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Loving My Lemongrass - Top 10 Reasons

Updated on February 1, 2014
Fresh lemongrass stalks can be found at asian groceries and farmerʻs markets.
Fresh lemongrass stalks can be found at asian groceries and farmerʻs markets. | Source

My lemongrass adventure began when friends gave me a potted herb garden for my birthday. While the original gift contained a variety of herbs, my adult ADD and poor gardening skills allowed a lemongrass takeover. Only a tiny patch of brave chives now shares the lemongrass soil. Bemoaning the loss of the oregano and basil I love to cook with, I decided to do a little research. Other common names for lemon grass include: barbed wire grass, silky heads, citronella grass, cha de Dartigalongue, fever grass, tanglad, hierba Luisa or gavati chaha. According to Wikipedia, lemongrass or cymbopogon citratus, as it is scientifically known, has been a worldwide resource for centuries. Thai, Vietnamese, Indonesian and Malaysian cooks use it as a food flavoring. Brazilian, Chinese and Indian practitioners use it as a medicine. Lemongrassʻs oil or citron is used worldwide for aromatherapy, as an insect repellent, and a cleanser. From a myriad of countries and cultures, the list goes on and on for this ancient grassʻs many uses; here are my top ten.

The big pot of lemongrass on my back deck requires little gardening ability.
The big pot of lemongrass on my back deck requires little gardening ability. | Source
These chopped lemongrass stalks can be be bruised and crushed with your fingers to release the flavor within.
These chopped lemongrass stalks can be be bruised and crushed with your fingers to release the flavor within. | Source
mmmm . . . Tom yum soup
mmmm . . . Tom yum soup | Source

1. Cultivation

Lemongrass grows fast in a pot with full sun and well drained soil. It is a perennial and dies out in the winter to return with a flourish every summer. Lemon grass is easily found in most asian markets or health food stores, and is so easily tended, even my black thumb has a big bunch growing in a pot on my lanai. Fresh lemongrass in a nearby garden or pot is a simple yet splendid staple for 9 more reasons.

2. Taste

Milder than lemons, this grassy herb has a subtle peppery taste, citrusy scent and is a common ingredient in many asian dishes. Bruise a stalk or two and add it to your tea for a gentle citrus flavor. Tom yum is a spicy lemon grass and kaffir lime soup you can order in most Thai restaurants. You can specify spicy or mild in regard to the added chili peppers. While seafood is the usual soup solid, you can substitute with beef, chicken, or tofu. Other ingredients often include tomatoes, mushrooms, fish sauce and galangal. Tom yum is my favorite soup and Thai food. Lemon grass flavors the Pho noodle soups in Vietnamese restaurants as well.

3. Kills Colds

Could lemongrass be a cure for the common cold? When I have a cold I head for Laos Thai Restaurant, just down the hill. A few spoonfuls of spicy Tom yum soup and red hot heat clears my jammed sinus runway. Perhaps the heat of the peppers and acidity of the lime leaves play a role, but lemongrass is thought to have antiviral properties. After a bowl of Tom Yum, my nasal passages clear up for a few hours, if not completely. Wikipedia and many other sources tout lemongrass as an antibacterial and antimicrobial . . . those didnʻt rate in my top ten, but I found the research on lemongrassʻs antifungal properties to be striking.

4. Kills Yeast Infections

Candida fungus causes uncomfortable yeast infections like thrush, nail bed afflictions or vaginitis. It can also cause deadly systemic yeast infections in AIDs and Cancer patients, whose immune systems are compromised. Lemongrass kills Candida fungus according to a study by A.K. Tyagiand Anushree Malik, of the Indian Institute of Technology, New Delhi, India.

In the study lemongrass oil was more effective than peppermint oil and eucalyptus oil in reducing the Candida fungus, which maintains a growing resistance to drugs. If you take antibiotics, you are more susceptable to Candida fungus, due to the reduction of your healthy gut bacteria. The study was published in the November 2010 issue of “BioMedCentral Complementary and Alternative Medicine.”

5. Kills Cancer

In 2005, Ben Gurion University(BGU) researchers of the Negev in Isreal discovered that the lemon aroma in herbs like lemon grass kills cancer cells in vitro, while leaving healthy cells unharmed. According to Dr. Rivka Ofir, the study found that citral causes cancer cells to “commit suicide: using apoptosis, a mechanism called programmed cell death.” Planta Medica, which highlights research on alternative and herbal remedies, published BGUʻs study.

A drink with as little as one gram of lemon grass contains enough citral to prompt the cancer cells to commit suicide in the test tube.

6. Headache and Migraine Relief

Indigenous Australians have long been treating headaches, muscle cramps and chest pain with lemongrass infusions. In January of 2010, Griffith University researchers in Queensland, Australia published some support. Their article in “Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine” found that lemon grass may be as effective as aspirin in treating headaches. Eugenol, is a lemongrass component that inhibits pain sensitivity at a level comparable to aspirin. Their study also provides a basis for lemongrass use in both Cuban and Brazilian folk medicine.

Add lemongrass to tea for some subtle citrus flavor and nerve soothing.
Add lemongrass to tea for some subtle citrus flavor and nerve soothing.

7. Boosts Heart Health

Cuban folk medicine features lemongrass as an antihypertensive and anti-inflammatory. A 1998 study by Cubaʻs National Center for Scientific Research tested a 10 - 20% lemongrass decoction on rats. The mixture caused dose related hypotensive effects given intravenously and a small diuretic and anti-inflammatory effect when given orally.

A December 2002 publication in the “Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition” reveals that polyphenols of lemongrass extract help relax blood vessels walls and dilate them. This could reduce your risk of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease. Lemongrass also has a whopping 228% DV of Manganese. DV is the daily value or percent of the recommended daily requirement. Heart health benefits of manganese include regulating blood sugar level, and metabolism of fats and carbohydrates.

In April of 2010, Ian Ray C. Caluscusin presented his research paper to Ateneo de Zamboanga University School of Medicine. Entitled The Effect of Twice a Day Intake of Lemongrass Decoction Among Hypertensive Individuals of Barangay Situbo, Tampilisan, Zamboanga del Norte, the paper details the mean arterial pressure results of 31 individuals, divided into two groups after a four week baseline period of measurements. Those taking the lemongrass tea showed a drop (10 mmHg in mean blood pressure) over those taking the placebo tea for an additional four week period.

7. Sedative and Nerve Tonic

Brazilians have used lemongrass as a sedative and nerve tonic for centuries. A cup of lemongrass tea can help both the insomniac and the nervous wreck. Lemongrass tea is simple to make; chop up two or three stalks with their leaves and set to boil, after boiling let stand for 15 minutes, strain and pour. Ahhh . . . just as good as a glass of wine . . . and a lovely lemony aroma scents your kitchen.

8. Aromatherapy

Citronella, produced by steam distillation is the oil of lemongrass. Citronella is used by the perfume industry to make soaps, perfumes and candles. Often used as a massage oil, the aroma brings me peace of mind and according to Wikipedia it is useful with quieting barking dogs as well.

10. Insect Repellent Experiments

Chiggers, fleas, misquitos and ticks can all be repelled with lemongrass according to "How to Use Oils for Pest Control" by David Stewart PHD and author of "Healing Oils of the Bible." I had just read the article when I remembered the recent aphid attack on my kale. A lightbulb went on. While Dr. Stewart specified oils and did not mention lemongrass for aphids, I wanted to experiment. I put some leftover cold lemongrass tea in a spray bottle and drenched the kale leaf undersides. I also scattered a bunch of lemongrass leaves around the soil base. First morning post lemongrass - I saw a definite reduction of the little white pests. Second morning - the vermin appear to be gone. Hmm . . . the possibility of future experiments with household pets and humans intrigues me. My lemongrass love affair is far from over.

Why might you love your lemongrass?

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Tyagi, Amit K and Malik, Anushree "Liquid and vapour-phase antifungal activities of selected essential oils against candida albicans: microscopic observations and chemical characterization of cymbopogon citratus" 10 November 2010. licensee BioMed Central Ltd. Web. 09/28/201

Dudai N, Weinstein Y, Krup M, Rabinski T, Ofir R. "Citral is a new inducer of caspase-3 in tumor cell lines." Planta Med. 2005 May;71(5):484-8. Web. 09/28/2012

Grice ID,Rogers KL, Griffiths LR "Isolation of bioactive compounds that relate to the anti-platelet activity of Cymbopogon ambiguus " Complement Alternat Med. 2010 Jan 4. Web 09/28/2012

Abeywardena M, Runnie I, Nizar M, Suhaila M, Head R, Suhaila Momamed "Polyphenol-enriched extract of oil palm fronds (Elaeis guineensis) promotes vascular relaxation via endothelium-dependent mechanisms." Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2002;11 Suppl 7:S467-72. Web. 09/28/2012

Carbajal D, Casaco A, Arruzazabala L, Gonzalez R, Tolon Z. "Pharmacological study of Cymbopogon citratus leaves." J Ethnopharmacol. 1989 Feb;25(1):103-7. Web 09/28/2012

April of 2010, Ian Ray C. Caluscusin "The Effect of Twice a Day Intake of Lemongrass Decoction Among Hypertensive Individuals of Barangay Situbo, Tampilisan, Zamboanga del Norte" Ateneo de Zamboanga University School of Medicine. of Web 12/04/2013

Stewart David, PhD "How to Use Oils forPest Control" n.d. Web 09/28/2012


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