Lemongrass has a lemony, spicy fragrance. Lemongrass oil is extracted from the stalks and leaves of the lemongrass tree and is often used in herbal medicine and cooking. It has been used by traditional medicine practitioners in Asia for hundreds of years to treat stomach cramps, diarrhea, menstrual cramps, convulsions, headaches, anxiety, gastric-juice problems, and fatigue. In the United States, lemongrass oil is considered a safe, gentle antiseptic.
The name “lemongrasses” is Greek. The modern use of lemongrass oil refers to the citrus fragrance and medicinal properties of the stalks and leaves. Native to Thailand and Burma, lemongrass plants are now grown in tropical and subtropical climates all over the world. These plants produce aromatic oils that are used in herbal and bathtubs, as well as in cooking and cosmetics.
Scientists have found many antioxidant qualities in lemongrass oil. Some of these antioxidant properties are attributed to carotenes, which occur in plants, but are extremely unstable. For this reason, it’s difficult for the body to make carotenes, so lemongrass oil must be obtained synthetically. A recent study has found that lemongrass oil contains an antioxidant agent that is even more effective than Vitamin E at preventing free radical damage to DNA and other molecules in the body.
In a recent study, laboratory mice were injected with a small amount of lemongrass oil. When the researchers removed the lemongrass from the animals’ flesh, they found that the oil prevented damage to cellular DNA. This finding suggests that lemongrass may have the potential to help prevent certain types of cancer, especially cancer of the breast, prostate, lungs, ovaries, stomach, and colon. This is because some of these cancers can result from oxidative stress, which is caused by the oxidation of DNA.
In addition to its potential anticancer activity, lemongrass is also an essential oil used in the treatment of psoriasis, eczema, dandruff, depression, and as an anti-inflammatory. A number of chronic dermatitis problems, including acne, are relieved by applying dry lemongrass leaves to the skin. A common ingredient in dry lemongrass shampoos is menthol. Some users of this herbal shampoo have expressed concern that it could have negative implications for pregnant women, but a definitive link between lemongrass and pregnancy has not been established.
It is not clear whether lemongrass has similar effects on cholesterol or blood sugar levels. In some experiments with rats, high doses of lemongrass appeared to slightly increase their blood sugar levels. However, this effect was only temporary and did not last. One study on cholesterol levels in humans, in which laboratory animals were fed lemongrass, did find that some people had lower levels than others. However, when this effect was reversed after discontinuing use of lemongrass oil the researchers concluded that the reduction of cholesterol was due to other factors, such as increased physical exercise, rather than the herb.
One of the most promising links between lemongrass and cholesterol levels is a 2021 study in the journal Heart Lung. This research followed up on previous studies that suggested that lemongrass may be beneficial for lowering blood cholesterol levels. During a three-day stay at a geriatric care center, adults with high cholesterol levels (a total cholesterol level of over 200 milligrams per deciliter) who took a standardized daily supplement containing lemongrass showed significant improvement in terms of improved cholesterol level and triglyceride levels. A separate group of participants, who had high cholesterol levels already, also noticed improvements, but these improvements did not reach statistical significance.
Because lemongrass appears to improve the absorption of nutrients and may help prevent gastrointestinal problems related to poor digestion, it has been recommended as an herbal supplement in the treatment of diarrhea and gastric ulcers. One study comparing the effects of lemongrass oil with that of aspirin found that patients given lemongrass had fewer side effects than those given aspirin. Because the antacids in aspirin cause stomach irritation, it can be difficult for people with gastric ulcers to take them, while lemongrass oil is an all-natural substance that is perfectly safe.