By: Prof. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu
Lemongrass, also called citronella, is a tall, stalky plant. It has a fresh, lemony aroma and a citrus flavour. It’s a common ingredient in Thai cooking and bug repellent. Lemongrass essential oil is used in aromatherapy to freshen the air, reduce stress, and uplift the mood.
Lemongrass is also used as a folk remedy to promote sleep, relieve pain, and boost immunity. One of the most popular ways to enjoy lemongrass is in tea.
A study by Cheel et al.(2005) found that lemongrass has many antioxidants, which can avert free radicals in the body. Some of these antioxidants are chlorogenic acid, isoorientin, and swertiajaponin. These antioxidants could prevent the dysfunction of cells inside the coronary arteries.
One study by Chaudhari et al.(2012) found that Lemongrass tea could treat oral infections and cavities, due to its antimicrobial properties. The oil was found to demonstrate antimicrobial properties against Streptococcus mutans bacteria, the bacteria most responsible for tooth decay.
A previous study by Ahmad and Viljoen(2005) found lemongrass oil and silver ions could work together against many types of bacteria and fungi in vitro.
The Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center found that two main compounds in lemongrass, citral, and geranial, are responsible for its anti-inflammatory benefits as they could avert the release of some inflammation-causing indicators in the body.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center study found that the citral in lemongrass could also be a potent anticancer agent. Apart from that, there are so many ingredients in lemongrass that could wade off cancer. This is done by causing cell death directly or boosting the immune system. Lemongrass tea is sometimes used as an adjuvant therapy during chemotherapy and radiation. It should only be used under the guidance of an oncologist.
Promote healthy digestion
Studies have found that a cup of lemongrass tea is a natural therapy for upset stomach, stomach cramping, and other digestive problems. This was demonstrated in one study by Fernandes et al. (2012) on rodents who found that lemongrass could be potent against gastric ulcers. The essential oil of lemongrass leaves could help protect the stomach lining against damage from aspirin and ethanol. Regular aspirin use is a common cause of gastric ulcers.
Lemongrass is a known diuretic. A diuretic allows you to urinate more often, getting your body of excess fluid and sodium. Diuretics are often prescribed if you have heart failure, liver failure, or edema. Hence, it could be a natural diuretic. For instance, one study by Mirza et al(2001) on rats found lemongrass tea as a potent diuretic activity similar to green tea without causing organ damage or other side effects. For the study, lemongrass tea was given to rats over six weeks.
Reduce high systolic blood pressure
One observational study by Ullah et al (2012) used 72 male volunteers and prescribed either lemongrass tea or green tea to drink. The study found that those who took the lemongrass tea had a moderate drop in systolic blood pressure and a mild increase in diastolic blood pressure. They also had a significantly lower heart rate.
This is good news for those with high systolic blood pressure, however, caution is given to men with heart problems to use lemongrass in moderation. This can help avoid dangerous drops in heart rate or increased diastolic pressure.
One study by Shah et al.(2011) found that lemongrass oil extract lowers cholesterol in animals. The reduction in cholesterol is dependent on the dose given. Hence, another study answers this: Costa et al.(2011) on mice found the long-term safety of up to 100mg of lemongrass essential oil daily. Ongoing research is needed to confirm the impact of lemongrass tea as well.
Annette McDermott’s (2019) article revealed that Lemongrass tea can be used as a detox tea to lose weight. Also, it is better to drink herbal teas as compared to soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened drinks.
Relieve symptoms of PMS
One study by Shah et al. (2011) found that lemongrass oil is helpful to cool the body. This in turn could help as a natural remedy for menstrual cramps, bloating, and hot flashes.
Lemongrass is generally considered safe to use in food amounts, including the amount typically used to make tea.
Potential side effects include:
- increased hunger
- dry mouth
- increased urination
Some people may be allergic to lemongrass. Get emergency help if you experience allergic reaction symptoms, such as:
- difficulty breathing
- rapid heart rate
You shouldn’t drink lemongrass tea if you:
- are pregnant
- take prescription diuretics
- have a low heart rate
- have low potassium levels
The bottom line
Most studies on lemongrass used the oil, not lemongrass tea. But you can use the tea as well just in case you do not get the oil. lemongrass tea or lemongrass tea bags can be found at most natural food stores or online.
You can also add to your food by cooking with it. Add a stalk or two to your favourite soup — it pairs well with chicken noodles. You can also add it to poultry or fish before baking.
Prof. Nyarkotey has strict sourcing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations to justify his write-ups. My articles are for educational purposes and do not serve as Medical advice for Treatment. I aim to educate the public about evidence-based scientific Naturopathic Therapies.
The author is a Professor of Naturopathic Healthcare and President of Nyarkotey College of Holistic Medicine & Technology (NUCHMT)/African Naturopathic Foundation. E-mail: [email protected].
- Chaudhari LK, Jawale BA, Sharma S, Sharma H, Kumar CD, Kulkarni PA. Antimicrobial activity of commercially available essential oils against Streptococcus mutans. J Contemp Dent Pract. 2012 Jan 1;13(1):71-4. doi: 10.5005/jp-journals-10024-1098. PMID: 22430697.
- Ahmad A, Viljoen A. The in vitro antimicrobial activity of Cymbopogon essential oil (lemon grass) and its interaction with silver ions. Phytomedicine. 2015 Jun 1;22(6):657-65. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2015.04.002. Epub 2015 Apr 29. PMID: 26055131.
- Fernandes C, De Souza H, De Oliveria G, Costa J, Kerntopf M, Campos A. Investigation of the mechanisms underlying the gastroprotective effect of cymbopogon citratus essential oil. J Young Pharm. 2012 Jan;4(1):28-32. doi: 10.4103/0975-1483.93578. PMID: 22523457; PMCID: PMC3326778.
- Shah G, Shri R, Panchal V, Sharma N, Singh B, Mann AS. Scientific basis for the therapeutic use of Cymbopogon citratus, stapf (Lemon grass). J Adv Pharm Technol Res. 2011 Jan;2(1):3-8. doi: 10.4103/2231-4040.79796. PMID: 22171285; PMCID: PMC3217679.