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!
Surprisingly, lemongrass essential oil is used as aromatherapy to relieve muscle pain, externally 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. (1) It also contains substances that are used to 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? Lemongrass is an herb that belongs to the grass family of Poaceae. Lemongrass is also known by Cymbopogon; it 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 consists of mainly citral at about 70 to 80 percent. (2)
Lemongrass essential oil is a source of essential vitamins such as vitamin A, B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, folate and vitamin C. It also provides essential minerals such as magnesium, phosphorous, manganese, copper, potassium, calcium, zinc and iron.
18 Lemongrass Essential Oil Benefits & Uses
What is lemongrass essential oil used for? There are so many potential lemongrass essential oil uses and benefits so let’s dive into them now! Some of the most common 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.
Cleaning with lemongrass essential oil is another great idea because not only does it naturally deodorize your home, but it also helps to sanitize it.
2. Skin Health
Is lemongrass oil good for skin? One major lemongrass essential oil benefit is its skin healing properties. One research study tested the effects of a lemongrass infusion on the skin of animal subjects; the infusion is made by pouring boiling water over dried lemongrass leaves. The infusion was used on the paws of rats in order to test lemongrass as a sedative. The pain-killing activity suggests that lemongrass can be used to soothe irritations on the skin. (3)
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. By rubbing this oil into your hair, scalp and body, you can alleviate headaches or muscle pain.
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)
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; add about five drops of oil to water and create your own spray, then apply the spray to your pet’s coat. (5)
5. Stress and Anxiety Reducer
A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine reveals 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. (6)
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
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. (7) It may also help to improve circulation. (8)
Try rubbing diluted lemongrass oil on your body or make your own lemongrass oil foot bath. Check out some of the DIY recipes below.
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 will help you to 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. (9)
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. (10)
8. Menstrual Cramp Relief
Drinking lemongrass tea is known to help women with menstrual cramps; it can also help with nausea and irritability.
Drink one to two cups of lemongrass tea a day to relieve pain associated with your period. There’s no scientific research on this use, but lemongrass is known to be soothing internally and stress reducing, so it makes sense why it may help with painful cramps.
9. Stomach Helper
Lemongrass has been known for centuries anecdotally as a cure for stomach distress, gastritis and gastric ulcers. Now research is catching up with this long known support and cure.
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.” (11)
Adding lemongrass oil to tea or soup can also help to improve stomach pains and diarrhea.
10. Headache Relief
Lemongrass oil is also often recommended for relief from headaches. (8) The calming and soothing effects of lemongrass oil has the power to 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 effects that lemongrass has as an antibacterial property. 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. (12)
The citral and limonene content in lemongrass oil can kill or stifle the growth of bacteria and fungi. This will help you avoid getting infections such as ringworm, athlete’s foot or other types of fungus. Studies in rats have proved that lemongrass essential oil is an effective antifungal and antibacterial agent. Take advantage of these lemongrass oil benefits by making your own body or foot scrub— you can find the recipe below.
12. Fever Reducer
With its cooling properties, it’s surprising that lemongrass oil has a history of use as a natural fever reducer. Lemongrass is known to contain substances that are believed to reduce a fever and also to relieve pain and swelling. (13)
13. Supports Your Immune System
Lemongrass oil can help to boost your immune system with its antimicrobial and therapeutic properties. In vitro research has also shown that the oil can reduce pro-inflammatory cytokines in the body, which can contribute to illness. (14)
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 to slow diarrhea. This research study showed that lemongrass reduced fecal output in mice with castor oil-induced diarrhea. (15)
15. Reduces Inflammation
In vitro research has shown that lemon grass oil has powerful anti-inflammatory abilities when used both internally and externally. (16) This is huge when you consider that inflammation is at the root of most diseases. (17)
16. Power Antioxidant Effects
Studies have shown that lemongrass oil has powerful antioxidant activity with the ability to fight off disease-causing free radicals. (18) A study published in 2009 also demonstrates how one of the main components of lemongrass oil, citral, can inhibit the growth human breast cancer cell line MCF-7 in vitro. (19)
17. Lowers 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.” (20)
18. Fights the Flu and Colds
According to a scientific article titled 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 to combat airborne illnesses like common cold, especially when used with a vaporizer. If your body temperature is higher than normal, lemongrass oil can also have a cooling effect. (7)
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. (21)
Lemongrass Essential Oil in Traditional Medicine
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. (22)
In the South American country of Brazil, lemongrass is one of the most often used plant medicines to treat stomach issues and nervous disorders. In the Amazon, lemongrass is prized for its status as a sedative tea. (8) In Guatemala, the Carib people use lemongrass leaves to make a tea which 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 all lend a citrusy note to recipes. Both oils not surprisingly have a bright citrus scent.
Lemongrass essential oil uses include 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. Lemongrass and lemon oil 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 Lemongrass Essential Oil
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.
- Topically: To use lemongrass oil 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. If you’re wondering, how do I use lemongrass oil on my face? Lemongrass oil 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. Does lemongrass help acne? It may thanks to its antibacterial properties. How do you use lemongrass oil for acne? You can add a drop or two to face washes or homemade face masks to kill off bacteria that can lead to breakouts.
- Internally: The FDA recognizes pure lemon grass oil as safe for consumption (by 21CFR182.20), 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? Lemongrass essential oil blends well with basil, bergamot, black pepper, cedarwood, clary sage, cypress, fennel, geranium, ginger, grapefruit, lavender, lemon, orange, patchouli, rosemary, tea tree, thyme and ylang ylang essential oils.
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 lemongrass essential oil substitute, citronella essential oil shares many of its characteristics including a similar scent.
Where to Find Lemongrass Essential Oil + DIY Recipes
To take advantage of these amazing lemongrass oil benefits, try making your own recipes or body products. Lemongrass is commonly used in teas, soups and curries; it is also suitable for poultry, fish and seafood. Want to try an easy lemongrass essential oil recipe? Try adding a 1–2 drops of lemongrass essential oil to my Secret Cucumber Detox Soup Recipe.
You can also add lemongrass essential oil to my Lemon Roasted Cauliflower Recipe and my Sautéed Pesto Mahi Mahi dish. Lemongrass pairs well with any coconut milk–based soup, such as my Mushroom Soup as well. You can substitute the lemongrass oil 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 lemongrass 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.
For a super easy DIY insect repellent, try my Homemade Bug Spray; add 40 drops of lemongrass essential oil and the mosquitoes won’t be bothering you anymore.
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 of lemongrass oil with Epsom salt, 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.
History and Interesting Facts
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 with around 80 percent of the total annual production in the world.
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.” (23)
Lemongrass Oil Precautions
Is lemongrass oil dangerous? Some people have experienced toxic side effects after inhaling lemongrass oil, such as lung problems. (24) Remember that a little goes a long way when you’re using lemongrass oil in an aromatherapy diffuser.
If you have sensitive skin and topically use lemongrass essential 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 lemongrass stimulates menstrual flow, it should not be used by women who are pregnant as there is a slight chance that this may lead to a miscarriage. (13) Lemongrass oil should not be used while breastfeeding, and it should not be used topically on children under the age of two. (25)
If you’re being treated for a medical condition or are currently taking medication, speak with your healthcare 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 lemongrass essential oil’s most prominent (at 70-80 percent) and beneficial components is citral.
- Lemongrass essential oil 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 and the flu
- Lemongrass essential oil can be used aromatically, topically (always dilute with a carrier oil) or internally (only one single drop is needed)
- Always purchase lemongrass essential oil that is 100 percent, certified organic and therapeutic grade.
Read Next: 101 Essential Oil Uses and Benefits
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