The Properties and Uses of Lemongrass Oil in Aromatherapy
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is a member of the Poaceae (Gramineae) plant family; there are a number of species of lemongrass, and the chemical components of each vary, although citral is the main component present in all varieties of lemongrass essential oil. In general, the West Indian Lemongrass or the East Indian Lemongrass species are used as essential oils in aromatherapy, although Cymbopogon flexuous has been used in aromatherapy too.
Characteristics of Lemongrass
Lemongrass belongs to a family of fragrant grasses, of Indian origin, which includes palmarosa (Cymbopogon martinii) and citronella (Cymbopogon nardus); lemongrass is a tall grass which grows up to 5 feet high within a short period of time. It is now a cultivar of many tropical countries including central Africa, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Madagascar, Vietnam and Malaysia.
Extraction of Lemongrass Essential Oil
Lemongrass essential oil is extracted by steam distillation of the fresh or dried leaves of lemongrass; the oil of lemongrass is yellow in color with a citrus/grass/lemon fragrance. The essential oils extracted from the West Indian and East Indian species of lemongrass are similar in fragrance and color, although the West Indian lemongrass species is lighter and fresher.
Traditional Use of Lemongrass in Medicine
Lemongrass has been used in traditional Indian Medicine for a long time to treat fever and disease; in traditional Chinese Medicine, lemongrass is used to treat rheumatism, headaches, colds and stomach pain. Today, lemongrass is still used in India for fevers and disease and also as an insect repellent.
Use of Lemongrass Essential Oil in Aromatherapy
Lemongrass essential oil is analgesic, anti-microbial, antiseptic, astringent, bactericidal, carminative, deodorant, insecticidal, sedative, nervine and a tonic; in aromatherapy, lemongrass oil is used to treat acne, to repel insects such as fleas, lice, ticks and mosquitoes, to relieve muscle pain, indigestion, fever, disease, headaches, stress and nervous exhaustion.
Other Uses of Lemongrass
Lemongrass is a frequent additive to perfumes, soaps, detergents and cosmetics; it is commonly used to adulterate more expensive oils, such as Melissa (Melissa officinalis), and for the isolation of the chemical component citral. Lemongrass is also used as a flavoring additive in many foods and drinks; in the Far East, it is used in many local culinary recipes.
Cautions for Using Lemongrass Essential Oil
Lemongrass essential oil is considered to be non-toxic; however, it may cause some skin sensitization in individuals with sensitive or damaged skin or in those with allergies. For this reason, lemongrass essential oil should be used with care and should not be used on young children. As is the case when using any essential oils, professional advice should be sought for individual concerns and by those inexperienced in the use of essential oils.
Davis, Patricia 1999 Aromatherapy An A-Z UK: Vermilion
Harding, Jennie 2005 Aromatherapy Massage for You UK: Duncan Baird Publishers Ltd
Lawless, Julia 1995 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils UK: Thorsons