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8 Ways Lemongrass Essential Oil Can Heal

8-ways-lemongrass-essential-oil-heals

In gardening circles, lemongrass is a beautiful ornamental grass that helps repel mosquitoes. In fact, whole “grass gardens” of intentionally grown grass meant for aesthetics are popping up, and lemongrass is a favorite. Outside of trendy garden spaces, lemongrass is a culinary staple in Thai cuisine as an herb with the intense flavor of – you guessed it! – lemons.

Originating in the East, lemongrass and its oils have been part of local traditions and medicine for centuries. With the resurgence of messential oils worldwide and increasing popularity in the US, lemongrass essential oil has become one of the more popular choices in aromatherapy, and science is beginning to verify traditional uses and uncover its mechanisms of benefit – and lemongrass has a wide range of uses, from muscle pain to cosmetics.

Lemongrass Properties

Distilled from the dried blades of grass, Cymbopogon citrates has many chemical components that contribute to its beneficial actions. They include alcohols, ketones, terpenes, aldehyde, and esters. Many of these categories of chemicals are known for their very strong effects on the body – which is good news.

We see that strength play out in its many beneficial actions. To list a few, lemongrass essential oil has been studied for the following actions (1):

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antifungal
  • Antimutagenic
  • Antimalarial
  • Antioxidant
  • Antiparasitic
  • Detoxification
  • Hypoglycemic
  • Neurobehavioral
  • Pain relief
  • Lowering cholesterol

One of the first capabilities I look for is antioxidant, because that indicates an active healing effect. Antiodixants are often described as scavengers, searching for free radicals to stop and damage to reverse. Lemongrass stands among the antioxidant scavengers, making it an ally in all kinds of metabolic, chronic, and even cancerous illness. (2)

Due to the antioxidant capacity, research has shown that essential oil compounds can induce detoxification enzymes and can actually prevent toxicity and even cancer in cell line models. The compound citral is the perfect example because it can increase the activity of a key phase II detoxification enzyme known as glutathione-S-transferase, and researchers suggest it has a possible role in skin cancer prevention. (3) Next to lemon myrtle (90-98% citral) lemongrass essential oil contains one of the richest amounts of citral (upwards of 85%) and has proven to be a potent detoxifying agent. (4)

8 Healing Properties of Lemongrass Oil

In addition to the detoxification effects we've seen above, lemongrass essential oil can heal the body primarily because it is comprised of geraniol and neral, both found in other citrus-like essential oils. It exhibits a few properties pretty strongly, with a range of applications that extend from those benefits. Here are 8 actions that underscore lemongrass essential oil's strengths.

1. Anti-inflammatory

Inflammation can rear its ugly head in chronic illness, pain, skin conditions and more. It's one of the reasons researchers in Algeria took the time to evaluate lemongrass in 2014. They evaluated the results of a topical lemongrass essential oil preparation on mice for anti-inflammatory effects as well as antifungal effects (but we'll get to that in a minute). The results were clear enough that they noted lemongrass “clearly…inhibits the skin inflammatory response.” (5)

2. Antifungal

In the same study, antifungal properties were examined as well, against multiple fungal enemies including the dreaded Candida albicans. With what may be a surprising twist, inhalation seemed to be the strongest application against candida. Final results were that lemongrass exhibits “noteworthy potential for the development of drugs for the treatment of fungal infections.” In another study conducted a few years ago, in 2008, lemongrass showed “a potent in vitro activity against Candida.” (6)

3. Antimicrobial

To take lemongrass from an antifungal for the body to a super-cleaning oil as well, lemongrass does in fact have antimicrobial benefits. For example, food scientists have been monitoring lemongrass for its ability to inhibit Staph and improve food preservation. In a study and a review, published in separate journals over the course of a year, lemongrass was viewed favorably as an option for food safety applications. (7, 8)

For you and I, this means lemongrass is a powerhouse in the cleaning department, especially in the kitchen and bathrooms where mold and microbes really take hold.

4. Combat Airborne Pathogens

Diffuse lemongrass with geranium to replicate 2009 efforts to mitigate airborne and surface bacteria in a UK study. They were able to reduce bacteria like MRSA and strains of resistant bacteria by as much as 89% through diffusion and sprays, declaring the oils to be successful disinfectants. (9)

Add lemongrass to DIY spray cleaners for kitchen counters to limit surface microbes and bacteria and for bathrooms to inhibit the growth of mold. Diffuse in the car and home for airborne disinfectant properties.

5. Anxiolytic

Folk use of lemongrass includes antianxiety treatments, and in 2011, scientists worked to confirm these effects. By evaluating neurotransmitters and their response to lemongrass exposure, they were able to track the way the body processes the oil. Their findings centered around the GABA receptors in the brain and confirmed an anti-anxiety reaction. (10)

Diffusion and inhalation are typically the best methods of administration for anxiety, providing an immediate access to the oil's properties. Add a drop to diffusers, air vents, or clothing for a steady stream of aroma, or make an inhaler of sorts by placing a drop on a handkerchief and breathing deeply when necessary.

6. Lowers Cholesterol

The journal Food and Chemical Toxicology published an article resurfaced a 30 year debate whether or not lemongrass oil can reduce elevated cholesterol levels with the following study:

“…one of the three experimental groups receiving lemongrass EO (1, 10 or 100mg/kg). No significant changes in gross pathology, body weight, absolute or relative organ weights, histology (brain, heart, kidneys, liver, lungs, stomach, spleen and urinary bladder), urinalysis or clinical biochemistry were observed in EO-treated mice relative to the control groups. Additionally, blood cholesterol was reduced after EO-treatment at the highest dose tested [~2 drops]. Similarly, data from the comet assay in peripheral blood cells showed no genotoxic effect from the EO. In conclusion, our 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.” (11)

At roughly 2 drops per day, taking lemongrass essential oil is a superbly effective and simple approach to balance your cholesterol levels!

7. Cancer Killer

To date, 7 studies have evaluated the potential lemongrass cancer cure. (12) In 2009, a study was published that evaluated the essential oil from a lemon grass variety of Cymbopogon flexuosus for its in vitro cytotoxicity against twelve human cancer cell lines; as well as in vivo anticancer effects on mice. The results were quite promising, as researchers discovered various mechanisms of how the oil killed the cancer lines. “Our results indicate that the oil has a promising anticancer activity and causes loss in tumor cell viability by activating the apoptotic process as identified by electron microscopy.” (13)

8. Bug Repellant

The lemongrass plant itself is often grown for bug repellent benefits, but the essential oil is much more portable! In trials just this year (2015), lemongrass matched DEET's performance for mosquito repellent, without all of those nasty chemical risks and side effects. (14) Add lemongrass to a water and vinegar mixture, shake, then spritz onto clothing for a DIY mosquito repellent.

As a side note, isn't it incredible that a plant native to the tropics of eastern Asia is also an effective antimalarial and mosquito repellent? The design inherent in nature and especially in the plant kingdom never ceases to amaze me – undoubtedly an indication of whose Kingdom we are really living in!

Safety Notes

As always, common sense and further education are always important when utilizing medicinal remedies and new topical treatments. Lemongrass is usually safe, but sensitive skin might react with discomfort and even a rash. Carrier oils can help to mitigate this, but always test (in a carrier oil) on a small area of skin first before going right to a massage. Also, internal consumption is safe and quite effective for most people if a therapeutic grade is used. To avoid esophageal irritation, take 1-2 drops in a gel capsule.

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Resources:

  1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/pmc3217679/
  2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15796587
  3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12615076
  4. http://www.aromaticplantproject.com/articles_archive/citral_essential_oils.html
  5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25242268e%20uses!
  6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18553017
  7. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26147358
  8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25280938
  9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19292822
  10. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21767622
  11. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21693164
  12. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=lemongrass+essential+oil+cancer
  13. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19121295
  14. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25438256


This post currently has 40 comments.

  1. Sue PleziaSueS
    March 18, 2017

    Second paragraph, “etecades.” I was planning to add this to my vocabulary, but can’t find it with a google search. Should this read “decades”?

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      March 18, 2017

      Actually, should be “centuries!” All fixed up now. Thanks!

        Reply
  2. Lori
    March 13, 2017

    How do you recommend using the lemongrass oil to get the best effect for cholesterol? Thanks!:)

      Reply
  3. Ruth
    November 10, 2016

    I would like to make a DIY cleaner for my bath and kitchen using lemongrass, what do you suggest as a recipe?

      Reply
  4. Karen
    November 8, 2016

    I have read that there is no such thing as “Theraputic” grade EO’s. The fact you want to look for is how they process it. What you want is *PURE* EO’s.

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      November 10, 2016

      Hi Karen,

      In the words of EO chemist Dr. Robert Pappas (https://www.facebook.com/notes/essential-oil-university/essential-oil-myth-1/10152759991813083)

      Myth: There is no such thing as a “Therapeutic Grade” essential oil.

      Fact: The truth is that there are MANY therapeutic gradestandards. The problem is, which one do you trust? It’s importantfor people to realize that all of these standards are INTERNAL standardsdeveloped by companies selling oils and may or may not include quality controlby a third party lab. Furthermore, if a third party lab is used, doesthis lab really know what they are doing? It’s also important to know whatthe company defines as being “therapeutic grade” does it simplymean that the oil is pure or does it mean something beyond purity and carrywith it a quality standard as well? Let’s face it, an oil can be pure asthe driven snow but still be low quality, I see this on a daily basis in thesamples I analyze for my clients in order for them to make good buyingdecisions. Judgments about essential oil quality take more than just goodchemists and good equipment, they require many years of experience in odorevaluation and knowing what specific minor components are desirable in an oiland not just focusing on the major components.

      Yes we all agree that there is no independent standard forTherapeutic Grade that is universally recognized. And while you may not like the promotion ofTherapeutic Grade by various companies, it’s not really correct to say that “thereis no such thing as Therapeutic Grade.” Ithink a better response to those promoting such an idea would be to say”while many companies promote their own therapeutic grade standard, oneshould be aware that there is no universally accepted independent body thatcertifies essential oils as therapeutic grade.” That is a fairstatement that is factually correct that nobody can disagree with and will notcause dialog to shut down between those in the direct marketing companies andthose on the more traditional side of aromatherapy.

        Reply
  5. Carol Stone
    November 7, 2016

    Can I just put 1-2 drops of YL Lemongrass in my water every day?

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      November 20, 2016

      No!

      This is very unsafe and can seriously burn your throat & esophagus. If you MUST take lemongrass internally, then put 1-2 drops in a capsule.

      However, diluted topical use and diffused aromatic use are both more advantageous and safer.

      Internal use has its purposes, but is rarely necessitated.

        Reply
  6. Debbie Gordon
    November 6, 2016

    I use lemongrass on my clients for sore muscles and it is the BEST for tired, achy feet.

      Reply
  7. Lisa brown
    October 29, 2016

    Any recommendations for a fungal lung infection for a 100 pound Labrador retriever?

      Reply
  8. Sandra
    September 14, 2016

    I have an allergic reaction to grapefruit and I’m sensitive to all citric acid so I avoid the citrus oils. Is citral also something I need to avoid, or is it sufficiently different?

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      September 19, 2016

      Hi Sandra, they are different chemicals, but I would contact your primary care to make sure you are safe. 🙂

        Reply
  9. Alynn
    September 11, 2016

    Thank you for writing for this particular article on Lemongrass. It’s a very insightful article.
    Lemongrass can be great for aromatic uses and it’s also wonderful when use Lemongrass certified therapeutic grade of essential oil along with a carrier oil for muscle soreness.

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      September 11, 2016

      Thanks Alynn!

        Reply
      • Rehne
        November 1, 2016

        All essential oils are therapeutic so what does therapeutic grade mean. There is no certified grading system in aromatherapy either. Please clarify why you use these terms. I saw no mention of requesting and reviewing gc/ms reports which is the only test for purity. Confused, Rehne

          Reply
  10. Belinda
    September 10, 2016

    I’ve searched on Amazon and I found this oil. The label stated it was 100% pure therapeutic grade oil. But when I read the fine print it said “not for internal use”. Would it still be ok to put a couple drops in a gel cap?

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      September 10, 2016

      Nope, “not for internal use” applies to all forms of internal use. 🙂

        Reply
  11. Kay
    September 10, 2016

    Highly diluted lemongrass oil applied topically just above the pubic area has been highly effective in preventing recurring UTIs in my 7-yr-old granddaughter. I diluted it to half the recommended adult strength.

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      September 10, 2016

      Wow! Thanks for sharing Kay!

        Reply
  12. mary
    September 10, 2016

    when you say put it in a gel cap, does it need to be the enteric coated type?

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      September 10, 2016

      Nope, a regular gel cap works. 🙂

        Reply
  13. Diana Gallardi
    February 27, 2016

    Thanks! Great article! Isn’t sourcing really important? I would imagine the mass produced oils have harmful additives. They seem to be able to hide ingredients from us.

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      February 27, 2016

      Yep! 😉

        Reply
  14. Alison
    February 26, 2016

    I just purchased lemongrass essential oil but I have heard mixed reviews about using it around small children and a nursing mom (me) ???? Can you shed any light on this matter? Is it safe to use if I’m nursing? Around my baby and toddler?

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      February 27, 2016

      Hi Alison,

      I haven’t run across any research stating suggesting that lemongrass should not be used around children or nursing moms. Granted it’s anecdotal, but my wife has used lemongrass steadily throughout her last 4 pregnancies and she nursed extensively and lemongrass helped enhanced her experience. 🙂

        Reply
  15. Sheri
    January 28, 2016

    I would love to know if anyone has had success using lemongrass to combat chronic bladder infections.

      Reply
    • Rita
      February 28, 2016

      Hello Sheri, I utilize Lemongrass with my patients that were not wanting to take low dose antibiotics from their medical provider. They came seeking alternatives to the standard of care for chronic bladder infections in mainstream medicine and the Lemongrass therapy is working. Certain probiotics are a huge benefit for this as well.

        Reply
      • Glenda
        November 2, 2016

        How do you recommend lemongrass be used for the chronic bladder infections?

          Reply
  16. laurie
    December 21, 2015

    How do I know if the EO is therapeutic grade? I can buy EO in my local natural food store, but it does not say.

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      December 22, 2015

      Laurie,

      That’s the million dollar question. Fact is, each company has their own version of “therapeutic grade” and it all boils down to trusting the brand that you buy. Most companies will indicate whether or not the oil is safe for internal use on the bottle, which is one clue to whether or not you’ll want to use the oils for oral health applications. 🙂

        Reply
  17. Loretta
    October 28, 2015

    Take this daily. I make a months worth of capsules. Also diffuse and at times rub on skin. Love this and so many more.

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      October 28, 2015

      It’s a great one, isn’t it Loretta!

        Reply
  18. Debbie
    October 7, 2015

    Dr. Z, Is it ok to use grocery store lemongrass or what do you recommend?

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      October 8, 2015

      Hi Debbie,

      Personally, I don’t use oils that I can get at the grocery store. I’ve never seen any store carry therapeutic grade.

        Reply
  19. Alicia Ackerman
    October 6, 2015

    I use the oil daily! I also take a few drops in a capsule daily. Love it!

      Reply
    • Dr. Z
      October 6, 2015

      That’s great Alicia. I love lemongrass as well!

        Reply
      • Molly
        September 10, 2016

        I drink lemongrass tea and use the essential oil but earlier this week I read where the inhalation of lemongrass can aggravate lung conditions. Do you have knowledge of any research on this? Thanks!

          Reply
        • Dr. Z
          September 10, 2016

          Hey Molly, Where did you read this?

            Reply

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