Lemon grass cymbopogon citratus herbal medicine, health benefits, uses, side effects

Brazil: Capim-cidrao, Capim-santo; Egypt: Lemon grass; English: Lemongrass, Citronella, Squinant; Ethiopia: Tej-sar Hindi: Sera, Verveine; Indonesian: Sereh; Italian: Cimbopogone; Malaysia: Sakumau; Mexico: Zacate limon; Swedish: Citrongräss; Thailand: Ta-khrai; Turkish: Limon out; USA and UK: Citronella

Lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus), a native herb from temperate and warm regions such as India, Philippines and Malaysia, is widely used in Asian cooking and is an ingredient in many Thai and Vietnamese foods. Lemon grass use in cooking has become popular in the Caribbean and in the United States for its aromatic citrus flavor with a trace of ginger.

Lemon grass is a member of a specie of grass that grows to as high as 1 meter with leaves of 1 to 1.5 centimeters in width that grows from a stalk of about 30 to 80 cm long with bulbous lower end.


Lemon grass is a perennial and tufted grass that is commercially cultivated in Southeast Asian countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and China. Lemon grass is also cultivated in United States specifically in California and Florida. Propagation is by dividing the root clumps.

Lemon grass oil is extracted by steam distillation. Lemongrass oil has a lemony, sweet smell and is dark yellow to amber and reddish in color, with a watery viscosity. It is also known as ‘choomana poolu’ and is also referred to as ‘Indian Verbena’ or ‘Indian M`elissa oil’. Lemon grass oil is a valuable ingredient in cosmetics, perfumes and as fragrances for soaps and insect repellant’s.

Lemongrass is reportedly has a wide variety of therapeutic application and helath benefits. With limited research and studies conducted on humans, Lemon grass’ effectiveness is based mainly on the results from animal and laboratory studies as well as its reputation as a folk remedy.

Antiseptic, antibacterial and antimicrobial. Lemon grass is an antiseptic herb. It is used in treating Staph Infections and combating Skin Infections. It is an effective wound wash. It is a natural insect repellent. It prevents the development of insect borne diseases.

Combats bad cholesterol. Lemon grass has antihyperlipidemic and anticholesterolemic properties are useful in regulating the levels of Cholesterol in the body. Lemon grass reduces the LDL cholesterol and keeps the level of triglycerides under control.

Lemon grass is powerful antioxidant. It helps to prevent cancer by attacking the cancer cells while protecting the normal cells. The antioxidant activity of lemon grass prevents the oxidation of free radicals eventually lowering the risk of Cancer.

In Asia and Africa, Lemongrass is used as antiseptic, antitussive, and anti-rheumatic and to treat backache, sprains, and hemoptysis. Infusions of its leaves are used in alternative medicine as sedative, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory.

A study done in the Department of Biochemistry, Faculty of Medicine, Chiang Mai University, Thailand found that Lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus Stapf) possess antimutagenic properties towards chemical-induced mutation in Salmonella typhimurium strains TA98 and TA100. Mutagenicity of AFB1, Trp-P-1, Trp-P-2, Glu-P-1, Glu-P-2, IQ, MNNG and AF-2, was inhibited by the extract of lemon grass in a dose-dependent manner, but no effect was found on the mutagenic activity of benzo[a]pyrene. Source: Mutation Research – Genetic Toxicology and Environmental (Nov 1994)

Lemon grass oil extract exhibited promising antifungal effect against Candida albicans, C. tropicalis, and Aspergillus nige. In addition, topical application of LGEO in vivo resulted in a potent anti-inflammatory effect, as demonstrated by using the mouse model of croton oil-induced ear edema. Source: Libyan Journal of Medicine (Sept 2014)

The aims of this study were to investigate the antibacterial activity of lemongrass oil (LG) and its major components which were citral, geraniol and myrcene, against four strains of clinically isolated bovine mastitis pathogens, including Staphylococcus aureus, The results demonstrate that S. agalactiae and B. cereus are more susceptible to Lemon grass, citral and geraniol than S. aureus and E. coli. Moreover, they also inhibit S. aureus biofilm formation and exhibit effective killing activities on preformed biofilms. The Lemon grass appears to have multiple targets in the bacterial cell, depending on concentration used as well as the amount of its components. Source: Research in Veterinary Science ( Dec 2011)

In the present study, polysaccharides from C. citratus were extracted and fractionated by anion exchange and gel filtration chromatography. Using these polysaccharide fractions F1 and F2, anti-inflammatory and anticancer activities were evaluated against cancer cells in vitro and the mechanism of action of the polysaccharides in inducing apoptosis in cancer cells via intrinsic pathway was also proposed. These polysaccharide fractions exhibited potential cytotoxic and apoptotic effects on carcinoma cells, and they induced apoptosis in these cells through the events of up-regulation of caspase 3, down-regulation of bcl-2 family genes followed by cytochrome c release. Source: Carbohydrate Polymers – Journal (Jul 2014)

The link between lemongrass and cholesterol was investigated by researchers from the Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Wisconsin, who published their findings in the medical journal Lipids in 1989. They conducted a clinical trial involving 22 people with high cholesterol who took 140-mg capsules of lemongrass oil daily. While cholesterol levels were only slightly affected in some of the participants–cholesterol was lowered from 310 to 294 on average–other people in the study experienced a significant decrease in blood fats. The latter group, characterized as responders, experienced a 25-point drop in cholesterol after one month, and this positive trend continued over the course of the short study. After three months, cholesterol levels among the responders had decreased by a significant 38 points. Once the responders stopped taking lemongrass, their cholesterol returned to previous levels. It should be noted that this study did not involve a placebo group, which is usually used to help measure the effects of the agent being studied (in this case, lemongrass oil).

Neurobehavioral Effects : (1) Study of myrcene in rats suggests anxiolytic activity. (2) Study of essential oil produced marked CNS depression in mice, similar to chlorpromazine effect. Also, it increased sleepness time, similar to a thiopental effect.

Antitumoral : (1) Study showed a-myrcene possess antimutagenic activity in mammary cells. (2) Plant compounds, a-limonene and geraniol showed inhibition of liver and intestinal mucous membrane cancer in mice. (3) Study in Thailand showed inhibition of colorectal neoplasia in mice. (4) Study showed inhibitory effects on early phase hepatocarcinogenesis in rats after initiation with diethylnitrosamine.