of Negros, and is used in aromatherapy. A by-product of extraction is scented water used in skin care products such as lotions, creams, and toners.

Ancient Greek and Roman literature references adding essential oil to make ointments, wines, and fragrances. In Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis Historia (Book XIII, Chapter 7, Paragraph 9), he mentions a Telinum (fragrant ointment) made of fresh olive oil, cyperus, calamus, yellow melilot, fenugreek, honey, marum, and sweet marjoram. He also mentions an Indian grass with aromatic properties. The comic poet Menander called it the most fashionable perfume. A wine with a concoction of calamus, costus, spikenard, cinnamon, cardamom, saffron, ginger, and other herbs, is also referred to in the literature of that time.

Its anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antimycobacterial, antiviral, antifungal, antifilarial, antiamoebic, and antimutagenic properties have been studied and validated in animal trials. The plant is also indicated to possess antipyretic, antiseptic,  anticarcinogenic, hypoglycemic, and insecticidal properties. Various active compounds, such as citronel, citronellal, geraniol,
terpenes, alcohols, ketones, aldehydes, esters, flavonoids, and phenolic compounds, have been isolated from C. citratus, which the U.S. FDA has classified as “Generally Recognised as Safe.”

The herb is also a traditional Brazilian medicine believed to help calm the mind and treat muscular spasms, cramps, and fatigue. In Ayurveda, it is used to provide relief in cases of respiratory distress, cough, sore throat, laryngitis, and fever. It is useful in preventing colitis, indigestion, and other gastroenteritis ailments.

According to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Cymbopogon (the botanical name of the lemongrass plant), or xiang mao, has acrid and warm properties and is used to treat headaches, abdominal pain, and rheumatic pain.

Learn more about lemongrass in Holy Herbs: Modern Connections to Ancient Plants

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