Lemongrass: Top Benefits, Uses, & Side Effects

by Meenakshi Nagdeve last updated - Medically reviewed by Vanessa Voltolina (MS, RD)

Lemongrass is a potent herb that can help treat insomnia, stomach and respiratory disorders, fever, and infections. The possible antioxidant activity of the lemongrass may boost the immune system and protects against antibiotic-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. It may even help in balancing cholesterol levels, managing type 2 diabetes, and promoting healthy skin. It is extensively used in aromatherapy and helps combat fatigue, anxiety, and bad body odor.

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon) – An Aromatic Healer

Lemongrass is an herb with a distinct citrusy flavor and aroma. Its scientific name is Cymbopogon citratus and it belongs to the grass family of Poaceae. It is a tall, perennial grass native to India and tropical regions of Asia and is alternatively known as Cymbopogon, barbed wire grass, or even fever grass. [1]

In addition to its culinary usage, this herb offers an array of medicinal benefits and is in extensive demand due to its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-microbial properties across Southeast Asia, Africa, and America. [3]

Types of Lemongrass

The genus Cymbopogon comprises 55 species of grasses, two of which are referred to as lemongrass. These are Cymbopogon citratus, which is famously preferred for culinary use, and Cymbopogon flexuosus, used in the manufacturing of fragrances because of its extended shelf life, owing to the low amount of myrcene in that variety. [4]

Nutrition Facts

Lemon grass (citronella), raw
Serving Size :
Water [g]70.58
Energy 99
Energy [kJ]414
Protein [g]1.82
Total lipid (fat) [g]0.49
Ash [g]1.8
Carbohydrate, by difference [g]25.31
Calcium, Ca [mg]65
Iron, Fe [mg]8.17
Magnesium, Mg [mg]60
Phosphorus, P [mg]101
Potassium, K [mg]723
Sodium, Na [mg]6
Zinc, Zn [mg]2.23
Copper, Cu [mg]0.27
Manganese, Mn [mg]5.22
Selenium, Se [µg]0.7
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid [mg]2.6
Thiamin [mg]0.07
Riboflavin [mg]0.14
Niacin [mg]1.1
Pantothenic acid [mg]0.05
Vitamin B-6 [mg]0.08
Folate, total [µg]75
Folate, food [µg]75
Folate, DFE [µg]75
Carotene, beta [µg]3
Vitamin A, IU [IU]6
Fatty acids, total saturated [g]0.12
14:0 [g]0
16:0 [g]0.08
18:0 [g]0.01
20:0 [g]0.01
22:0 [g]0.01
Fatty acids, total monounsaturated [g]0.05
16:1 [g]0.01
18:1 [g]0.04
Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated [g]0.17
18:2 [g]0.14
18:3 [g]0.03
Phytosterols [mg]6
Stigmasterol [mg]1
Campesterol [mg]1
Beta-sitosterol [mg]4
Sources include : USDA [5]

Lemongrass Nutrition Facts

Lemongrass contains antioxidants, flavonoids, and phenolic compounds such as luteolin, glycosides, quercetin, kaempferol, elemicin, catechol, chlorogenic acid, and caffeic acid. The main component of this fragrant herb is lemonal or citral, which has antifungal and anti-microbial qualities. [6] [7]

Lemongrass is an aromatic storehouse of essential nutrients providing an array of health benefits. The USDA FoodData Central shows that it is a source of essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, B-vitamins, folate, and vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, zinc, and iron. [8]

Health Benefits of Lemongrass

The strong, refreshing flavor of lemongrass is enough reason to try it out in teas and cocktails. But it’s even better to know how good it is for your health! Here are some of the health benefits of lemongrass you should know.

May Help Lower Cholesterol

Research published in 2011 in Food and Chemical Toxicology [9] journal revealed that the essential oils in lemongrass possess anti-hyperlipidemic and anti-hypercholesterolemic properties that support healthy cholesterol levels.

One animal study has also shown that lemongrass may assist in sustaining healthy levels of triglycerides and reducing LDL or bad cholesterol. This may help in preventing the accumulation of lipids in the blood vessels and promoting an unobstructed flow of blood in the arteries, thereby preventing various cardiac disorders such as atherosclerosis. [10]

May Detoxify the Body

According to a 2003 animal study, lemongrass may help in cleansing and flushing harmful toxic wastes from the body, as a result of its diuretic properties. Detoxification may help in the regulation of various organs of the body, including the liver and kidneys, while also possibly helping to lower the levels of uric acid. The possible diuretic effect of the herb helps in increasing the quantity and frequency of urination, which helps in maintaining digestive health and detoxifying the body. [11]

Lemongrass leaves on a wooden table

Add lemongrass to your tea or curries for its benefits and fragrance. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

May Fight Staphylococcus Aureus

Research published in the Journal of Applied Microbiology has shown that lemongrass essential oil has an anti-biofilm capacity and is beneficial against the infection caused by Staphylococcus aureus. It contains phenols and essential oil, which may disrupt the growth of infections and germs and help inhibit the formation of biofilms. [12] [13] [14]

May Aid in Relieving Stomach Disorders

Studies have shown that lemongrass essential oil has potentially anti-microbial and anti-bacterial properties which help in fighting the infections caused by pathogens such as Helicobacter pylori and Escherichia coli. [15]

It is beneficial in reducing inflammation and gastrointestinal disorders; it may be helpful to consume to improve digestion and if you suffer from gastric ulcers, constipation, ulcerative colitis, diarrhea, nausea, and stomach ache. [16]

May Relieve Insomnia

Lemongrass tea is considered to be helpful in calming muscles and nerves that may aid in promoting sleep. Research has shown that lemongrass tea has sedative properties, which can help in increasing the duration of sleep. [17]

May Act as Remedy for Respiratory Disorders

Lemongrass is widely used in Ayurvedic medicine for its healing effects in treating cough and cold. Along with other beneficial components, vitamin C in it may help in providing relief from nasal blockages, flu, and other respiratory disorders such as bronchial asthma. [18] [19]

May Reduce Fever

Lemongrass is a febrifuge and is also known as the ‘fever grass’ due to its beneficial effects in lowering fever. The possible antipyretic and diaphoretic effect is extensively used in Ayurvedic medicine for curing fever by inducing sweating. [20]

May Help Treat Infections

Lemongrass works as an antiseptic and is effective in treating infections such as ringworm, sores, Athlete’s Foot, scabies, and urinary tract infections (UTI) because of its antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties. Studies have shown that the herb exerts healing effects on dermatological infections, such as yeast infections, by inhibiting the growth of pathogens. Another study provides supporting evidence that demonstrated the efficacy of lemongrass over thyme, patchouli, and cedarwood oil in the treatment of various diseases. [21] [22]

May Reduce Aches

Lemongrass and several of its products such as oil are known to be effective against headaches and body aches. A 2018 study suggests that not only is the herbal oil effective against muscle pain and body ache of various kinds, it is also an alternative with lesser side effects as opposed to synthetic drugs. Another study also notes the effective use of lemongrass essential oil against rheumatism, muscle spasms, and cramps. [23] [24]

May Aid in Managing Type-2 Diabetes

Lemongrass has been shown to have beneficial implications for managing type-2 diabetes. An animal study published in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology in 2011 indicates that the citral present in the fragrant herb may help maintain optimum levels of insulin and improve the tolerance of glucose in the body. However, more research needs to be conducted on the human population to truly understand the effects. [25]

May Boost Immunity

Lemongrass extracts may have a beneficial effect on the inflammatory actions of cytokines, which are the signaling molecules through which the cells communicate and respond to the body. Studies have shown that the extract exerts anti-inflammatory action and its constituent, citral, may be the cause of its inhibitory effect on cytokine production. [26]

May Improve Skin Care

Lemongrass has been treasured as a skin tonic and makes an effective cleanser for oily or acne-prone skin, due to its astringent and antiseptic qualities. It can help in strengthening the skin tissues and toning up the pores while also sterilizing them. Care should be taken while using lemongrass products, as the undiluted application might lead to dermal irritation in some cases. [27] [28]

May Provide Relief from Edema

Lemongrass is effective in providing relief from the condition of water retention or edema. It has a cleansing effect on lymphatic congestion and helps soothe the swelling. [29]

Can Be Used in Aromatherapy

Lemongrass consists of beneficial essential oils and compounds such as neroli, citronellol, myrcene, dipentene, geraniol, and methyl heptenone. The oil is extensively used in aromatherapy due to its therapeutic effects, which help in revitalizing the body. [30]

The cooling effect of the essential oil is beneficial for the body during hot weather and promotes the revival of both the mind and soul. This oil possesses natural astringent and toning qualities that help stimulate blood circulation and tone up the dermal tissues.

It is used in therapeutic baths for calming the nerves and alleviating stress, fatigue, and anxiety.

May Help Reduce Obesity

Lemongrass contains citral, which is effective against obesity. It can lessen the accumulation of abdominal fat and promotes the use of stored energy, which helps in preventing diet-induced weight gain. It aids in healthy metabolism and enhances the oxidation of fatty acids in the body. [31]

May Eliminate Body Odor

Lemongrass is used in the manufacturing of deodorants due to its cleansing and antibacterial properties. Deodorants help combat unpleasant body odor and prevent fungal and bacterial infections. It can also be added to footbaths for sanitizing sore and smelly feet. [32]

Health benefits of lemongrass infographic

Lemongrass is an herb with a distinct citrusy flavor and aroma.

Can Act as an Insect Repellent

Lemongrass is used as a natural insect repellent and helps in preventing the occurrence of insect-borne diseases such as malaria, and possibly Lyme disease. Studies have shown that lemongrass oil has antimalarial and anti-protozoan properties, which is why it is used in many mosquito repellents. [33]

Lemongrass Uses

Apart from folk medicines, lemongrass is commonly used in Asian cuisines, especially those of Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia. It is used for adding flavor to beverages such as teas, curries, and soups. It is also found extensively in the preparation of pudding, meat products, candies, and baked goods.

Other Uses

It is used in the manufacturing of perfumes, deodorants, polishes, candles, and waxes. It is also used to add fragrance to soaps and cosmetic products. [34]

It is commercially used to lure and attract honey bees for various purposes. [35]

Hydrophobic Properties: Lemongrass is used for preserving ancient palm leaf manuscripts and protects them from the damage caused by microorganisms. It strengthens the leaves by providing the required moisture to the fragile palm leaves without letting the humidity cause any loss to the stored text. This protective effect can be attributed to the hydrophobic properties of lemongrass oil. [36]

Pet Products: Lemongrass is used in the manufacturing of shampoos and grooming products for pets due to its repellent effects on lice and ticks.

Potential Side Effects of Lemongrass

  • While lemongrass and its derivatives are generally safe to use, direct use of the essential oil is not recommended. It may induce an allergic reaction such as contact dermatitis. The topical use or ingestion of concentrated essential oils is not recommended. [37]
  • It is always advisable to keep the essential oil out of the reach of children.

Note: It is strongly recommended to consult a health professional before using lemongrass oil. This is especially true during pregnancy, when trying to conceive, breastfeeding, and during the course of any ongoing medical treatments and consultations.

Used cautiously, it can prove extremely valuable in providing a range of medicinal relief. So, add a refreshing and healthy aroma to your life with lemongrass!

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About the Author

Meenakshi Nagdeve, Co-Founder, Organic Facts is a health and wellness enthusiast and is responsible for managing it. She has completed the Nutrition And Healthy Living Cornell Certificate Program, Cornell University, US. She holds a Post Graduate Diploma in Management from IIM Bangalore and B. Tech in Metallurgical Engineering and Materials Science from IIT Bombay. Prior to this, she worked for a few years in IT and Financial services. An ardent follower of naturopathy, she believes in healing with foods. In her free time, she loves to travel and taste different types of teas.

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