Besides being a delicious citrusy seasoning in Southeastern Asian cooking, most of us would never guess that this delicious thready grass holds so much healing power inside its fibrous stalks. I’m talking about lemongrass, specifically lemongrass essential oil that is used to relieve muscle pain and more.
Externally, this oil is used to kill bacteria, ward off insects and reduce body aches — and internally to help your digestive system. It can also be used for flavoring tea and soups, and it adds a pleasant natural fragrance to cosmetics, soaps and homemade deodorizers.
The compounds that make up lemongrass essential oil are known to have antifungal, insecticidal, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. Lemongrass may prevent the growth of some bacteria and yeast, and it contains antioxidant properties. It also contains substances that are used to help alleviate muscle pain, reduce fever, plus stimulate uterus and menstrual flow.
What Is Lemongrass Essential Oil?
Before we talk more about lemongrass oil, what is lemongrass? It is an herb that belongs to the grass family of Poaceae.
It is also known as Cymbopogon and is a genus of about 55 species of grasses.
Lemongrass grows in dense clumps that can grow six feet in height and four feet in width. It is native to warm and tropical regions, such as India, Southeast Asia and Oceania.
It is used as a medicinal herb in India, and it is common in Asian cuisine. In African and South American countries, it is popularly used for making tea.
Lemongrass oil comes from the leaves or grasses of the lemongrass plant, most often the Cymbopogon flexuosus or Cymbopogon citratus plants. The oil has a light and fresh lemony smell with earthy undertones. It is stimulating, relaxing, soothing and balancing.
The chemical composition of lemongrass essential oil varies according to the geographical origin. The compounds typically include hydrocarbon terpenes, alcohols, ketones, esters and mainly aldehydes. The essential oil consists of mainly citral at about 70 percent to 80 percent.
Lemongrass essential oil is a source of essential vitamins and minerals, such as:
- vitamin A
- vitamin B1
- vitamin B2
- vitamin B3
- vitamin B5
- vitamin B6
- vitamin C
As an herb, lemongrass has long been an essential ingredient in Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian and Indonesian cuisine. Lemongrass essential oil also has a history of use as a natural food preservative due to its inherent antimicrobial activities.
The lemongrass plant (C. citratus) is known by several international common names, such as West Indian lemon grass or lemon grass (English), hierba limon or zacate de limón (Spanish), citronelle or verveine des indes (French), and xiang mao (Chinese). Today, India is the top producer of lemongrass oil.
Lemongrass is one of the most popular essential oils used today for its wide variety of health benefits and uses. With its cooling and astringent effects, it’s known for combating heat and tightening tissues of the body.
According to the New York Institute of Aromatic Studies, “It acts particularly on the connective tissue, where structural and immune functions meet. Lemongrass acts on the lymphatic capillaries and vessels draining away from the skin so it is useful in edema and lymphatic congestion.”
Benefits and Uses
What is lemongrass essential oil used for? There are so many potential lemongrass essential oil uses and benefits so let’s dive in to them now.
Some of the most common uses and benefits of lemongrass essential oil include:
1. Natural Deodorizer and Cleaner
Use lemongrass oil as a natural and safe air freshener or deodorizer. You can add the oil to water, and use it as a mist or use an oil diffuser or vaporizer.
By adding other essential oils, like lavender or tea tree oil, you can customize your own natural fragrance.
2. Skin Health
Is lemongrass oil good for skin? Yes, a major lemongrass essential oil benefit is its skin-soothing properties.
A 2017 study published in Biochimie Open tested the effects of lemongrass essential oil (LEO) on pre-inflamed human dermal fibroblast. The study authors concluded: “This study provides the first evidence of the anti-inflammatory activity of LEO in human skin cells and indicates that it is a good therapeutic candidate for treating inflammatory conditions of the skin.”
In addition, research published in 2022 evaluated this oil for its potential uses in skin care. It determined “lemongrass can be considered a promising natural source of readily available, low-cost extracts rich in antioxidant, skincare, and antimicrobial compounds that might be suitable for replacing synthetic compounds in the cosmeceutical industry.”
Add lemongrass oil to shampoos, conditioners, deodorants, soaps and lotions. Lemongrass oil is an effective cleanser for all skin types.
Its antiseptic and astringent properties make lemongrass oil perfect for getting even and glowing skin and thus part of your natural skin care routine. It can sterilize your pores, serve as a natural toner and strengthen your skin tissues.
3. Hair Health
Lemongrass oil can strengthen your hair follicles, so if you are struggling with hair loss or an itchy and irritated scalp, massage a few drops of lemongrass oil into your scalp for two minutes, and then rinse. The soothing and bacteria-killing properties will leave your hair shiny, fresh and odor-free.
4. Natural Bug Repellant
Because of its high citral and geraniol content, lemongrass oil is known to repel bugs, such as mosquitoes and ants. This natural repellant has a mild smell and can be sprayed directly on the skin. You can even use lemongrass oil to kill fleas.
5. Stress and Anxiety Reducer
Lemongrass is one of several essential oils for anxiety. The calming and mild smell of lemongrass oil is known to help relieve anxiety and irritability.
A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine revealed that when subjects were exposed to an anxiety-causing situation and smelled the scent of lemongrass oil (three and six drops), unlike the control groups, the lemongrass group experienced a decrease in anxiety and subjective tension immediately after treatment administration.
To relieve stress, create your own lemongrass massage oil or add lemongrass oil to your body lotion. You can also try having a cup of lemongrass tea at night before bed to experience calming lemongrass tea benefits.
6. Muscle Relaxer
Do you have sore muscles, or are you experiencing cramps or muscle spasms? Lemongrass oil benefits also include its ability to help relieve muscle aches, cramps and spasms. It may also help improve circulation.
Try rubbing diluted lemongrass oil on your body, or make your own lemongrass oil foot bath.
7. Detoxifying Antifungal Abilities
Lemongrass oil or tea has been used as a detoxifier in several countries. It is known to detox the digestive tract, liver, kidneys, bladder and pancreas.
Because it works as a natural diuretic, consuming lemongrass oil can help you flush harmful toxins out of your body.
Keep your system clean by adding lemongrass oil to your soup or tea. You can make your own lemongrass tea by infusing lemongrass leaves with boiling water or adding a few drops of essential oil to your tea.
One study was done to test the effects that lemongrass oil has on fungal infections and yeast from Candida albicans species. Candida is a fungal infection that can affect the skin, genitals, throat, mouth and blood.
By using disk diffusion tests, lemongrass oil was studied for its antifungal properties, and research shows that lemongrass oil has a potent in vitro activity against candida.
This study suggests that lemongrass oil and its key active component, citral, have the power to reduce fungal infections — specifically those caused by Candida albicans fungus.
8. Menstrual Cramp Relief
Drink one to two cups of lemongrass tea a day to relieve pain associated with your period.
9. Stomach Helper
Lemongrass has been known for centuries anecdotally as a treatment for stomach distress, gastritis and gastric ulcers.
A research study published in 2012 shows how lemongrass essential oil (Cymbopogon citratus) was able to protect the stomachs of animal subjects from gastric damage caused by ethanol and aspirin. The study concludes that lemongrass oil “might serve as a lead compound for future development of novel therapies that combat nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug-associated gastropathy.”
It’s also been shown to promote gastric healing activity in mice, and
10. Headache Relief
Lemongrass oil is also often recommended for relief from headaches. The calming and soothing effects of lemongrass oil have the power to help relieve the pain, pressure or tension that can cause headaches.
Try massaging diluted lemongrass oil on your temples, and breathe in the relaxing lemony fragrance.
11. Bacteria Killer
A study done in 2012 tested the antibacterial effects of lemongrass. Micro-organisms were tested with a disk diffusion method. Lemongrass essential oil was added to a staph infection, and the results indicated that lemongrass oil disrupted the infection and works as an antimicrobial (or bacteria-killing) agent.
The citral and limonene content in lemongrass oil can kill or stifle the growth of bacteria and fungi. This can help you avoid getting infections, such as ringworm, athlete’s foot or other types of fungus.
12. Fever Reducer
With its cooling properties, it’s unsurprising that lemongrass oil has a history of use as a natural fever reducer. It is known to contain substances that are believed to reduce a fever and also relieve pain and swelling.
13. Supports Your Immune System
Lemongrass oil can help to boost your immune system with its antimicrobial and therapeutic properties. In vitro research has shown that the oil can reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines in the body, which can contribute to illness.
Animal studies have also found that lemongrass oil “supplementation improved the immune responses and disease resistance.”
14. Helps Digestive Problems
Lemongrass oil can help relieve pain from gas irritation in the stomach and bowels. It’s also been shown to have anti-diarrheal effects.
According to research published in 2006, lemongrass may help slow diarrhea. This research study showed that it reduced fecal output in mice with castor oil-induced diarrhea.
It also promotes gut microbiota, which benefits gut health.
15. Reduces Inflammation
In vitro research has shown that lemongrass oil has powerful anti-inflammatory abilities when used both internally and externally. This is huge when you consider that inflammation is at the root of most diseases.
Several other studies confirm the anti-inflammatory effects of this oil. In fact, research published in 2022 exploring the anti-hypertensive potential of lemongrass unearthed a mountain of evidence that showcase the oil’s anti-inflammatory effects.
16. Power Antioxidant Effects
Studies have shown that lemongrass oil has powerful antioxidant activity with the ability to fight off disease-causing free radicals. A study published in 2009 also demonstrates how one of the main components of lemongrass oil, citral, can inhibit the growth of human breast cancer cell line MCF-7 in vitro, due in part to its antioxidant effects.
17. May Lower Cholesterol
A research study published in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology looked at the effects of giving animal subjects with high cholesterol lemongrass essential oil by mouth for a total of 21 days. The mice were either given 1, 10 or 100 mg/kg of lemongrass oil.
The researchers found that blood cholesterol levels were reduced in the group treated with the highest dose of lemongrass oil. Overall, the study concludes that the “findings verified the safety of lemongrass intake at the doses used in folk medicine and indicated the beneficial effect of reducing the blood cholesterol level.”
18. Fights Colds
According to a scientific article published in 2011, “As a vaporizer, the oil works as an effective panacea against bacteria, flu and colds.” Lemongrass oil can fight bacteria and can help combat airborne illnesses, like the common cold, especially when used with a vaporizer.
If your body temperature is higher than normal, lemongrass oil can also have a cooling effect.
Researchers tested whether essential oil vapors, made up of lemongrass and geranium, could reduce surface and airborne levels of bacteria. The effects changed depending on the methods used.
In a sealed box environment, bacteria growth on seeded plates was reduced by 38 percent after 20 hours of exposure to the essential oil combination. In an office environment, an 89 percent reduction of airborne bacteria took place within 15 hours.
This study suggests that lemongrass essential oil can be used as a method of air disinfection. The study also revealed that the essentials oil vapors inhibited the growth of antibiotic-sensitive and antibiotic-resistant bacteria in vitro.
Traditional Medicine Uses
What is lemongrass essential oil used for in traditional medicine? Traditional lemongrass essential oil uses include its employment as a natural antibacterial, antifungal, antiprotozoal, anxiolytic (anxiety reducer) and antioxidant.
In the South American country of Brazil, it is one of the most often used plant medicines to treat stomach issues and nervous disorders. In the Amazon, it is prized for its status as a sedative tea. In Guatemala, the Carib people use the leaves to make a tea that they use for fevers, flatulence and gripe.
Lemongrass Essential Oil vs. Lemon Essential Oil
Lemongrass oil and lemon oil may both include the word “lemon,” but they are definitely two totally different oils that are derived from totally different plants. Lemongrass oil comes from the leaves of a lemongrass plant, while lemon oil comes from the peel of a lemon fruit.
Both lemongrass and lemons, along with lemon juice, have many culinary uses and lend a citrusy note to recipes. Both oils unsurprisingly have a bright citrus scent.
Lemongrass essential oil uses include potentially lowering cholesterol and relaxing muscles cramps, while lemon oil is often used to boost oral health and detoxify the body.
Lemongrass and lemon essential oils have antibacterial properties, which make them helpful for skin concerns. They also make great antiseptic additions to homemade cleaning products and can naturally deodorize your home or office.
Both types of oils have powerful antioxidant ability and are great for boosting the immune system. They also can help to fight off colds and the flu.
Research shows that diffusing lemongrass oil can really help to kill off airborne germs, while a couple of drops of lemon oil mixed with hot water and raw honey makes a great tonic for sore throats.
The scent of both oils can be energizing and provide a similar yet different boost. Lemon oil can be very brightening and uplifting, while lemongrass oil is known to offer anti-anxiety benefits.
How to Use
If you want to know how to use lemongrass oil, there are several ways you can start using it today:
- Aromatically: Can you diffuse lemongrass essential oil? Yes, you can diffuse it throughout your home using an oil diffuser or vaporizer to benefit from aromatherapy.
- Topically: To use it topically, it should always be diluted with a carrier oil like coconut oil in a 1:1 ratio before applying to directly to your skin. Since it’s a potent oil, start very slowly, and use several drops at a time. It can sometimes cause skin reactions to people with sensitive skin, so avoid using it on your face, neck or chest before making sure you react positively by performing a patch test. You can add a drop or two to face washes or homemade face masks to kill off bacteria that can lead to breakouts as well.
- Internally: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recognizes pure lemongrass oil as safe for consumption, but this is only the case when using 100 percent therapeutic-grade, high-quality oil brands. Purchase your oil from a reputable seller, and check the ingredient label carefully. You can add a drop to water or take it as a dietary supplement by mixing it with raw honey or into a smoothie.
Are you wondering, what can I mix with lemongrass essential oil? It blends well with the following essential oils:
- black pepper
- clary sage
- tea tree
- ylang ylang
If you’re looking for a lemongrass substitute for cooking, lemon zest can be a pretty good replacement. Typically, the zest of one lemon is equal to about two stalks of lemongrass. In terms of a good essential oil substitute, citronella essential oil shares many of its characteristics, including a similar scent.
To take advantage of these amazing lemongrass oil benefits, try making your own recipes or body products. It is commonly used in teas, soups and curries, and it is also suitable for poultry, fish and seafood.
Want to try an easy recipe? Add 1–2 drops of lemongrass essential oil to my Secret Cucumber Detox Soup Recipe.
You can also add it to my Lemon Roasted Cauliflower Recipe or Sautéed Pesto Mahi Mahi dish. Lemongrass pairs well with any coconut milk–based soup, such as my Mushroom Soup as well. You can substitute it for the lemon in these recipes — or add both for more of a citrus and acidic flavor.
You can make your own lemongrass tea by pouring two cups of boiling water over 10 leaves. If you are using the tea to reduce stomach, head or muscle aches, drink one cup every eight hours or so. You can add a bit of honey, lemon or a slice of ginger, too.
Some other ways to experience the lemongrass oil benefits is to create your own body scrub. Because this oil is great for creating a soothing and ache-free feeling, combine 10 drops with Epsom salt, and then add enough coconut oil to saturate the salt. In the shower, rub the scrub all over your body (even on your face), and then rinse.
If your feet have been aching after a long day, make your own foot bath by adding about 10 drops of lemongrass essential oil to warm water. This bath should relieve any muscle pain that you are feeling in your feet, and it has antibacterial and antifungal effects, too.
Finally, make this DIY Disinfectant Spray with Tea Tree & Lemongrass to help clean your home.
Risks and Side Effects
Is lemongrass oil dangerous? Some people have experienced toxic side effects after inhaling the oil, such as lung problems. Remember that a little goes a long way when you’re using essential oils in an aromatherapy diffuser.
If you have sensitive skin and topically use the oil, side effects may include a rash, discomfort or even a burning sensation. Perform a patch test first to make sure you have no irritations, and dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil.
Because it stimulates menstrual flow, it should not be used by women who are pregnant. It also should not be used while breastfeeding, and it should not be used topically on children under the age of two.
If you’re being treated for a medical condition or are currently taking medication, speak with your health care provider before using lemongrass oil, especially internally.
- Lemongrass oil comes from the leaves of the lemongrass plant, most often the Cymbopogon flexuosus or Cymbopogon citratus plants.
- One of the oil’s most prominent and beneficial components is citral.
- Benefits and uses include:
- Natural deodorizer and cleaner
- Skin health
- Hair health
- Natural bug repellent
- Stress reducer
- Muscle relaxer
- Detoxifying antifungal
- Menstrual cramp relief
- Stomach protector
- Headache relief
- Bacteria killer
- Fever reducer
- Immune system supporter
- Digestive aid
- Inflammation reducer
- Power antioxidant effects
- Cholesterol reducer
- Fights colds
- This oil can be used aromatically, topically (always dilute with a carrier oil) or internally (only one drop needed).
- Always purchase lemongrass essential oil that is 100 percent, certified organic and therapeutic grade.