You may have tasted the refreshingly mild flavor of lemongrass, an herb that's commonly added to foods and beverages. But have you ever tried using lemongrass oil, an all-around herbal oil with many health benefits? Keep on reading to discover more about lemongrass oil.
What Is Lemongrass Oil?
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon) is a tall perennial plant from the Poaceae grass family, which thrives in tropical and subtropical regions, such as in India, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, China and Guatemala. This plant grows in dense clumps and has bright green, sharp-edged leaves, similar to grass.1
Lemongrass is a popular flavoring in Asian cooking — added to curries and soups, or paired with beef, fish, poultry and seafood. Fresh lemongrass is also used to make lemongrass tea.2
The two varieties of lemongrass most popularly used today are Cymbopogon citratus and Cymbopogon flexuosus.3 While they can be used interchangeably, especially for making lemongrass oil, C. citratus is more popularly known in culinary applications, while C. flexuosus is more dominant in industrial applications, such as perfumery.4
Lemongrass oil is extracted from the leaves of the plant. It has a thin consistency, and a pale or bright yellow color. It has a strong, fresh, lemony and earthy scent.
Uses of Lemongrass Oil
Lemongrass oil is a great addition to various skin care and cosmetic products, such as soaps, deodorants, shampoos, lotions and tonics. It also works as an air freshener and deodorizer, especially when blended with other essential oils like geranium or bergamot. Simply put it in an oil burner, diffuser or vaporizer.5
Lemongrass oil is also known for its ability to repel insects, such as mosquitoes and ants, due to its high citral and geraniol content.6 Spray it around your home, diffuse it or rub a diluted mixture on your skin.
Lemongrass oil's refreshing scent makes it a valuable aromatherapeutic oil. Its clean and calming aroma helps relieve stress, anxiety, irritability and insomnia, and prevent drowsiness.7,8 Lemongrass oil can also help relax and tone your muscles, as well as relieve muscle pain, rheumatism, period cramps, stomachache, toothache, migraines and headaches.9,10 Here are some ways to use lemongrass oil:
• Make a refreshing foot bath. Add two drops to a bowl of warm water, and soak your feet for 10 minutes. If your feet are aching, add 2 tablespoons of Epsom salts.11
• Make a massage oil by mixing it with sweet almond oil.12
• Kill your dog's fleas and lice by spraying diluted lemongrass oil all over his coat. You can also soak his collar in it, add it to his final rinse after shampooing, or spray it on his bedding.13 Do not use lemongrass oil on your cat, however, as it can be very toxic to felines, and even cause liver damage to them over a period of time.
• Blend it into your favorite bath products or add it to your bath water.
Composition of Lemongrass Oil
Lemongrass oil's main compounds include are geranyl acetate, geraniol, myrcene, nerol, myrcene, citronellal, terpineol, methyl heptenone, terpineol, dipentene, geraniol, neral, farnesol, limonene, and citral and farnesol.14 These are known to have antifungal, antiseptic, insecticidal and counterirritant properties.15,16
Citral is known for its antimicrobial effects, and can help kill or suppress the growth of bacteria and fungi. It's said that lemongrass oil's quality is generally determined by its citral content.17 Limonene, another one of lemongrass' beneficial compounds, is known for helping reduce inflammation and kill bacteria.18,19
Benefits of Lemongrass Oil
Lemongrass oil has analgesic, antimicrobial, antiseptic, carminative, astringent, antipyretic, fungicidal, bactericidal, and antidepressant properties,20 making it one of the most versatile and health-promoting essential oils. It works well for:
• Inflammation — Lemongrass is an analgesic that can help reduce pain and inflammation, which can lead to many chronic diseases. Sue Chao, an essential oil researcher, also noted that lemongrass oil is one of the top six essential oils with anti-inflammatory benefits.21
• Hair problems — If you're struggling with hair loss, oily hair and other scalp conditions, lemongrass oil may be beneficial, as it can help strengthen your hair follicles. Just apply a diluted solution onto your scalp, and then rinse out.22
• Infections — Lemongrass can help kill both internal and external bacterial and fungal infections, such as ringworm and athlete's foot.23 In a 2008 study at Weber State University in Utah, it was found that out of 91 essential oils tested, lemongrass ranked highest in inhibitory activity against methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infection.24
• Fever — The antipyretic effect of lemongrass oil helps bring down very high fever, especially when it is beginning to reach dangerous levels.25
• Digestive issues — A diluted lemongrass mixture may assist in facilitating nutrient assimilation and boosts the functioning of the digestive system, which is helpful alleviating bowel problems and digestive disorders.26 It may also prevent the formation of excessive gas and increases urination, which helps eliminate toxins from the body.
How to Make a Lemongrass Oil Infusion
Lemongrass oil sold in the market today is made via steam distillation. But if you have lemongrass growing in your backyard, you can easily make this oil by infusing it with another carrier oil. Here's a simple method from EHow:27
- 2 or more lemongrass stalks
- Fine cheesecloth
- Mortar and pestle/rolling pin
- Carrier oil (Olive, rice bran, grapeseed, or any unscented natural oil)
- Two jars
- Dark glass container
1. Get two lemongrass stalks and crush them with the mortar and pestle. This will help release the oil. A rolling pin makes an effective substitute if you don’t have a mortar and pestle.
2. Place the crushed stalks inside the jar and cover them with oil. Seal the jar with an airtight lid and place in a sunny location for two days. Make sure the spot gets ample sunlight and heat throughout the day.
3. Using a cheesecloth, strain the lemongrass oil and into a second quart jar.
4. Repeat step 1. Add the crushed stalks to the second quart jar, and then place back in the sun for two more days.
5. Repeat these steps as necessary, until your oil reaches your desired level of potency. You can determine this by smelling the mixture.
6. Once you’ve reached the desired potency, drain the oil again through a cheesecloth and into dark bottles for storage. Fasten lids on the bottles tightly and store in a cool, dark place.
How Does Lemongrass Oil Work?
Lemongrass oil is a tonic that may influence and help keep the systems in your body working properly, including the respiratory, digestive, nervous and excretory systems. It also allows nutrients to be absorbed into the body, which helps keep your immune system strong and robust.28
Lemongrass oil can be diffused using a vaporizer, inhaled, applied topically or ingested. To ensure the efficiency of lemongrass oil, you should use it depending on the health condition that you want to improve. For example, if you want to quell stress and anxiety, diffuse the oil using a vaporizer. But if you want to relieve muscle pain or use it to treat infections, it's better to massage a diluted solution on the affected areas.
For internal health ailments, such as digestive issues, lemongrass oil can be taken internally in a diluted form. However, I do not recommend taking this oil orally without the supervision of a qualified health care provider.
Is Lemongrass Oil Safe?
Lemongrass oil is generally safe as long as it is used in small quantities (it is one of the strongest-smelling oils in aromatherapy) and properly blended with a carrier oil. Undiluted lemongrass can actually burn and injure your skin due to its high citral content, so it's best to mix it with a carrier oil like olive or coconut oil.29 I advise doing a patch test before applying lemongrass oil on your skin, to see if you have any adverse reactions to this essential oil.
Side Effects of Lemongrass Oil
Skin irritation, discomfort, rashes and a burning sensation are some topical side effects experienced by people with sensitivity to lemongrass oil. Using the oil may also lead to lowered blood glucose, and may have contraindications for people who are taking oral diabetes drugs or anti-hypertensive medications, as well as those who are diabetic and hypoglycemic.
I do not recommend children, pregnant women or nursing moms to use lemongrass oil orally. Those with liver or kidney disease and other health conditions should also consult their physician before using lemongrass oil.