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From Tea to Skincare: Five Ways Lemongrass Can Enhance Your Wellness Routine


What seems like eons ago, I moved from Pennsylvania to San Francisco and settled in the Sunset district with my husband. I have fond memories of the beauty of the fog as it rolled in each evening to blanket the beach and then retreated as the sun began to rise in the sky late morning.


I miss the mom and pop markets brimming wall to wall with fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs, as well as specialty stores that sold interesting and unfamiliar ingredients, and undoubtedly I miss the diverse and vibrant culinary scene with restaurants that offer a variety of authentic ethnic cuisines.


It was at a local Thai restaurant, savoring a mouth-watering bowl of Tom Yum soup, that I first met lemongrass. Its vibrant, lemony flavor, paired with the sweet, salty, spicy flavors of the soup left my taste buds in a state of bliss. While dining at a different Thai restaurant I was pleasantly surprised by the delightful flavor of lemongrass tea.


And like many aromatic herbs not only does lemongrass taste delightful, it also offers medicinal benefits both as an herb and as an essential oil.


Before pharmacies, herbs were our go-to for wellness. According to the U.S. Forest service "A full 40 percent of the drugs behind the pharmacist’s counter in the Western world are derived from plants that people have used for centuries... " (1)


And although aromatherapists, herbalists, and formulators can utilize herbal extracts, botanicals, and essential oils in their practice and products and they may confer benefits, care must be taken NOT to make medical claims unless they are backing it up with the appropriate in vivo research data and complying with any regulatory agencies. But this is a topic to dive into deeper in another post. Nonetheless, lemongrass can still be a wonderful addition to your cooking, wellness routine, or formulations and provide benefits even if you can't tout them.


Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus) or (Cymbopogon citratus) is a plant that has been used for centuries in traditional medicine and culinary practices. Here are five ways lemongrass can support welllness:

  1. Digestive Health: Lemongrass has properties that can help support healthy digestion, reduce digestive discomforts (such as bloating or gas), and alleviate stomach discomfort. As easy way to enjoy this benefit would be to drink lemongrass tea (add 1-2 tsp of finely chopped lemongrass to 6 - 8 oz of boiling water) or create an aroma inhaler that includes lemongrass and perhaps ginger or another digestive supportive essential oil. Please note you using lemongrass essential oil internally is NOT recommended.

  2. Reduce Inflammation: Lemongrass appropriately diluted finds its way into to blends to ease muscle and joint aches and for good reason. Lemongrass oil demonstrates anti-inflammatory activity. It's believed that suppression of COX-2 contributes to this effect and that citral was an active constituent in this effect. (2,3) An excellent way to enjoy this benefit of lemongrass is by creating a topical blend. However, lemongrass essential oil can be sensitizing and should be used at a maximum of 0.7% or less.

  3. Antimicrobial: Lemongrass has demonstrated antimicrobial properties against bacteria, virus, and fungi. It can be used topically, in cleaning, in hand cleansing products, or to help fight against colds or flus. Clinical studies have shown that C. citratus oil combats taphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus, B. subtilis, Escherichia coli, and Klebsiella pneumoniae. (4) Lemongrass powder and oil inhibited the growth of mold aspergillus flavus, A. fumigatus, Microphomina phaseoli, and Penicillium chrysogenum. (5) Traditionally the leaves are made into a paste and applied to the infected area. Using the essential oil, it can be added to a gel, cream, or appropriate carrier.

  4. Stress Relief: In both traditional folk medicine and in clinical studies lemongrass is used as a sedative and tonic. Drinking lemongrass tea, diffusing a blend containing lemongrass, or using topical products that contain lemongrass are ways to enjoy the calming, mood boosting, and tonic effects of lemongrass.

  5. Skincare: Lemongrass has natural astringent properties that can help to tone and tighten the skin, and reduce the appearance of pores. It is also effective in treating acne and other skin conditions due to its antibacterial properties. Using infusions or lemongrass essential oil from plant chemotypes (Cymbopogon citratus ct. rhodinol) that have a more skin nourishing chemistry it can be an effective addition to facial washes, serums, or lotions.


Given its many actions: antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, carminative, diaphoretic, and immune stimulant lemongrass is certainly a beneficial herb and essential oil and I could probably list many more ways to use it, but I hope this post helps you to appreciate this tasty and therapeutic herb in cooking, aromatherapy, and in skin and body care products.


Lemongrass is a tough plant! You can't exactly eat it, but its leaves and bulb are usually chopped or sliced and infused into soups, sauces, and used for teas, tinctures, decoctions, or infusions. The essential oil is not recommended for consumption but can be diffused, diluted and used topically, and offers a wonderful aroma (with secondary benefits) in many formulations such as shampoos, massage oils, gels, balms, lotions, and creams. It may be a promising ingredient in products to fight blemishes or for anti-fungal or anti-bacterial sprays, gels, or the like.


If you're a fan of lemongrass be sure to check out our aromatic body care and aromatherapy products that feature lemongrass essential oil.


Aromatic blessings,

Tricia


Safety: While herbs and essential oils are generally regarded as safe (GRAS) care must be taken to respect the chemistry of the plant and consideration for therapeutic use should be taken during certain circumstances, such as during pregnancy.


The internal digestion of lemongrass in the form of essential oil should be restricted. Depending on an individual, the topical application of lemongrass essential oil may cause irritation or burning to the skin. The oil should ideally be diluted before external use (Wood, 2008). Care should be taken if considering lemongrass for therapeutic use during certain circumstances, for example, if pregnant.


As mentioned in Essential Oil Safety by Tisserand and Young (second edition), lemongrass essential oil has the potential to irritate skin and mucous membranes, with a suggested use at 0.7% maximum. Lemongrass essential oil may be skin sensitizing (try using oils high in d-limonene or alpha-pinene to help). Use caution for young children. It is also suggested the use of citral be restricted to 0.5% maximum on the skin during pregnancy. Oils containing citral should be avoided with antidepressants (specifically Bupropion) that inhibits CYP2B6 enzyme.Oils high in Citral are known to be a mucous membrane irritant.


Disclaimer:

I understand that the Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated the therapeutic suggestions or any statements made on this website about essential oils, carriers or other products offered by Aromatherapy by Tricia Ambroziak (ABT)

The statements made on this website are for educational purposes and have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

The data on this website is not considered complete and is not guaranteed to be accurate.

Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking treatment based on something you've read or accessed through this website. Tricia Ambroziak is a professional aromatherapist but not a licensed health care professional.

I understand that essential oils and aromatherapy are not a substitute for professional medical care. I understand that the products being sold by ABT are not intended to diagnose, treat or prevent any disease.


  1. U.S. Forest Service Website, Medicinal Botany, Accessed April 21, 2023 from: https://www.fs.usda.gov/wildflowers/ethnobotany/medicinal/index.shtml

  2. Boukhatem, M.N., Ferhat, M.A., Kameli, A., Saidi, F. and Kebir, H.T. (2014) Lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) essential oil as a potent anti-inflammatory and antifungal drug. Libyan Journal of Medicine 9, 25431. Available at http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/ljm.v9.25431

  3. Katsukawa, M., Nakata, R., Takizawa, Y., Hori, K., Takahash,i S. and Inoue, H. (2010) Citral, a component of lemongrass oil, activates PPARα and γ and suppresses COX-2 expression. Biochim. Biophys. Acta Mol. Cell Biol. Lipids 1801, 11, 1214–1220. doi: 10.1016/j.bbalip.2010.07.004.

  4. Onawunmi, G.O., Yisak, W., and Ogunlana, E.O. (1984). Antibacterial constituents in the essential oil of Cymbopogon citratus (DC.) Stapf. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 12(3); 279-286.

  5. Adegoke, G.O. and Odesola, B.A. (1996). Storage of maize and cowpea and inhibition of microbial agents of biodeterioration using the powder and essential oil of lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus). International biodeterioration &Biodegradation, 37(1-2): 81-84. doi:10.1016/0964-8305(95)00062-3.


















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