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Botanical Name: Cymbopogon citratus
Family: Gramineae (grass) – Poaceae (haygrass)
Species: C. citratus
Other common names: Oil Grass, Fever Grass, Lemon Grass, Citronella, Capim
Cymbopogon is a genus of about 55 species of grasses, native to warm temperate and tropical regions of the Old World. It is a tall perennial grass. Common names include lemon grass, lemongrass, barbed wire grass, silky heads, citronella grass or fever grass amongst many others.
Lemon grass is widely used as a herb in Asian (particularly Hmong, Khmer, Thai, Lao, Philippines, Sri Lankan, Vietnamese) and Caribbean cooking. It has a citrous flavour and can be dried and powdered, or used fresh. The stalk itself is too hard to be eaten, except for the soft inner part. However, it can be finely sliced and added to recipes. It may also be bruised and added whole as this releases the aromatic oils from the juice sacs in the stalk. The main constituent of lemongrass oil is citral, which makes up around 80% of the total.
Lemon grass is commonly used in teas, soups, and curries. It is also suitable for poultry, fish, and seafood. It is often used as a tea in African countries (e.g. Togo).
East-Indian Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon flexuosus), also called Cochin Grass or Malabar Grass, is native to Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka, Burma,and Thailand while the West-Indian lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) is assumed to have its origins in Malaysia. While both can be used interchangeably, C. citratus is more suited for cooking. In India C. citratus is used both as a medical herb and in perfumes.
Citronella Grass (Cymbopogon nardus and Cymbopogon winterianus) is similar to the species above but grows to 2 m and has red base stems. These species are used for the production of citronella oil, which is used in soaps, as a mosquito repellent in insect sprays and candles, and also in aromatherapy, which is famous in Bintan, Indonesia. The principal chemical constituents of citronella, geraniol and citronellol, are antiseptics, hence their use in household disinfectants and soaps. Besides oil production, citronella grass is also used for culinary purpose, such as in tea.
Palmarosa also called Rosha Grass and Indian Geranium (Cymbopogon martinii) is another species used in the perfume industry. It is a perennial clumping grass which grows to 150 cm with finer leaves and has a smaller bulbous base than the species above. The leaves and flower tops contain a sweet smelling oil which is used for the production of geraniol. It is also distilled into palmarosa oil and used in aromatherapy for its calming effect to help relieve nervous tension and stress.
One particular alpine grassland variant known as juzai is a staple of Kyrgyz, Dungan and Uyghur cooking.
Partial species list
Cymbopogon ambiguus Australian lemon-scented grass (native of Australia)
Cymbopogon bombycinus Silky Oilgrass (native of Australia)
Cymbopogon citratus Lemon Grass
Cymbopogon citriodora West Indian lemon grass
Cymbopogon flexuosus East Indian lemon grass
Cymbopogon nardus Citronella Grass
Cymbopogon obtectus Silky-heads (native of Australia)
Cymbopogon procerus (native of Australia)
Cymbopogon procerus (native of Australia)
Cymbopogon proximus found in Egypt
Cymbopogon refractus Barbed wire grass (native of Australia)
Cymbopogon winterianus Citronella Grass
Lemongrass is a perennial and intensely fragrant herb, native to Asia, and widely cultivated as a commercial crop throughout the tropics and subtropics of the world. The plants grow well in sandy soils in warm, humid climates in full sun with adequate drainage. The narrow foliage of Lemongrass ranges from blue-green to gold, and the flowers are white, cream or green. It ranges in height from about three to five feet and is a bitter, aromatic grass with leaves used in herbal medicines and herbal teas. Lemongrass is also highly valued commercially as a common food flavoring and ingredient in baked goods, confections, cosmetics, perfumes, creams and soaps, and the oil is used in hair oils and herbal baths. The herb’s lemony flavor is widely used in Asian (particularly Thai, Lao, Sri Lankan, Khmer and Vietnamese) and Caribbean cooking. Lemongrass is used in traditional Brazilian medicine
as an analgesic and sedative, a use that is copied around the world. Some of the constituents of Lemongrass include essential oils (including terpineol, myrcene, citral (its most active ingredient), citronellol, geraniol and limonene, among others), alpha-pinene, beta-sitosterol, coumarin, tannin
and ursolic acid. The large amounts of citral and geraniol in Lemongrass are lemon-scented and
rose-scented respectively. Lemongrass also includes nutritious calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and zinc.
Lemongrass is a mild sedative. Try it for your insomnia, or when you are under stress, or even if you need help to calm a nervous or upset stomach. The herb is also said to relieve headaches, lower intermittent fevers and rid the lungs of mucus. Lemongrass also acts as an effective antimicrobial, antifungal and antibacterial.
Lemongrass in some cases has been used as a mild depressant for the central nervous system. It is also sometimes used as a weed barrier.
Lemongrass is widely used as an analgesic, an agent that reduces the sensation of pain, and has been effective in relieving painful headaches. Its essential oil, myrcene, is the constituent that produces this effect and confirms the longtime Brazilian use of the herb for pain. The herb is also believed to relieve spasms, muscle cramps and rheumatism.
As a mild sedative, Lemongrass’s myrcene is an effective relaxant that acts as central nervous system depressant and helps people under stress and hypertension. It is also used to relieve insomnia, again confirming the Brazilians’ longtime use of the herb for sedation.
Lemongrass is an aromatic and cooling herb that is used to increase perspiration and relieve fevers and help treat minor, feverish illnesses. Furthermore, it also acts as a diuretic and helps promote urination and relieves retained water.
Lemongrass is considered a bitte and said to help the gastrointestinal tract and ease indigestion, flatulence and stomach discomforts. This grass is rich in a substance called citral, the active ingredient that is also in lemon peel, and this substance is said to relieve digestive disturbances and intestinal irritations.
As an effective antifungal and antimicrobial, Lemongrass is believed to dispel bacterial infections and has been used to treat internal parasites. The herb has shown strong antibacterial activity against several human pathogens, and a study in 1988, found increased activity against E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus. Used externally, the herb is an effective treatment for lice, ringworm, athlete’s foot and scabies, and is also an insect repellent.
Lemongrass is used to treat colds, sore throats, and flu (especially with headaches and fevers) and is reputed to reduce and slow the discharge of mucus in respiratory conditions, due in part to its astringent properties.
Lemongrass is a tonic and supplement that is believed to be of great benefit to the skin and nails and is often used by herbalists to help clear blemishes and maintain balanced skin tone.
Lemongrass may possess anti-mutagenic properties. Recent studies have demonstrated that myrcene has been found to reduce toxic and mutagenic effects.
Rich in geraniol and citral, Lemongrass may contribute to lowering serum cholesterol. It may work by interfering with an enzyme reaction and inhibiting the formation of cholesterol from simpler fats.
Stomach Disorders: It is beneficial in the treatment of indigestion.Lemon grass oil also treats spasmodic affectios of the bowels,gastric irritability and cholera.
Fevers & Cold: The grass induces copious perspiration and brings down the body temperature. It also produces a feeling of coolness. Raw juice or decoction of the grass can also be taken.
Flatulence: Lemon grass and its oil are carminative , valuable in relieving flatulence. It can be taken with sugar as an emulsion. The emulsion is prepared by mixing common lemon grass oil with sugar.
Rheumatism: The grass is used locally over rheumatic joints,lumbago and sprains. Lemon grass oil mixed with coconut oil is a stimulating oinment for rheumatism, lumbago,neuralgia,sprains and other painful affections. It can also be taken internally in the same manner for fevers.
Manstrual disorders: An infusion of the grass, mixed with black pepper , is given in painful and difficult manstruation. Raw juice or decoction of the grass may be taken in such a condition.
Ringworms: Leaves of lemon grass are useful in treating ringworms as a local application.
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In East India and Sri Lanka, where it is called “fever tea,” lemon grass leaves are combined with other herbs to treat fevers, irregular menstruation, diarrhea, and stomachaches. Lemon grass is one of the most popular herbs in Brazil and the Caribbean for nervous and digestive problems. The Chinese use lemon grass in a similar fashion, to treat headaches, stomachaches, colds, and rheumatic pains. The essential oil is used straight in India to treat ringworm or in a paste with buttermilk to rub on ringworm and bruises. Studies show it does destroy many types of bacteria and fungi and is a deodorant. It may reduce blood pressure – a traditional Cuban use of the herb – and it contains five different constituents that inhibit blood coagulation.
Currently, there are no known contraindications or warnings with the use of Lemongrass, but if you have any other health problems, such as high blood pressure or heart or blood vessel disease, consult your doctor before using. There have been some reports of allergy to Lemongrass, and if there is any indication of breathing problems or tightness in your throat or chest, chest pain, skin rash or itchy skin, discontinue use.
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.