Lemongrass Oil: Benefits, Uses, Properties, and Side Effects

Historically, lemongrass has been used in soups and to treat diarrhea and fever. However, the lemongrass oil benefits aren’t limited. They are much beyond.

Globally, lemongrass has been used effectively to treat skin infections, blood pressure, and in the treatment of digestive disorders.

It is widely believed that the popularity of lemongrass and its therapeutic abilities started spreading swiftly about a hundred years ago.

The pace in which lemongrass essential oil has become popular in this 100-year time is just incredible. It came across different geographical locations with its versatility as a therapeutic and aromatic ingredient.

It is time to take a granular look at this essential oil and how it has delivered incredible healing effects to people globally.

What Is Lemongrass Oil?

Lemongrass oil is extracted from the leaves of two plant varieties – Cymbopogon flexuosus & Cymbopogon citratus, which belong to the family Poaceae.

Cymbopogon is an extensive genus with about 500 species in the Poaceae family. Both the species grow in tropical and subtropical regions.

These perennial grass grow to a height of 3 feet and have long, thin, and aromatic leaves.

However, citronella essential oil is extracted from another species called Cymbopogon nardus.

The lemongrass has been a part of traditional medicinal systems of India since ancient times. Even today, it is an essential component in Indian and other Asian cuisines.

For the extraction of essential oil, the leaves are either used fresh or partly dried. Further, they are obtained either through the steam distillation or solvent extraction process.

The solvent extraction method is generally known to offer a higher yield, though steam distillation is the preferred method for Lemongrass.

Cymbopogon citratus is also called Indian or West Indian lemongrass whereas Cymbopogon flexuosus is also called East Indian, which is mostly found in India, Srilanka, Thailand, and Myanmar (1, 2, 3).

what is lemongrass essential oil

Scientific Name Of Lemongrass Oil

The botanical name of lemongrass is Cymbopogon flexuosus & Cymbopogon citratus.

History Of Lemongrass Oil

Though lemongrass essential oil became popular relatively recently, it has been a part of traditional food and drinks in many locations. A concoction of tea brewed from lemongrass has been known to used to treat fever, diarrhea, and dermal infections.

Lemongrass is believed to be a native of Malaysia. It is also commonly referred to as Citronella grass or fever grass. It is one of the grass that traveled the “Spice route” from Asia to Europe.

Historically, it is widely believed that Lemongrass oil was exported from the Philippines in the 17th century, but it received its popularity only in the last hundred years. Some accounts also credit the trigger for the spread of the variety to the World Fair in 1951.

In the East, a tea named “fever tea” was quite renowned, as it was made from lemongrass and could bring the temperature in no time. Besides fever, this tea also cured diarrhea, irregular menstruation, stomach aches, and skin infections. It is used in Cuba and the Caribbean to alleviate blood pressure.

It is still being used in many locations as a reliable and go-to home remedy for multiple problems including blood pressure. The credit for the popularity of the essential oil rests with a researcher of Sri Lankan origin who planted the variety in a farm and studied the grass.

Regardless of who deserved the honor, the variety has inevitably found its way to kitchen cabinets, therapeutic applications, and industrial applications including perfumes & diffusers.

The range of benefits that it offers makes it an unbeatable product – it is a powerful antioxidant, it provides a fresh fragrance, it helps to regulate hormones related to menstrual flow, and is an effective home remedy to treat digestive issues.

The principal places of production include India, Sri Lanka, China, Indonesia, Pakistan, Thailand, Congo, Egypt, Nigeria, North America, and Central America. Today, you can find this grass anywhere in the world except Antarctica (4).

Color, Consistency, and Smell Of Lemongrass Oil

  • The color of lemongrass oil typically ranges from pale yellow to vivid yellow. The extraction process and the nature of the substance from which essential oils are extracted determine the color, and resultantly, Lemongrass straddles the yellow color spectrum due to the steam distillation of the leaves.
  • The consistency of lemongrass oil is generally thin. Again, it is the extraction process that impacts the consistency of the extracted essential oil partially. By virtue of being extracted through a steam distillation process, lemongrass essential oil has a thin consistency.
  • The smell of lemongrass oil is strong, herbaceous, and intensively earthy with a fresh tinge to it. The lemony flavor in the aroma makes it refreshing and lively.

Properties Of Lemongrass Essential Oil

The therapeutic properties of lemongrass essential oil include:

  • Analgesic – Reduces pain sensation
  • Anthelmintic – Repels intestinal parasites
  • Antibacterial – Prevents bacterial growth
  • Antidepressant – Alleviates depression
  • Antifungal – Prevents fungal growth
  • Anti-infectious – Prevents uptake of infection
  • Anti-inflammatory – Alleviates inflammation
  • Antimicrobial – Prevents microorganism growth
  • Antioxidant – Inhibits oxidation
  • Antiphlogistic – Acts against inflammation and fever
  • Antiseptic – Destroys microbes and prevents their development
  • Astringent – Contracts or tightens tissues
  • Balsamic – Soothes sore throats, coughs, etc.
  • Calmative – Sedative, calming agent
  • Carminative – Gets rid of flatulence, eases bloating and abdominal pain
  • Circulatory – Promotes the flow of blood and lymph
  • Decongestant – Reduces congestion such as mucus
  • Deodorant – Masks or removes unpleasant smell
  • Depurative – Cleanser, detoxifier
  • Digestive – Helps in the digestion of food
  • Diuretic – Promotes the removal of excess water from the body
  • Hypnotic – Sedative effect
  • Immunostimulant – Stimulates the action of the immune system
  • Regenerative – Tends to regenerate
  • Restorative – Strengthens and revives the body’s systems
  • Tonic – Refreshes, invigorates, and restores the bodily functions
  • Stimulant – Enhances body functions

Chemical Compounds Of Lemongrass Oil

Generally, the main chemical compounds of lemongrass oil include geraniol, geranyl acetate, myrcene, nerol, citronellal, methyl heptenone, terpineol, terpineol, dipentene, neral, farnesol, geraniol, limonene, farnesol, and citral. 

The chemical constituents of lemongrass essential oil obtained from East Indian Cymbopogon flexuosus  include Geranial (45.1–54.5%), Neral (30.1–36.1%), Geranyl acetate (0.1–4.0%), Geraniol (0.2–3.8%), (þ)-Limonene (0.1–3.8%), Caryophyllene oxide (0–1.6%), 6-Methyl-5-hepten-2-one (0.3–1.4%) and Linalool (0.4–1.3%).

The compounds found in West Indian Cymbopogon citratus are Geranial (36.7–55.9%), Neral (25.0–35.2%), b-Myrcene (5.6–19.2%), Geraniol (0–6.7%), Limonene oxide (0–6.4%), 1,8-Cineole (0–2.9%), 6-Methylhept-5-en-2-one (0.1–2.6 %), Geranyl acetate (0.4–1.9%) and Linalool (0.2–2.0%).

The chemical composition varies according to the place of production.

uses of lemongrass oil

Health Benefits Of Lemongrass Oil

Lemongrass essential oil has a whole range of therapeutic properties in addition to its use as a preferred home remedy. The medicinal value of lemongrass essential has been proven through studies conducted in the past. Essential oils are generally multi-purpose substances that deliver therapeutic value, in addition to rejuvenating flavor released by aromatic compounds.

1. Reduces fever

Lemongrass tea is a folk remedy to alleviate the symptoms of fever since ancient times. Fever is your body’s defense mechanism. It becomes active when it senses a foreign object interfering the path of your usual body function.

Lemongrass essential oil is an excellent way to moderate body temperature during fever. It has a warming effect on the body and induces sweat. Thereby, reducing body temperature  (5).

Besides being hydrated during fever, it is best to eat less. Sponging is another effective way to bring the temperature down. While sponging, mix 3 drops of lemongrass oil with 50 ml of hot water.

2. Soothes body pain

Lemongrass oil has a significant effect on reducing body pain. The citrate component present in the lemongrass oil is attributed to its anti-inflammatory activity. Pain is subjective, and people express it in different ways.

Stress and anxiety may also be the reason for muscular pains. A regular massage using lemongrass oil reduces body pain significantly despite the causes of pain (6). Lavender oil, lemongrass oil, and rosemary oil are best for body pain.

3. Treats Acne

Citral and neral are the significant components attributed to lemongrass’s anti-viral, antimicrobial, and antibacterial properties. These compounds help in getting rid of acne.

The circulatory nature of lemongrass oil increases oxygen flow when massaged (6).

However, using undiluted oil or oil in lesser dilution may harm your skin. Perform a patch test. Dilute 3 – 4 drops of lemongrass oil in 2 tablespoons of carrier oil like coconut oil.

Clean your face and then, apply the oil. Massage it in an upward and clockwise motion. Repeating it twice a day would give you a healthy and glowing skin.

4. Heals vaginal infections

Scientific studies have demonstrated the potentiality of lemongrass essential oil against Candida species. Diseases caused by Candida species in human genitals or other moist regions are widespread.

It happens mostly in immunocompromised persons, and there is always an underlying cause for it, which usually includes diseases associated with the immune system like diabetes.

Monoterpenes present in lemongrass essential oil are attributed to the antifungal property of the oil, especially against Candida species (7).

Dilute 2 to 3 drops of lemongrass essential oil using 2 tablespoons of castor oil. Rub the oil on the infected dark regions in the inner thighs and genitals. Since the EO is concentrated, it is always best to use it in higher dilution. Performing a patch test is highly recommended.

5. Alleviates rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disease where the body’s immune system turns against itself. It causes inflammation in the joints, mainly the flexible ones, and it is excruciating.

However, there are certain unproven theories that the inflammation may progress to membranes of lungs, regions around the heart, and even white of the eyes.

Research has shown that lemongrass essential oil significantly reduces the inflammation. A holistic approach with a proper diet and a healthy lifestyle are always required to treat RA (8).

Blend 5 drops of lemongrass oil with 10 drops of lavender oil and 5 drops of Juniper oil. Take 4 drops of the mixture and dilute it with 2 tablespoons of carrier oil of your choice. Massage over the painful area using the diluted oil blend every morning and night.

6. Gets rid of cellulite

Insufficient oxygen circulation and lymphatic circulation are the primary culprits for cellulite formation. Hormonal imbalance, overeating, allergies, and environmental toxins also play an essential part.

However, cellulite can be reversed by proper diet and exercise.

Along with exercise and proper diet, massage the whole body every day using diluted lemongrass essential oil. It relaxes the muscles and facilitates oxygen circulation.

You can also make your anti-cellulite blend. Prepare a mixture using 8 drops of Rosemary oil, 5 drops of lemongrass oil, and 6 drops of Geranium oil. Take 5 drops of the mixture and add it to your bath. Soak your body in the water and relax.

7. Treats Athlete’s foot

Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that affects the skin. It is commonly seen in athletes and people whose feet are sweaty (due to tight-fitting shoes). The infection may also spread to toenails and hands. Though it isn’t complicated, it may become severe in immunocompromised people.

The fungal infection causes scaly rashes, itching, and burning sensation. Since lemongrass oil is an antifungal, it helps get rid of fungal infection when used appropriately.

The compounds geranial and neral in it are attributed to the antifungal property of the oil (9).

Make a blend using 5 drops of lemongrass oil and 5 drops of manuka oil. Dilute the oil using 2 tablespoons of coconut oil or any other carrier oil of your choice. Apply the diluted oil on the infected region twice a day.

8. Effective insect repellent

You can find lemongrass oil in many plant-based insect repellents or any cream formulations. It is an excellent remedy for insect bites. It is an insect repellent as well.

Studies show that lemongrass oil can be used to repel flea, black flea beetle, fly, gnat, mite, mosquito, moth, snail, and tick. Citral and α-pinene present in it are attributed to this property.

Topical application of it gave 95% protection against Mansonia mosquito species, claims a study (10, 11, 12).

You can either diffuse the oil in a vaporizer or diffuser in a room for repelling insects. To prevent you from insect bites, apply the diluted lemongrass oil on your skin during the night. However, make sure you wash the oil off in the morning.

To treat insect bites, you should dilute 3 to 4 drops of lemongrass oil in 1 tablespoon of castor oil and apply it on the bitten area as soon as possible.

9. Helps mental health

A recent study on mental health says that mindfulness meditation could lessen the impact of pain caused due to chronic health issues and stress (13).

With the growing impact of stress and work-life imbalance on human health, mindfulness would help you to become fully aware of your problems, helps you to look at the real cause, and focus on the solution. Relaxing the mind helps in relaxing the body.

Aromatherapy can prepare your mind for mindfulness meditation. All you have to do is develop a unique mindfulness blend. But ensure one thing – you shouldn’t use the same oil that you use for other purposes for mindfulness.

For example, if you use lemongrass oil for detoxification purpose, then you shouldn’t be using it for mindfulness because the results wouldn’t be that effective.

A blend of Lemongrass, Lavender, Vetiver, Sandalwood, Melissa, and Geranium is good for this purpose. The composition is your choice.

10. Combats environmental stress

Gadgets have become inevitable in our life. Beyond debate, tech products are growing at a terrific rate and are easily accessible. Bright lights in the room & over the desk, constant radiation exposure, frequent ringing of phones, unlimited texts & messaging, inadequate ventilation, and much more causes environmental stress.

Lemongrass essential oil helps you overcome this problem. You can either diffuse the oil in the room or give a gentle massage when you feel stressed.

11. Treats Anxiety Disorders

As an essential oil, it wields a soothing effect on individuals who use in some form. This has got to do with the impact of the substances on the limbic system in the brain.

The calming and soothing influence of essential oils helps to handle individuals with anxiety disorders. Studies conducted on a test group have shown that users experience measurable differences when exposed to this oil.

Various parameters that are indicative of a more relaxed and more composed mind were evident when subjects were exposed to the aroma of lemongrass essential oils.

12. Remedy For Insomnia

Essential oils have a typically different effect on individuals who either receive it as a topical application or whenever inhaled. One of the common positive effects of essential oils is the muscle relaxant properties.

Lemongrass has a double impact in not only offering relief in the form of muscle relaxation but, by virtue of wielding a soothing experience, it helps users find relief from insomnia.

As a muscle relaxant, Lemongrass essential oil helps individuals to unwind after a stressed day, and this explains the use of the essential oil in detox centers to help individuals relax and sleep peacefully.

Uses Of Lemongrass Oil

The proven medicinal, therapeutic and home remedy use cases make this one of the most popular essential oils across the globe. Many products, for instance – insect repellants depend on the potent nature of the ingredients.

Lemongrass essential oil, with its distinct aroma and therapeutic qualities as a result of the compounds present in it, make it a vital ingredient in multiple products, from insect repellants to shampoos, detergents, herbal teas, and long-term management of certain health issues, etc.

What Blends With Lemongrass Oil?

Lemongrass oil blends the best with:

How To Use Lemongrass Oil Safely?

how to use lemongrass oil

All essential oils are potent combinations of chemical compounds that have therapeutic and aromatic qualities. As a consequence, it is necessary that individuals use it with the right levels of caution – in terms of taking care to check for contraindications or the dosage.

While essential oils typically will not result in side effects, a small percentage of users may experience allergies or complications. It is, therefore, necessary to use it with caution; for instance, a test dose can help to check if the individual is sensitized to the product or the ingredients in the product.

The  FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has given lemongrass essential oil the status of GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe). It means that the oil can be used as intended – even including food, given that the oil is pure or solvent free. When lemongrass oil is used appropriately, it helps you to heal faster.

Be cautious when buying the oil, as it may be adulterated with synthetic citral.

  • Topical Application:  Lemongrass oil in concentrated form can cause allergic reactions claims scientific studies. Always make sure you use the diluted oil on your skin. It is better to perform a patch test before applying the oil to affected areas of the skin.
  • Aromatherapy: For aromatherapy benefits diffuse the oil using a vaporiser and diffuser. You can use the oil in the bath or shower for absorption. You can also use it with compress for muscle pain.
  • Ingestion: Oral intake of the oil is not generally recommended unless prescribed by a professional aromatherapist or doctor.

Side Effects Of Lemongrass Oil

All substances that have therapeutic value need to be taken in moderation or as per the recommended dosage. Certain effects are likely to be experienced by first-time users of topical applications, and in most cases, these effects will wear off after a period of time.

In rare cases, there is a probability of side effects being a little more severe necessitating discontinuation. The possible side effects of lemongrass oil include the following :

  • Lemongrass is generally not recommended for inhalation.
  • Individuals with liver and kidney ailments need to seek specialist opinion before use.
  • Women in all stages of pregnancy are to seek expert advice before use.
  • Skin burns are possible in individuals who have sensitive skin.
  • Topical applications on sensitive areas and mucous membranes may result in possible reactions.
  • The essential oil can bring down blood glucose levels and should hence be taken with extreme caution by individuals who are either diabetic or hypoglycemic.
  • Lemongrass oil may be a dermal irritant for sensitive skin. Avoid using the oil if you have hypersensitive, diseased, and damaged skin.
  • Avoid exposing the oil to children under the age 6.
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