- Fever grass
- barbed wire grass
- silky heads
For Patients & Caregivers
Bottom Line: Lemongrass has antioxidant, anticancer, and antifungal properties. But it has not been studied in cancer patients.
There are over 140 species of lemongrass that are prevalent in many parts of Africa and Asia. West Indian lemongrass has been traditionally used in Brazilian folk medicine to treat anxiety, gastrointestinal problems, and to induce sleep. These effects were demonstrated in rats but not in humans. Lab studies showed that lemongrass can lower blood pressure and has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. More research is needed.
- Flavoring Agent
Lemongrass extract is used to flavor food and beverages.
Essential oils from lemongrass are commonly used in perfumes and aromatherapy.
In vitro studies showed that citral, the main component of lemongrass, can cause cancer cell death. Clinical evidence is lacking.
- Insect repellent
Essential oils of lemongrass can repel insects, but the effects are not long lasting.
Lab studies suggest that lemongrass can lower blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels. Human studies are needed.
Animal studies have shown that lemongrass injections can produce sedative effects. However, drinking lemongrass tea does not have the same effect in humans.
A clinical trial of HIV/AIDS patients with oral thrush indicated that lemongrass is an effective antifungal treatment.
Lab studies showed favorable results but human data are lacking.
Studies in mice showed that lemongrass acts as an effective antioxidant; however, clinical evidence is lacking.
Clinical studies show that lemongrass tea does not lower anxiety or produce calming effects.
Ninety HIV/AIDS patients with oral thrush were randomly assigned to receive gentian violet solution, fresh lemon juice, or lemongrass tea. Gentian violet is the standard treatment for oral thrush in South Africa. Researchers found that both fresh lemon juice and lemongrass were better than gentian violet. Large scale studies are needed to confirm these results.
For Healthcare Professionals
The genus Cymbopogon consists of several species (1) that are prevalent in the tropical regions of Africa and Asia, (2) including C. citratus (West Indian lemongrass) and C. flexuous (East Indian lemongrass). Lemongrass is widely used in perfumery, as a flavoring agent in Asian cuisine, and also has medicinal effects (1). While not generally used as a dietary supplement, it is traditionally consumed as a tea. It has been used in folk medicine as a sedative (3), to reduce gastrointestinal problems (4), and for its CNS-depressant effects (5). Lemongrass has also been used as an insect repellent (6), has antifungal/antibacterial properties (1)(7)(21) and may help reduce oral thrush (7). The oil extract from C.citratus leaves demonstrated anti-inflammatory effects via COX-2 enzyme inhibition (8), and citral, an active constituent, showed antioxidant activity (9). Lemongrass stalk may have vasorelaxation effects, but the mechanism has not been elucidated (10).
Lemongrass and its constituents were shown to induce apoptosis in some cancer cell lines (11)(12) but it has not been studied in cancer patients.
The oil extracted from C. flexuous oil contains isointermedeol, which along with other constituents demonstrates anticancer activity (2)(11) by upregulating tumor necrosis factor receptor 1 leading to apoptosis through the extrinsic Fas pathway. It also increases mitochondrial expression and activation of caspase-9 via the intrinsic cell death pathway. Citral, the major constituent of C. citratus, was shown to induce glutathione S-transferase (GST) through an electrophilic interaction with glutathione (GSH) in rat liver epithelial cells. GST functions in cell detoxification by rescuing cells from oxidative damage and carcinogenic compounds (9). In human leukemia and breast cancer cells, citral induced apoptosis by inducing caspase-3 enzymatic activity (8). Cytotoxicity was noted to significantly affect the cancer cell lines, up to 90% cell death in some cases (12). This is attributed to the presence of an unsaturated aldehyde group, which is specific to the geranial isomer of citral (9).
The essential oil extract of C. citratus leaves was found to alter the onset and duration of pentylenetetrazol (PZT)-induced convulsions and potentiate sleep time possibly through GABAergic mechanisms in mice (3). It also increased seizure threshold by blocking seizure propagation (15).
Citronellol, a compound present in the essential oil of C. Citratus, demonstrated analgesic effects thought to be mediated via inhibition of peripheral mediators as well as central inhibitory mechanisms (22). C. citratus inhibits release of myeloperoxidase (a marker of inflammation) from neutrophils. It also suppresses IL-6 and IL-1alpha production in mice peritoneal macrophages (13) and inhibits COX-2 enzyme in human breast cancer cells (8).
Wright SC, Maree JE, Sibanyoni M. Treatment of oral thrush in HIV/AIDS patients with lemon juice and lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) and gentian violet. Phytomedicine 2009; 16(2-3):118-24.
Ninety AIDS patients with oral thrush were randomly assigned to receive either a 0.5% gentian violet aqueous solution orally 3 times daily; a mouth rinse consisting of 20ml of fresh-squeezed lemon juice diluted with 10ml of water followed by 2-3 drops of non-diluted juice; or 125ml of lemongrass infusion. The study was performed over 10 days. Researchers report that both lemon juice and lemongrass were superior to gentian violet in the treatment of oral thrush. However, these effects should be confirmed in larger trials.