Lemongrass is a native plant of Asia, South Africa and parts of South America. It belongs to the family Poaceae. It is a majestic perennial grass, rapidly reaching heights of over 5 feet (1.5 meters) tall, and is highly aromatic. Of several varieties that are cultivated, East Indian and West Indian lemongrass are the two main kinds. Lemongrass has been used as both a culinary and medicinal herb in India and Asia. Medicinal use has been mainly for the treatment of fever and infectious disease.
The smell of lemongrass is like the smell of lemons but has a harsher quality. It is very strong and is not to everyone’s taste. In cookery, too, it is not universally popular -it has been said by some to taste like the smell of lemon-scented cleaning fluid!
Essential oil of lemongrass is extracted by steam distillation from the cut grass. The oil is pale yellow in color and has an intense, lemony smell. It is used quite extensively in industry in the manufacture of various food and drink products and also in the production of household cleaners and bath and cosmetic products.
Lemongrass oil has strong antiseptic, anti-fungal and bactericidal qualities and can be used in the treatment of athlete’s foot, thrush, and feverish infections. Used in massage, its actions are warming and stimulating, and it will help to strengthen and tone weak, tired and aching muscles. It is thus useful for athletes and for those who are recovering, but still weak from periods of illness.
Lemongrass can also benefit the digestive system. Used in massage or in inhalation it can act as an appetite stimulant and soothe an irritated or inflamed colon. The antiseptic properties of the oil will help fight gastric infections.
Like lemon oil, lemongrass oil is beneficial to oily skin and can be added to a facial steam bath to help cleanse blocked pores.
The oil is an effective insect repellent and can also be used as a general-purpose deodorizer and air freshener, either in a spray or vaporizer.
Suitable methods of use
- Skin care
Lemongrass is non toxic but can irritate broken or sensitive skin. Use carefully and in low dilution. Warning: Some therapists recommend that essential oil of lemongrass is avoided in early pregnancy.