WEST INDIAN LEMONGRASS
CYMBOPOGON CITRATUS =
POACEAE = GRAMINACEAE
The leaves of some large tropical herbs of the genus Cymbopogon contain essential oil.
This very fragrant essential oil combined with a silica content that makes the leaves sharp protect them from grazers.
Among the fifty species of Cymbopogon, some of these "grasses" contain an essential oil with a strong lemony scent.
The most commonly grown or used are Cymbopogon citratus or Indian lemongrass or West Indian lemongrass, and another closely related species Cymbopogon flexuosus, Lemongrass, or East Indian lemongrass, Cochin or Malabar lemongrass.
Note that very often these two plants "lemon" are not differentiated and both called "lemongrass" in Asia (India), English-speaking Africa or the West Indies.
Although they are native to Asia (India, Ceylon, Southeast Asia), they are now found in most warm countries or mild winters regions.
These two perennial grasses grow rapidly in clumps, from a rather dense root network, they can reach 1m to 1.5m.
Cymbopogon citratus has leaves with a bluish tinge, it does not usually produce seeds and reproduces vegetatively.
Cymbopogon flexuosus has very green leaves and produces seeds, it can in good conditions reach 2 m high.
The leaves of these large herbs and the essential oil they contain are medicinal.
Other neighboring species are also interesting:
- Cymbopogon nardus (mainly Indonesia) or citronella, for its repulsive power against insects.
- Cymbopogon ambiguus (australia) another lemon plant.
- Cymbopogon schoenanthus: camel grass .
- Cymbopogon martini: palmarosa, medicinal, cosmetic and repellent for insects.
The Vetiver or Kus, Chrysopogon zizanioides, also from India resembles lemongrass but its leaves are odorless, it is the roots that contain the essential oil widely used in perfumery.
The name "Lemongrass" can be confusing because there are other medicinal plants with a strong citrus odor and similar medicinal properties:
- Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) which grows spontaneously in Europe and is often grown as an aromatic in gardens,
- as well as lemon verbena or fragrant verbena (Aloysia triphylla = Lippia citriodora) shrub native to South America but acclimated in many countries including temperate climate (including France).
See the page on phytomania : phytomania.com/cedron.htm
CHEMICAL COMPOSITION AND PROPERTIES
les feuilles contiennent :
- Flavonoids (or yellow pigments) : mainly derivatives of luteolin and more ubiquitous flavonoids, kaempferol, apigenin. They are anti-inflammatory and scavengers of free radicals.
- A few tannins and other phenolic derivatives (phenol-acids) anti-inflammatory.
- ESSENTIAL OIL
Between 0.2% and 0.5% of the fresh plant, 1% in the best growing conditions.
This essential oil makes all the interest of these great scented "herbs" .
LEMONGRASS ESSENTIAL OIL contains on average:
- 50 to 70% CITRAL with a strong citrus odor. Under this name we group together two chemically almost identical molecules, the neral and the geranial, which are isomers.
- 5 to 20% of other "citrus" terpenes: CITRONELLAL and LIMONENE.
- lower amounts of GERANIAL (rose-scented) pinene, myrcene.
LEMONGRASS ESSENTIAL OIL is:
- ANTISEPTIC: it limits the proliferation of bacteria and fungi,
- CALMING, SEDATIVE and slightly anxiolytic,
- it locally increases the blood and lymphatic circulation,
- it facilitates DIGESTION,
- it lowers the threshold of pain (ANALGESIC),
- REPELLENT to insects,
- studies mainly in the laboratory evoke a possible effect on parasites (amoeba, leishmaniasis, malaria and chagas disease) and viruses (herpes).
Fresh crumpled leaves : in APPLICATIONS on uncovered body parts to keep biting insects away, do not rub too much, the leaves are slightly sharp.
Fresh leaves in INFUSION :
A small handful of leaves a little wrinkled in 1/2 liter of hot water (about 80 ° as for tea), infuse a few minutes and then filter if possible (the small pieces of leaves contain silica that can irritate the throat) .
lemongrass tea is slightly yellow (flavonoids) and deliciously scented.
Lemongrass are easy to dry and can be kept for a few months, but the components of the essential oil are volatile and the infusion of these dry leaves will contain all the flavonoids but less and less terpenes as the time spent :
- DIGESTIVE herbal tea (helps to digest and calms digestive spasms) or for pleasure, it is the most frequent use.
- Herbal tea in case of MILD FEVERrelated to a viral infection (flu, cold). This is a popular indication in Asia, Africa and the Caribbean.
- An infusion of leaves taken regularly helps to stabilize a moderate type 2 DIABETES: an herbal tea of ??200 to 250 ml of lemon grass 3 times a day,
- Some studies show that the extracts of lemongrass in India are ANTI-ALLERGIC (usable especially in case of bronchial asthma) and moderately anti-hypertensive.
LEMON GRASS ESSENTIAL OIL
LEMONGRASS essential oil has a pleasant odor but can cause burns in some people when applied undiluted on the skin and you may be allergic to it.
It is not used in children under 6 or pregnant women.
ANXIETY, NERVOUSNESS, difficulty falling asleep :
2 to 3 drops on bread, in honey or condensed milk, twice a day.
It can also be used diluted 1/10 in a massage oil or a "cold cream": 5 drops in a teaspoon, applying with massage on the chest (skin penetration and breathing).
Cutaneous INFECTIONS, MYCOSIS .
In humans and animals.
Application of a few drops on the infected area (for example acne), alternating with another bactericidal or fungicidal essential oil (example: tea tree, thymol thyme, ravensara).
In the absence of a specific anti-fungal ointment it can be used on cutaneous mycosis including pityriasis versicolor, mycotic infections of the scalp (ringworm) and mycosis of the feet.
SPASMODIC DIGESTIVE DISORDERS, colitis, gastritis, slow to digest.
2 to 3 drops on bread, in honey or in a teaspoon of alcohol (rum type) which is diluted in a little water.
It can be combined with peptic ulcer treatment, the citral essential oil is anti-inflammatory (once diluted) and seems to thwart the development of Helicobacter pylori.
First make a skin sensitivity test (one drop twice a day on the thin skin of the arm, wait 48 hours) then apply a few drops of essential oil twice a day for a few days on the cellulite area with light massage to make it penetrate. There is local increase in blood circulation. Stop if there is a sign of burns.
Acute joint pain (ARTHRITIS)
In local application diluted 1/10 in vegetable oil or a massage balm on the painful joint area; it can be combined alternately with the essential oil of wintergreen .
Lemongrass essential oil is incorporated in cosmetic preparations, often in combination with other essential oils, to "tone the teguments", or simply bring a note of freshness to the preparation.
REPELLENT against biting insects
It is used pure or diluted in a little cologne (proportion: 5 to 10 drops in a teaspoon of cologne), application on the uncovered areas, to be renewed in general after two hours.
- Useful in hairy animals to ward off parasitic insects (fleas), a few drops in direct application to the flea areas.
- A study shows that adding about 100g per day of lemongrass leaf powder to cows' feed improves their ability to digest forage.
- essential oil in soaps, cosmetics, preparations to scent the bath water, candles.
- Citral is used to synthesize industrially other molecules including vitamin A and vitamin E.
- The lemon-scented essential oil is also used in certain culinary preparations, especially in Asia and South-East Asia.
- The base of the leaves (the "bulb" or fleshy stalk), is a classic component of oriental cuisine.
LEMONGRASS CYMBOPOGON CITRATUS ET FLEXUOSUS CULTIVATION
- These large aromatic herbs are grown in many tropical gardens, sometimes only for their elegant appearance or their ability to stabilize the soil, they are plants of FULL SUN.
- The simplest propagation (obligatory for lemongrass which does not have seeds) is done by separating a well developed tuft.
The leaves are cut 20 to 25 cm from the roots.
It is better to remove the fibrous envelope that engages the base of the leaves to clear the young shoots.
These young shoots are planted in succession spaced 20 to 50 cm.
Cymbopogon flexuosus produces seeds, can be planted and transplanted when plants are 2 to 3 months old.
For more info on the "industrial" culture of these plants see this document (in English) from the Agricultural Service of South Africa:
- Lemongrass are plants from warm countries but can spend the winter indoors in temperate countries. One can nevertheless try their cultivation in the south of Europe.
LARGE GRASSES WITH LEMON FRAGRANCE
LEMONGRASS contain an essential oil very rich in compounds with a strong lemon scent.
The leaves are used, fresh if possible, in infusion, digestive, calming, slightly antipyretic. The essential oil rich in citral is also digestive, soothing, but also antiseptic, repellent for insects, and anti-inflammatory analgesic.
These plants are easy to grow and should be present in all gardens in tropical and subtropical regions.
Copyright 2019: Dr Jean-Michel Hurtel