What is it?
Lemongrass is a tropical, grassy plant used in cooking and herbal medicine. Extracted from the leaves and stalks of the lemongrass plant, lemongrass essential oil has a powerful, citrus scent. It’s often found in soaps and other personal care products.
Although lemongrass has traditionally been used to treat digestive problems and high blood pressure, the essential oil has many other potential health benefits. For example, it’s becoming a popular tool in aromatherapy to help relieve stress, anxiety, and depression.
Keep reading to learn more about how you can use lemongrass oil to improve your well-being.
1. It has antibacterial properties
Lemongrass is used as a natural remedy to heal wounds and help prevent infection. Research from 2010 found lemongrass essential oil was effective against a variety of drug-resistant bacteria including those that cause:
2. It has antifungal properties
Fungi are organisms like yeast and mold. According to an older study from 1996, lemongrass oil was an effective deterrent against four types of fungi. One type causes athlete’s foot, ringworm, and jock itch.
Researchers found that, to be effective, at least 2.5 percent of the solution must be lemongrass oil.
3. It has anti-inflammatory properties
According to a 2014 study on animals, oral lemongrass essential oil showed powerful anti-inflammatory abilities on mice with carrageenan-induced paw edema. The oil also demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects when applied topically on mice with ear edema.
4. It has antioxidant properties
Antioxidants help your body fight off free radicals that damage cells. Research has shown that lemongrass essential oil helps hunt free radicals.
5. It may help prevent gastric ulcers or relieve nausea
Lemongrass is used as a folk remedy for a number of digestive problems, ranging from stomachaches to gastric ulcers. According to a 2012 study on mice, lemongrass essential oil helped prevent gastric ulcers, a common cause of stomach pain.
Lemongrass is also a common ingredient in herbal teas and supplements for nausea. Although most herbal products use dried lemongrass leaves, using the essential oil for aromatherapy may provide similar benefits.
6. It may help ease diarrhea
Diarrhea is often just a bother, but it can also cause dehydration. Over-the-counter diarrhea remedies can come with unpleasant side effects — like constipation — leading some people to turn to natural remedies.
According to a 2006 study, lemongrass may help slow diarrhea. The study showed that the oil reduced fecal output in mice with castor oil-induced diarrhea, possibly by slowing intestinal motility.
7. It may help reduce cholesterol
Lemongrass is traditionally used to treat high cholesterol and manage heart disease. A 2007 study helps support its use for those conditions. The study found lemongrass oil significantly reduced cholesterol in rats who had been fed a high cholesterol diet for 14 days. The positive reaction was dose-dependent, which means that its effects changed when the dose was changed.
8. It may help regulate blood sugar and lipids
Lemongrass oil may help reduce blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes, according to a 2007 study on rats. For the study, the rats were treated with a daily oral dose of 125 to 500 milligrams (mg) of lemongrass oil for 42 days.
Results showed lemongrass oil lowered blood sugar levels. It also changed lipid parameters while increasing so-called good cholesterol levels (HDL).
9. It may act as a pain reliever
The citral in lemongrass essential oil may help ease pain as it relieves inflammation. According to a 2017 study on people with rheumatoid arthritis, topical lemongrass oil decreased their arthritis pain. On average, pain levels were gradually reduced from 80 to 50 percent within 30 days.
10. It may help relieve stress and anxiety
High blood pressure is a common side effect of stress. Many studies have shown that aromatherapy eases stress and anxiety. Combining aromatherapy with massage may bring greater benefits.
A 2015 study evaluated the effects of lemongrass and sweet almond massage oil during massage. Study participants who received a massage using the oil once a week for three weeks had lower diastolic blood pressure than those in the control group. Systolic blood pressure and pulse rate weren’t affected.
11. It may help relieve headaches and migraines
According to researchers in Australia, native Australian lemongrass may relieve pain caused by headaches and migraines. The researchers believe that a compound in lemongrass called eugenol has similar abilities to aspirin.
Eugenol is thought to prevent blood platelets from clumping together. It also releases serotonin. Serotonin is a hormone that regulates mood, sleep, appetite, and cognitive functions.
How to use
Most scientific research on lemongrass essential oil has been done on animals or in vitro — not on humans. As a result, there’s no standardized dose to treat any condition. It’s unclear if animal doses would have the same effects on humans.
To use lemongrass in aromatherapy, add up to 12 drops of essential oil to 1 teaspoon carrier oil such as coconut oil, sweet almond oil, or jojoba oil. Mix into a warm bath or massage into your skin. Never apply essential oils directly to your skin.
You can also inhale lemongrass oil directly. Add a few drops to a cotton ball or handkerchief and breathe in the aroma. Some people massage the oil into their temples to help relieve headaches.
Remember that essential oils aren’t regulated by the U. S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It’s hard to know for sure if you’re buying a pure product, so you should only purchase from manufacturers you trust. Look for organic oils manufactured by a brand that’s a member of the National Association of Holistic Aromatherapy.
Possible side effects and risks
Lemongrass essential oil is highly concentrated. Its side effects aren’t well-studied. In some people, they may be stronger than the side effects of the lemongrass plant.
Lemongrass may cause an allergic reaction or skin irritation when used topically.
Other reported side effects of oral lemongrass include:
- increased appetite
- increased urination
Essential oils may be toxic when ingested. You shouldn’t ingest lemongrass essential oil unless under the guidance of your doctor or a qualified natural health practitioner.
Lemongrass, in its plant-form, is generally safe to use in food and beverages. Higher amounts may increase your risk of developing side effects.
You should also talk to your doctor before use if you:
- have diabetes or low blood sugar
- have a respiratory condition, such as asthma
- have liver disease
- are undergoing chemotherapy
- are pregnant
- are breastfeeding
You shouldn’t use lemongrass as a complementary therapy or in place of your regular treatment for any condition unless under your doctor’s supervision.
The bottom line
Some research has shown that lemongrass essential oil has powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and astringent abilities. Still, more studies are needed on humans before it can be recommended as a mainstream treatment.
Until lemongrass essential oil is proven safe and effective, you may want to drink lemongrass tea — with your doctor’s approval — as a natural remedy for stomach problems and other conditions. To make:
- add a few stalks of fresh lemongrass, or a few fresh or dried lemongrass leaves to 2 cups boiling water
- steep for several minutes
- strain and enjoy
Drink lemongrass tea in moderation.