Besides its use as a spice, however, the plant also yields a potent essential oil, whose remarkable therapeutic properties make it an effective natural treatment for numerous health conditions.
Lemongrass, also called Cymbopogon, is an evergreen perennial herb native to the warm regions of India, Southeast Asia, and Indonesia. Lemongrass is a member of the grass family, and like regular lawn grass, it grows in clumps, and its leaves are bright green with sharp edges. However, mature lemongrass clumps are larger, reaching a height of about three feet.
For centuries, lemongrass has been used in flavouring for tea and cuisines, as well as a remedy for various diseases and illnesses. In East India and Sri Lanka, traditional herbalists mixed it with other herbs to treat fever, stomach upsets, diarrhoea, and irregular menstruation. There is also substantial evidence of its use in early Chinese civilization to alleviate headaches, flu, colds, and rheumatic pains.
However, lemongrass wasn’t distilled for its oil until the 17th Century, when it quickly became a valuable export commodity in Indonesia and the Philippines.
Today, lemongrass grows in all the tropical regions of the world. There are over 50 types of lemongrass, but not all are ideal for medicinal purposes. The two varieties most popularly used to make lemongrass essential oil are East Indian lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus, Cochin grass or Malabar grass) and West Indian lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus).
Lemongrass oil is derived from the herb’s leaves through steam distillation. Freshly extracted oil is thin with a pale bright yellow colour and an intense, lemony aroma.
Of the two known varieties, East Indian lemongrass oil is more potent in both scent and chemical concentration and is, therefore, dominant in health and perfumery applications. West Indian lemongrass, on the other hand, is milder and is more famous as a flavour for food and drinks.
Lemongrass harbors a bevy of health-promoting agents, which make it one of the most versatile essential oils.
Below are the most common uses of lemongrass essential oil:
Kills bacteria and has Antifungal properties
Lemongrass essential oil is valued for its antiseptic properties, which make it an effective antibacterial agent.
When applied to a fresh wound or cut, the citral component in lemongrass inhibits the growth of bacteria and reduces the probability of infection. The internal use of lemongrass oil also stops microbial multiplication in the stomach, intestines, urinary tract and other organ systems.
Adding a few drops of lemongrass oil in warm bath water can also help to remedy fungal infections, such as ringworm and athlete’s foot. Studies have also shown that lemongrass essential oil has antifungal properties and it can work greatly against fungal infections such as Candida.
Relieves fever, flu, and colds
Because of its ability to fight bacteria and viruses, lemongrass oil is often used to treat colds and flu. When used with a vaporizer, it works fast to clear blocked airways, reduce throat and chest pains and provide relief against persistent coughs.
Additionally, bacterial and viral infections are often the cause of high body temperature, which makes lemongrass very useful as an antipyretic.
To bring down a fever, add two to three drops of lemongrass oil in a glass of warm drinking water or a cup of tea.
Healthy skin and hair
Lemongrass essential oil is a regular ingredient in shampoos, conditioners, soaps and lotions, where it acts as a natural cleanser for all skin types.
Additionally, the oil exhibits strong astringent qualities which, when applied topically, help to hold the skin firmly in place and alleviate signs of aging. They also strengthen the scalp tissue and hair follicles to prevent hair loss.
If you’re suffering from skin and scalp irritation, mix a few drops of lemongrass oil with your regular lotion or shampoo and gently massage the affected area for a few minutes. The cleansing, soothing, strengthening and bacteria-killing properties will leave the skin glowing and the hair shiny.
Reduces stress and induces sleep
When inhaled, or diffused into a room, the vapours of lemongrass essential oil have a calming influence on the nerves, which fights anxiety and irritation, while encouraging the mind and body to rest. You also add lemongrass essential oil to your body lotion or use it to create your own massage oil, and this can help you in relieving stress.
The oil’s sedative and hypnotic effects can also help to cure insomnia.
The active use of lemongrass oil, either on the skin or internally, promotes general health by toning all systems in the body. The oil is particularly beneficial to the nervous system and is effective in curing many nerve-related disorders, such as vertigo, shaky limbs, convulsions, sluggishness and lack of reflexes.
Lemongrass oil also acts as a stimulant to the digestive, respiratory and immune systems. In the intestines, it facilitates the steady absorption of nutrients into the body. It also acts as a detoxifier by stimulating the excretion of toxins through urination and sweating.
Treats stomach related problems
Since the old days, lemongrass has been a key ingredient in herbal concoctions used to treat stomach issues, such as gas, acidity, nausea, parasitic infections, and diarrhoea. Although lemongrass leaves are still in use, the herb’s essential oil is even more efficient at alleviating gut discomforts.
Ingesting a little amount of lemongrass oil dissolved in warm water or a smoothie offers quick relief from digestive disorders by killing gastrointestinal parasites, promoting detoxification, stimulating bowel function, and improving digestion.
Lemongrass essential oil has several properties, which are useful to promote the healthy flow of blood in the body. For starters, its astringent effects help to contract flaccid blood vessels and induce seamless circulation. By improving blood flow, the oil relaxes the muscles and joints, relieving spasms, aches, sprains and cramps.
Moreover, in the event of a hemorrhage, applying some lemongrass oil around the affected area will reduce blood loss by constricting the veins and keeping the blood within.
Lemongrass oil also eliminates LDL cholesterol in the body. Consequently, in addition to reducing overall body fat, the oil encourages the unobstructed movement of blood in the arteries, offering protection against many cardiac disorders.
One of the constituents of Lemongrass essential oil is limonene; this compound is vital when it comes to reducing inflammation. Studies have shown that inflammation plays a role in allergic diseases like asthma, arthritis, cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease among others.
However, some allergic individuals have reported experiencing adverse side effects after inhaling lemongrass; such as throat discomfort and lung problems.
Lemongrass oil can also cause rashes when used on sensitive skin. A patch test is, therefore, highly recommended.
By promoting the seamless flow of blood, lemongrass helps to prevent complications that come with low blood pressure. However, anyone suffering from hypertension should seek expert advice before using the oil. Similarly, pregnant women should take caution with lemongrass, because large amounts can induce menstruation and cause a miscarriage.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your physician before using this product.
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