Did you know that there are over 50 different kinds of lemongrass plants? This tall, leafy herb is prevalent in many East Asian cuisines and used to flavor anything from teas to soups. That’s not all this almost magical green can do, though. It also offers a ton of anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties, plus many other medicinal pros.
However, there are some do’s and dont’s when using this plant. Whether you’re using fresh lemongrass in your cuisine or as an essential oil in your diffuser, always check with your doctor first. They can best advise your use of this ancient grass. Our guide will help you figure out how you should use it to improve specific aspects of your life.
What Is Lemongrass Essential Oil?
This essential oil comes from the lemongrass plant. This herb grows in tropical climates such as Asia and India. Its official name is Cymbopogon citratus. It has a citrus taste and resembles grass from afar -- thus its name.
There are several ways to harvest the plant to make essential oil. There are plenty of brands which make the essential oil and sell it to the general public. They use more industrial methods of extraction. That involves drying the herb and using a combination of solvents to extract the oil.
If you’d like to make the essential oil at home, first take several stalks of the plant. Then use a pestle and mortar to crush the stalks and extract their juices. You’ll need to combine the extracted juice with a carrier oil of your choice to make fragrant essential oil. The more stalks used, the stronger your oil will become. There are two ways to make your essential oil: using hot or cold infusion method. Both of these methods make lemongrass essential oil that is good for up to 12 months.
History of Lemongrass Essential Oil
As mentioned, the herb is native to tropical places. That includes Africa, Asia, Australia, India, China, Thailand and more. People use the plant for cooking as well as medicinal and cosmetic purposes. It is quite popular in India, China, and Thailand as a way to flavor anything from desserts to beverages. East Indians use the grass primarily to make soups, curries, and medicinal teas. Lemongrass appeared in Sri Lanka around 1905, thanks to Sri Lankan researcher J.F. Jovit who planted it for research purposes. East Indians and Sri Lankans use it for its medicinal properties. In medicine, the grass lowers fevers. It also treats other maladies including irregular menstruation, stomach aches, and skin infections.
The first commercial lemongrass cultivation in the West was in Florida and Haiti in 1947. Today, it is one of the most popular essential oils due to its health benefits and flavorful properties.
How to Use Lemongrass Properly
If you’re cooking with the lemon scented grass, you can use it in powder form, fresh, or dried. It is commonly used to flavor sweet and savory dishes as well as add a zesty kick to traditional teas. When used in food, its most popularly used as a fresh herb sliced diagonally and cooked near the end of the dish (not unlike spring onions). Lemongrass-flavored teas usually use dried leaves which look like thin, green or off-yellow straws varying in length. If you’re using the essential oil in your drinks, make sure to read the warning label. Follow the directions and remember to start with only a couple of drops first.
If you’re using the essential oil topically, there are a few things you should know. Firstly, never apply any essential oil directly onto your skin. Because of its potency, the risk of an allergic reaction is very high. Always dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil -- but not oils such as shortening, melted butter, or canola. Instead, use carrier oils. Carrier oils are oils which dilute essential oils and carry them to your skin, such as jojoba oil, coconut oil, or almond oil (just to name a few).
How you should mix them is up to personal preference and desired dilution. But generally, if you want to test out an essential oil, dilute 15 drops of essential oil per 6 teaspoons of carrier oil. This mixture gives you 2.5 percent dilution. Up the number of drops to increase the dilution percentage. Once you have diluted it, place a small amount on the inside of your wrist. Cover with a bandage and check back after 24 hours. If nothing occurs, feel free to use your mixture. If your skin becomes irritated, discontinue use.
Who Should Avoid Using Lemongrass Essential Oil?
Before using lemongrass essential oil (or any essential oils for that matter), it is essential to do your research. Even before you conduct a patch test on your skin, look at both the essential oil and the carrier oil. If you are allergic to a particular nut, for example, be cautious and do not use carrier oil derived from that nut tree. That includes sweet almond oil, apricot kernel oil, and argan oil.
There is no specific research conducted on the effects of essential oils on a developing baby. But a mother should always be careful of what she eats, smells, and uses on her skin, as it could affect her growing child. Several sources state that both expectant and nursing mothers should avoid the essential oil altogether. That's because lemongrass is believed to trigger menstrual flow. If you’re pregnant, this could potentially lead to a miscarriage. Secondly, consuming lemongrass when nursing could trigger a reaction in your child. Although lemongrass labels say it's for consuming, use caution or simply do not use it at all when pregnant or nursing.
Possible Side Effects
Always consult your family physician before using any essential oil on a daily basis. Only trained medical professionals can warn you of all side effects before use. As mentioned above, pregnant and nursing women should avoid the use of lemongrass products. Besides that, the most common side effect of using lemongrass oil is allergic reactions. That is why it is always important to test a small patch of skin before using any essential oil on a regular basis. Also be aware of the selected carrier oil. Test your carrier oil separately on a patch of skin to find out if you are allergic to that oil as well.
There are several other common side effects. That includes increased amylase, an enzyme created in the pancreas and salivary glands which helps starch digestion. It also increases bilirubin, a compound produced by the breakdown of hemoglobin in the blood cells. If inhaled, consumers could also develop alveolitis, which is when the air sacs in the lungs become inflamed.
What Is Lemongrass Used For?
While you may use lemongrass to flavor food and drinks, it is also has a myriad of health benefits. We’ll go through just a handful of them.
Anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory
Lemongrass contains three inflammation-fighting compounds: chlorogenic acid, isoorientin, and swertiajaponin. Therefore, the tea, for example, helps fight against inflammation, which is a factor in many health conditions.
Lemongrass is also helpful in preventing and treating fungal infections. It is a crucial ingredient in many antifungal creams. Athlete’s foot (a contagious fungal infection affecting the feet, including the toenails) can also be remedied using lemongrass essential oil. Massage the essential oil directly to the affected area. According to studies, it lowers the spot production and consequently reduces the spread of the fungus.
There are studies which support the use of lemongrass tea as a pain reliever. Years ago, a study conducted a test which researched the effectiveness of lemongrass tea on rats. The conclusion was that the lemongrass had pain-relieving properties which supported the drink as a “sedative” in folk medicine.
Secondly, lemongrass reportedly has the same pain-relieving properties for menstrual cramps. Although there is no research to support this, if we assume lemongrass is useful for general pain relief then it also makes sense that it would work the same with menstrual pains. However, there is scientific research proving lemongrass is an effective way to reduce body heat. Therefore, women suffering from hot flashes associated with their menstrual cycle would benefit from this herb.
Fever and migraine reducer
West Indians and those living in the East used lemongrass teas as fever reducers. This tea mixture was called “fever grass tea” because of its anti-inflammatory properties. Fevers, as well as colds and coughs, are remedied using lemongrass (or fever grass) tea.
If you have a headache or suffer from migraines, lemongrass may also be able to reduce your symptoms. Should your migraines bring along emotional symptoms including anxiety or depression, it is known to help ease these symptoms too. That is mostly thanks to its zesty, uplifting scent which also keeps us more alert and awake.
Good for skin and hair health
Lemongrass is said to be a good source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and improves blood circulation. Both of these vitamins are essential for silky hair. Improved blood circulation clears skin and treats common issues including pimple breakouts and eczema.
A 2015 study was conducted to measure the effectiveness of lemongrass against dandruff. Subjects used a special tonic twice a day mixed with different dilutions of lemongrass oil. The test subjects noticed a substantial change after 7 and 14 days of use. The group using 10 percent lemongrass dilution saw a 75 percent drop in dandruff levels.
How Much Does It Cost?
Lemongrass products vary in price depending on how you buy it. The cost of lemongrass depends on the season, availability, and store. Amazon, for instance, sells fresh stalks of lemongrass for $8 to $12. Dried lemongrass and lemongrass powder tend to be more expensive (especially if its organic)— anywhere from $6 to $12 per ounce.
Lemongrass essential oil also varies in price depending on the manufacturer. Non-organic bottles containing one ounce of lemongrass essential oil typically cost $6 to $15. Many brands claim to be “all-natural,” but be sure to turn the bottle around and look at the ingredients to check that claim. Organic bottles of lemongrass essential oil easily cost upwards of $25 to $27 for a 1-ounce bottle.
Lemongrass Essential Oil Brands: How We Reviewed
If you’re thinking of introducing lemongrass into your life, the most cost-effective method for testing is by purchasing it in its essential oil form. We searched the world wide web and used real customer ratings and reviews to find out which oils work and which ones you should avoid. We’ve picked out two brands so you can find which one works best for you.
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Majestic Pure sells several different essential oils, 1 of them being a 4-ounce bottle of lemongrass essential oil. It costs $17 to $25 depending on the retailer and if it is on sale. Some buyers used the oil topically when mixed with a carrier oil while others simply love the fresh, tangy smell and used it with a diffuser. Some customers went one step further and used lemongrass essential oil to make homemade bug spray.
Whatever the reason, there were no complaints regarding the oil’s potency. There was one customer who said the oil was even little too strong. There were, however, complaints about the low-quality latex dropper which eventually disintegrates.
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Coming in with a smaller price tag is Ola Prima lemongrass essential oil. This 4-ounce bottle costs $10 to $15 depending on the retailer. It claims to be non-toxic and is all packaged within the United States. They also sell 8-ounce and 16-ounce bottles of lemongrass essential oil and several other essential oils. Lastly, they offer a money-back guarantee. If you are unhappy with their product for whatever reason, the manufacturer will refund your purchase.
Despite its high rating, some customers complain about the oil’s potency. They claim that despite its larger size, it is much less effective than smaller bottles containing more high-quality oils. Others claimed it smelled less than lemongrass and more like fabricated chemicals. But most praised the oil for smelling as advertised and can do anything from pest control to eliminate foul odors.
Should You Incorporate Lemongrass into Your Life?
Before taking any essential oil, remember to consult your doctor. They will explain any risks or possible adverse side effects of taking the oil. Once your doctor signs off on your decision to incorporate this essential oil into your life, read your selected oil’s label carefully. Some are not for internal use. That means you should not use it in your food or drink.
Rule number one: start gradually because less is more. Essential oils are very potent, and you may find it has the desired effect with just a few drops. Experiment and explore!