Herb Article
Lemon Grass

By Katie Rose Browning, Certified Herbalist

Lemon Grass Common Name
Lemon Grass (other common names are Citronella, Fever Grass)

Latin Name
Cymbogon citrates (formerly Andropogon nardus)

Family
Poaceae

Related species
C. nardus or Ceylon Citronela (which is the plant source for Citronella oil)
C. martini or Ginger Grass (also called Palma-rosa or Rusha)
C. densiflorus (sacred plant to medicine men of Tanzania)

Description/Origin
Lemon Grass is a perennial grass that grows in tufts up to 6 feet tall, with long, pointed, and aromatic leaves. Its exact origin is unknown, but it is speculated to be native to Southern India, Sri Lanka or Malayasia. Lemon Grass is now cultivated throughout much of tropical Asia, Australia, Africa and South and Central America. The Lemon Grass crops used for the distillation of essential oil are primarily grown in Central America, Brazil and China. The essential oil is amongst the ten best selling in the world, with production of more than fifteen hundred tons of essential oil per year! Lemon Grass is also a common and important culinary herb in Asia. In Thai it is called "Cha Khrai" or "Ta Krai", in Vietnamese "Sa Chanh", and in Indonesian "Sereh".

Energetics and Folk Uses
Lemon Grass is cool, dry and yang in nature. It is ruled by the planet Mercury and the element of Air. It is often planted around homes to deter snakes.

Constituents/Parts Used
The leaves of the Lemon Grass are used medicinally and for the extraction of essential oil. Lemon Grass is mainly constituted of volatile oil (70% citrol) and citronella.

Medicinal Properties
The main actions of Lemon Grass are antibacterial, antifungal, antiseptic, antispasmodic and diaphoretic. Taken as a tea, Lemon Grass is a great digestive to ease stomach cramps, flatulence and indigestion. It relaxes the muscles in the gut and is particularly suitable for colic in children. Also known as Fever Grass, it promotes perspiration, helps break fevers and cools the body (which is why it is so cherished in tropical countries). It can be taken to relieve colds and flu and the volatile oil has been researched to have principals that are active against Staph, E. coli, and Candida among other bacterial and fungal infections. Lemon Grass can be applied topically for headaches, arthritic and muscle pain as well.

Precautions
DO NOT use the essential (volatile) oil internally or undiluted on the skin. Lemon Grass can be stimulating for some people and should be used with precaution if taken long term for those who have heart problems.

Preparations & Applications
Tea: Use 1 tsp. -1 tbsp. Lemon Grass leaves per 1 cup of water. Let steep up to 15 min., drink hot or cold...YUM! Try Lemongrass in our new "Summer Cooler Tea"!!

Culinary
Lemon Grass is a medicinal food.

Simple Tom Ka soup base recipe
2 cans Coconut milk
4 cups Water
1/4 cup Fish sauce
1/4 - 1/2 cup chopped Lemon Grass
2 tbsp. fresh grated Ginger
2 tsp. crushed Red Pepper
1 tsp. ground Cumin
1 tsp. ground Corriander

Add Vegetables and/or meat of choice (shrimp or chicken is best). Top with 1/4 cup chopped Cilantro.

Essential Oil
Add 5-20 drops (depending on base) of essential oil per oz of water, carrier oil or salts. For an anti-fungal oil try mixing with Rose Geranium and Thyme essential oils.

Resources
Arvigo, Rosita: Rainforest Remedies
Chevallier, Andrew: Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine
Keville, Kathy and Green, Mindy: Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide to the Healing Art
Mars, Brigitte: The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine
Van Wyk, Ben-Erik and Wink, Michael: Medicinal Plants of the World