Lemon Grass – Cymbopogon citratus

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Cymbopogon (lemon grass) is a genus of about 55 species of grasses, (of which the type species is Cymbopogon citratus [a natural and soft tea Anxiolytic]) native to warm temperate and tropical regions of the Old World and Oceania. It is a tall perennial grass. Common names include lemon grass, lemongrass, barbed wire grass, silky heads, citronella grass,cha de Dartigalongue, fever grass, tanglad, hierba Luisa or gavati chaha amongst many others.

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus) essential oil in clear glass vial

Lemongrass is native to India and tropical Asia. It is widely used as an herb in Asian cuisine. It has a subtle citrus flavor and can be dried and powdered, or used fresh. Lemongrass is commonly used in teas, soups, and curries. It is also suitable for poultry, fish, beef, and seafood. It is often used as a tea in African countries such as Togo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Latin American countries such as Mexico. Lemongrass oil is used as a pesticide and a preservative. Research shows that lemongrass oil has anti-fungal properties. Despite its ability to repel insects, its oil is commonly utilized as a “lure” to attract honey bees. “Lemongrass works conveniently as well as the pheromone created by the honeybee’s nasonov gland, also known as attractant pheromones. Because of this, lemongrass oil can be used as a lure when trapping swarms or attempting to draw the attention of hived bees.”

Cymbopogon citratus from the Philippines, where it is locally known as tanglad.

Citronella grass (Cymbopogon nardus and Cymbopogon winterianus) grows to about 2 meters (about 6.5 feet) and has red base stems. These species are used for the production of citronella oil, which is used in soaps, as an insect repellent (especially mosquitoes) in insect sprays and candles, and also in aromatherapy, which is famous in Bintan Island, Indonesia. Therefore it’s assumed that its origin is from Indonesia. The principal chemical constituents of citronella, geraniol and citronellol, are antiseptics, hence their use in household disinfectants and soaps. Besides oil production, citronella grass is also used for culinary purposes, in tea and as a flavoring.

Citronella is usually planted in home gardens in order to ward off insects such as whitefly. Its cultivation enables growing some vegetables (e.g. tomatoes and broccoli), without applying pesticides. Intercropping should include physical barriers, for citronella roots can take over the field.

Lemon Grass Oil, used as a pesticide and preservative, is put on the ancient palm-leaf manuscripts found in India as a preservative. It is used at the Oriental Research Institute Mysore, the French Institute of Pondicherry, the Association for the Preservation of the Saint Thomas Christian Heritage in Kerala and many other manuscript collections in India. The lemon grass oil also injects natural fluidity into the brittle palm leaves and the hydrophobic nature of the oil keeps the manuscripts dry so that the text is not lost to decay due to humidity.

Lemon grass is also used as an addition to tea, and in preparations like ‘kadha,’ which is a traditional herbal ‘soup’ used against coughs, colds, etc. It has medicinal properties and is used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine. It is supposed to help with relieving cough and nasal congestion.

In Kerala, lemon grass is steeped as an herbal tea called “Chukku Kaapi”, literally “dried ginger coffee”.