Lemongrass is a popular herb that adds a unique citrus flavor to the foods and beverages it is used in. It is also one of the most popular oils in aromatherapy, along with a highly-regarded naturopathic medicine. It has long been known to provide positive health benefits, and scientific studies are beginning to back up many of the claims surrounding this oil. Several studies have shown that lemongrass essential oil is effective at eradicating fungal and bacterial infections, as well as helping safely reduce levels of bad (LDL) cholesterol.1
Lemongrass essential oil is most often used in clinics and spas where it helps encourage relaxation and a general sense of well-being. Its ability to alleviate pain provides relief to sore joints and muscles, making it a popular option as an oil used during an aromatherapy massage. It is also becoming popular as a homeopathic remedy for stress and sleeping disorders.
As green alternatives are becoming more popular, lemongrass essential oil is being incorporated into natural cleaning products and cosmetics. It is a well-known moisturizer and can help repair damaged hair, while also providing antibacterial and antifungal properties.
The History of Lemongrass
Lemongrass is a fibrous herb with a fragrance similar to lemons that belong to the family Poaceae, which consists of 55 other varieties of grasses, two of which are popularly used. The first, Cymbopogon flexuosus, and is most commonly used for producing essential oils. The second, Cymbopogon citratus, is the lemongrass most often used for culinary purposes.2
The herb is native to Africa, Southeast Asia, and Oceania, where it is considered a medicinal herb. In countries such as Thailand, India, and China, its use is popular in foods and beverages and has been for a long time. Lemongrass is known to improve circulation, promote digestion, provide relief to fever, stabilize menstrual cycles, increase immunity, treat infections, and act as an insecticide.
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It is known to have been used in ancient India as a treatment for fever and diarrhea. The fibrous stalks of the lemongrass herb were steeped in hot water to make a tea that helps in alleviating fever. Its use as an aromatherapy oil began in 1905 when a JF Jovit obtained several plants on which to conduct research. From there, its popularity blossomed.
Lemongrass essential oil contains beneficial terpene components that actively work on different parts of the body to remedy a range of conditions. The main terpene compounds in lemongrass essential oil include citronellal, nerol, limonene, geraniol, geranyl acetate, citral, and myrcene.
- Citral has antiviral, antiseptic and antioxidant properties.
- Citronellal has antiviral, antimicrobial, antifungal and sedative properties.
- Geraniol has antioxidant, antibacterial, antiseptics and analgesic properties.
- Geranyl acetate has antioxidant, antibacterial, antiseptics and analgesic properties.
- Limonene has digestive, appetite suppressing, detoxifying and antioxidant properties.3
- Neral has antinociceptive, anti-inflammatory and apoptotic properties.
- Nerol has antioxidant, sedative, and anti-inflammatory properties.
- Myrcene has anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antibiotic, and sedative properties.4
Uses for Lemongrass Essential Oil
Lemongrass is versatile, and its uses range from cooking to cosmetics, to cleaning products, to medicines. Lemongrass essential oil can be used for treating muscle pain, acne, sore throats, and headaches. It is also one of the best natural repellents against insects such as mosquitoes, ticks, lice, and fleas.5
The benefits of lemongrass essential oil are many. The following are a few of the ways in which lemongrass essential oil can be used to improve health.
Lemongrass essential oil contains large amounts of limonene, an organic terpene compound with anti-inflammatory properties. Nearly all health conditions involve an element of inflammation, and lemongrass can help reduce many of the symptoms that occur as a direct result of it. Lemongrass essential oil is not only an excellent anti-inflammatory but also acts as an antioxidant that helps eliminate free radicals or reduce the oxidative stress they cause.6
The anti-inflammatory properties of lemongrass essential oil have been shown to actively play a role in helping improve the symptoms associated with conditions such as arthritis, asthma, diabetes, and high cholesterol. One study found that lemongrass essential oil significantly decreased cholesterol levels. Ingesting lemongrass oil has also been shown to reduce the LDL cholesterol— “bad” cholesterol—levels in the body while maintaining optimal triglyceride levels. This, in turn, helps improve blood flow throughout the arteries and has the potential to reduce the risk of developing problems with heart health.7
Because of its ability to act as an antiviral and antibacterial, lemongrass essential oil effectively relieves the symptoms of illnesses such as the flu and common cold. Typically, it has the strongest effects when used in a vaporizer as this allows maximum delivery of the essential oil to the nasal cavities. Much like menthol, lemongrass has a cooling effect on the body, which can provide relief from a high body temperature and fever.
In fact, lemongrass has a long history of use as a treatment for fever in ancient Chinese and Indian medicine, and many modern studies have shown that lemongrass can be effective for relieving fever symptoms. While you should never ingest most essential oils, many of the benefits of lemongrass essential oil can be delivered to the body with a vaporizer, room diffuser, portable diffuser, or in a steam bath. The vaporizer, in particular, allows for inhalation of many of the beneficial terpene compounds in lemongrass essential oil, which is then absorbed into the bloodstream via the mucous membranes in the nose and mouth.
Antibacterial and Antifungal
Lemongrass essential oil has been shown to have antimicrobial properties. A 2012 study examined lemongrass as an antibacterial agent by observing how it reacted with the bacteria that causes staph infections. The study concluded that lemongrass oil had a significant effect on the inhibition of bacterial growth, therefore preventing infection.
In a separate study, researchers tested the effects of lemongrass essential oil vapors on airborne and surface level bacteria. One part of the study looked at these effects in an office environment, which, when tested, showed that 89 percent of airborne bacteria was eliminated within 15 hours. These results demonstrate the role of lemongrass essential oil as a potent antibacterial and disinfectant.8
In terms of the antifungal effects of lemongrass essential oil, it was found that an infusion of lemongrass taken internally over a period of 10 days may help reduce the symptoms of thrush, a fungal infection of the mouth. A potent in vitro response against the yeast responsible for thrush, Candida albicans was observed, meaning lemongrass essential oil presents a potential treatment option.9
Sleep Aid and Stress Reducer
Lemongrass essential oil is one of the best ways of relieving sleep disorders such as insomnia. Its properties also allow it to alleviate stress and anxiety, which is often attributed to the delicate yet calming aroma of the oil. One of the best ways to use the oil to alleviate stress and anxiety is to use it in an oil burner or reed diffuser, allowing sufficient amounts of the aroma to be released and providing a feeling of serenity and relaxation.
Lemongrass essential oil also has sedative properties that can help improve the overall quality of sleep. When combined with reduced stress and anxiety levels, this provides a much-needed boost to the immune system. Lemongrass oil can also act as a muscle relaxant, providing relief from a backache, muscle spasms, cramps, and everyday aches and pains. For use as a muscle relaxant, dilute pure lemongrass essential oil with the carrier oil of choice (jojoba, coconut, almond) and massage into the affected area.
Safety and Precautions
As a general rule, lemongrass essential oil is seen as safe for the majority of people when used topically. It is not recommended to ingest lemongrass essential oil, but rather should only be used topically or in aromatherapy.
Lemongrass essential oil may cause skin discomfort or rashes in those with sensitive skin. For this reason, it is recommended to test the essential oil on the inner skin of the elbow several hours before applying it to larger parts of the body. The essential oil should always be diluted with a carrier oil to reduce the risk of skin irritation. If using the oil on the scalp, avoid using excess amounts to prevent runoff into the eyes. In the case that this does occur, rinse the eyes with cold water for at least five minutes and seek medical attention.
Use of lemongrass essential oil is discouraged for those who are pregnant or nursing, as with any other essential oil.
Lemongrass essential oil is a versatile botanical extract with a range of possible applications. Its antifungal and antibacterial properties, combined with its ability to act as an insect repellent make it a fantastic addition to your essential oil collection and daily routine.
The delicate yet stimulating fragrance is a combination of vibrant citrus notes, earthy grass undertones, and sweet top notes. Its aroma acts as a stimulant for the mind, reducing anxiety and stress, all while purifying the air and add an invigorating energy to the room.
To find out about the health-boosting properties of lemongrass essential oil for yourself, try using it topically when diluted with a carrier oil, in a room diffuser, or in a personal essential oil diffuser like Sleepy or Ocean MONQ.