What gives Ivory Soap its familiar scent? The not-so-familiar lemongrass essential oil. A fast-growing, tall perennial grass originally from India and Sri Lanka, lemongrass found its way into traditional cuisines throughout Southeast Asia. It is used extensively in Thai fish soups and curries and is seen more and more frequently in supermarkets in North America in aromatherapy and other products.

An important medicinal and culinary herb in South and Central America, South East Asia, and the Caribbean, it is widely known as “fever grass.” India’s Ayurvedic medical tradition, for instance, has long used it to treat cholera and fevers. A relatively inexpensive essential oil, it’s often the source of the lemon scent found in cosmetics and hair preparations. Its pleasant, clean fragrance is also incorporated into soaps, perfumes, and deodorants, and it flavors many canned and frozen foods. No wonder it is one of the ten best-selling essential oils in the world.

Along with related oils such as the lemon-rose scented palmarosa (C. martini) and citronella (C. nardus), it often adulterates more costly essential oils like melissa and lemon verbena to stretch them. Palmarosa is frequently used in skin preparations, while citronella is well known as an insect repellent and cleanser. The yellow to amber oil of these grasses is distilled from their partially dried leaves.

Principal constituents of lemongrass: Citral (up to 85 percent), myrcene, citronellol, dipentene, farnesol, furfurol, geraniol, and many more

Scent of lemongrass: The scent is lemon/herbal, grassy, and slightly bitter. Palmarosa has a pleasant rose scent. Citronella is very lemony.

Therapeutic properties of lemongrass: Antiseptic, deodorant, astringent; relieves rheumatic and other pain, relaxes nerves

Uses for lemongrass: In traditional medicine, lemongrass is usually given in the form of a tea or foot bath made from the fresh herb, from which the patient additionally benefits by inhaling the scent. Lemongrass also treats pain arising from indigestion, rheumatism, and nerve conditions. Researchers also found this refreshing fragrance to reduce headaches and irritability and to prevent drowsiness. To make a foot bath, add about 3 drops of lemongrass oil to 2 or 3 quarts of warm water in a small tub. Stir well and keep your feet in the water for at least 20 minutes. You can also add a few drops to your bath. Lemongrass is an antiseptic suitable for use on various types of skin infections, usually as a wash or compress, and is especially effective on ringworm and infected sores. In fact, studies found that it is more effective against staph infection than either penicillin or streptomycin.

When added to a hair conditioner, facial water, or vinegar, it counters oily hair and acne by decreasing oil production. Add 12 drops of the essential oil per ounce of apple cider vinegar and dab or spray on the afflicted area. You can spray this same solution in the air, on a counter top, or along walls and floors to discourage insect invasions and mold. Add it to pet shampoos as a bug repellent.

Warnings about lemongrass: It is nontoxic, but causes skin sensitivity in some people.

To learn more about Aromatherapy and other alternative medicines, see:

  • Aromatherapy: Learn about aromatherapy, how it works, what part essential oils play, and how to use aromatherapy.
  • Essential Oils Profiles: We have collected profiles of dozens of plants that are used to produce essential oils. On these pages, you will learn the properties and preparations for the most popular essential oils.
  • How to Treat Common Conditions With Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy can be used to treat a number of conditions, from asthma to depression to skin problems. Here you will learn how to treat some common medical problems with aromatherapy.
  • Home Remedies: We have gathered over a hundred safe, time-tested home remedies for treating a wide variety of medical complaints yourself.
  • Herbal Remedies: Herbal remedies and aromatherapy can be very similar, and they stem from similar historic roots. On this page, you will find all of our herb profiles and instructions for treating medical problems with herbal remedies.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kathi Keville is director of the American Herb Association and editor of the American Herb Association Quarterly newsletter. A writer, photographer, consultant, and teacher specializing in aromatherapy and herbs for over 25 years, she has written several books, including Aromatherapy: The Complete Guide to the Healing Art and Pocket Guide to Aromatherapy, and has written over 150 articles for such magazines as New Age Journal, The Herb Companion, and New Herbal Remedies.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.