Purported Benefits, Side Effects & More


Purported Benefits, Side Effects & More

Common Names

  • Fever grass
  • Barbed wire grass
  • Silky heads

For Patients & Caregivers

Tell your healthcare providers about any dietary supplements you’re taking, such as herbs, vitamins, minerals, and natural or home remedies. This will help them manage your care and keep you safe.

What is it?

Lemongrass is used in traditional medicine and aromatherapy, but studies in humans are limited.

There are over 140 species of lemongrass that are prevalent in many parts of Africa and Asia. It is widely used as a flavoring agent in Asian cuisine, in perfumery, and as an insect repellent.

Lemongrass has been used in folk medicine for sleep, anxiety, and gastrointestinal problems. These effects have mostly been shown in animal studies. More research is needed to confirm such effects in humans.

What are the potential uses and benefits?
  • To reduce anxiety

    In clinical studies, lemongrass tea did not lower anxiety or produce calming effects.
  • To improve sleep

    Animal studies suggest sedative effects, but this has not been shown in humans.
  • To prevent infections

    Lab studies show that lemongrass has activity against various microorganisms. A few studies in humans suggest it may help as an antifungal treatment or with chronic gum disease, but more studies are needed.
What are the side effects?

Oral: Dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, excess urination, and increased appetite.

In high doses, lemongrass essential oil can damage liver and stomach mucous membranes.

Excessive intake of lemongrass tea may also affect kidney function.

Topical: Skin rash from lemongrass essential oils

Case report

Delayed skin rash from both topical and oral use: In a 52-year-old massage therapist who also practiced aromatherapy with essential oils including lemongrass. The rash also returned after she drank lemongrass tea.

What else do I need to know?

Do Not Take if:

  • You are taking glutathione-S-transferase drugs: Although no interactions have been reported, ingesting amounts of lemongrass over standard culinary use may increase the risk of drug side effects.
  • You are taking CYP450 substrate drugs: Although no interactions have been reported, ingesting quantities of lemongrass over standard culinary use may increase the risk of drug side effects.

Special Point:

Citral and myrcene, compounds present in lemongrass, caused birth defects in rats. Therefore, it may be advisable to avoid it during pregnancy.

For Healthcare Professionals

Scientific Name
Cymbopogon citratus, Cymbopogon flexuosus
Clinical Summary

The genus Cymbopogon comprises several lemongrass species (1) prevalent in tropical regions of Africa and Asia, (2) including C. citratus (West Indian) and C. flexuosus (East Indian). Lemongrass is widely used as a flavoring agent in Asian cuisine, in perfumery, and as an insect repellent (6). It has been used in folk medicine as a sedative (3), to reduce gastrointestinal problems (4), and for its CNS-depressant effects (5). Lemongrass is also consumed as a tea and used in aromatherapy.

Preclinical studies suggest lemongrass has many properties including antimicrobial (21) (23) (24), anxiolytic (35), and vasorelaxant (10) effects. Limited data in humans suggest lemongrass essential oil products might help chronic periodontitis (41) (50) and oral thrush (7). In other studies, lemongrass tea did not reduce anxiety or benefit sleep (5).

High doses or long-term use of lemongrass tea may have adverse effects on renal function (44).

Food Sources

Lemongrass is used to flavor many foods and beverages. The dried leaves are used to make tea.

Purported Uses and Benefits
  • Antimicrobial
  • Anxiolytic
  • Sedative
Mechanism of Action

Preclinical studies suggest antioxidant properties may help prevent endothelial dysfunction via NO-independent vasodilator effects (46). Anxiolytic activity of lemongrass appeared to be mediated by the GABAergic system (35).

In humans, lemongrass essential oil aromatherapy may act through olfactory or nose-to-brain pathways to restore homeostasis (45).

  • High doses of citral and myrcene caused birth defects in rats (16) (17). Therefore, it may be advisable to avoid lemongrass during pregnancy.
Adverse Reactions

Oral: Dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, excessive urination, and increased appetite (5) (7).

High doses of the essential oil of C. citratus can damage liver and stomach mucosae (18). Excessive ingestion of lemongrass tea may also have negative effects on renal function  (44).

Topical: Contact dermatitis (48).

Case report
Delayed contact dermatitis (topical and oral): In a 52-year-old massage therapist who practiced aromatherapy with essential oils including lemongrass. Cutaneous symptoms recurred following ingestion of lemongrass tea (49).

Herb-Drug Interactions
  • Glutathione-S-transferase (GST) drugs: Citral, found in lemongrass essential oil, was shown to induce GST (9).
  • CYP450 substrates: Beta-myrcene in lemongrass can interfere with CYP450 liver enzymes (19) (20).
    Clinical relevance of the above interactions has yet to be determined.
Dosage (OneMSK Only)
  1. Ganjewala D and Luthra R. Essential oil biosynthesis and regulation in the genus Cymbopogon. Nat Prod Commun 2010;5(1):163-72.
  2. Sharma PR, et al. Anticancer activity of an essential oil from Cymbopogon flexuosus. Chem Biol Interact 2009; 179(2-3):160-8.
  3. Silva MR, et al. Comparative anticonvulsant activities of the essential oils (EOs) from Cymbopogon winterianus Jowitt and Cymbopogon citratus (DC) Stapf. in mice. Naunyn Schmiedebergs Arch Pharmacol 2010; 381(5):415-26.
  4. Carlini EA, et al. Pharmacology of lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus Stapf). I. Effects of teas prepared from the leaves on laboratory animals. J Ethnopharmacol 1986; 17(1):37-64.
  5. Leite JR, et al. Pharmacology of lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus Stapf). III. Assessment of eventual toxic, hypnotic and anxiolytic effects on humans. J Ethnopharmacol 1986; 17(1):75-83.
  6. Nerio LS, Olivero-Verbel J, Stashenko E. Repellent activity of essential oils: a review. Bioresour Technol 2010;101(1):72-8.
  7. 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.
  8. Chaouki W, et al. Citral inhibits cell proliferation and induces apoptosis and cell cycle arrest in MCF-7 cells. Fundam Clin Pharmacol 2009;23(5):549-56.
  9. Nakamura Y, et al. A phase II detoxification enzyme inducer from lemongrass: identification of citral and involvement of electrophilic reaction in the enzyme induction. Biochem Biophys Res Commun 2003;302(3):593-600.
  10. Runnie I, et al. Vasorelaxation induced by common edible tropical plant extracts in isolated rat aorta and mesenteric vascular bed. J Ethnopharmacol 2004; 92(2-3):311-6.
  11. Kumar A, et al. An essential oil and its major constituent isointermedeol induce apoptosis by increased expression of mitochondrial cytochrome c and apical death receptors in human leukaemia HL-60 cells. Chem Biol Interact 2008; 171(3):332-47.
  12. Dudai N, et al. Citral is a new inducer of caspase-3 in tumor cell lines. Planta Med 2005;71(5):484-8
  13. Sforcin JM, et al. Lemongrass effects on IL-1beta and IL-6 production by macrophages. Nat Prod Res 2009;23(12):1151-9.
  14. Ernst E. Herbal remedies for anxiety - a systematic review of controlled clinical trials. Phytomedicine 2006;13(3):205-8.
  15. Blanco MM, et al. Neurobehavioral effect of essential oil of Cymbopogon citratus in mice. Phytomedicine 2009;16(2-3):265-70.
  16. Delgado IF, Carvalho RR, Nogueira AC, et al. Study on embryofoetotoxicity of b-myrcene in the rat. Food and Chemical Toxicology 1993;31(1):31-35.
  17. Nogueira AC, Carvalho RR, Souza CA, Chahoud I, Paumgartten FJ. Study on the embryofeto-toxicity of citral in the rat. Toxicology 1995;96(2):105-113.
  18. Fandohan P, Gnonlonfin B, Laleye A, et al. Toxicity and gastric tolerance of essential oils from Cymbopogon citratus, Ocimum gratissimum and Ocimum basilicum in Wistar rats. Food Chem Toxicol 2008;46(7):2493-2497.
  19. De-Oliveira AC, Ribeiro-Pinto LF, Paumgartten JR. In vitro inhibition of CYP2B1 monooxygenase by beta-myrcene and other monoterpenoid compounds. Toxicol Lett 1997;92(1):39-46.
  20. De-Oliveira AC, Ribeiro-Pinto LF, Otto SS, Goncalves A, Paumgartten FJ. Induction of liver monooxygenase by beta-myrcene. Toxicology 1997;124(2):135-140.
  21. 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.
  22. Brito RG, Guimarães AG, Quintans JS, et al. Citronellol, a monoterpene alcohol, reduces nociceptive and inflammatory activities in rodents.J Nat Med. 2012 Oct;66(4):637-44.
  23. Warnke PH, Lott AJ, Sherry E, et al. The ongoing battle against multi-resistant strains: in-vitro inhibition of hospital-acquired MRSA, VRE, Pseudomonas, ESBL E. coli and Klebsiella species in the presence of plant-derived antiseptic oils. J Craniomaxillofac Surg. Jun 2013;41(4):321-326.
  24. Vazquez-Sanchez D, Cabo ML, Rodriguez-Herrera JJ. Antimicrobial activity of essential oils against Staphylococcus aureus biofilms. Food Sci Technol Int. Oct 3 2014.
  25. Adukwu EC, Allen SC, Phillips CA. The anti-biofilm activity of lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus) and grapefruit (Citrus paradisi) essential oils against five strains of Staphylococcus aureus. J Appl Microbiol. Nov 2012;113(5):1217-1227.
  26. Salim E, Kumolosasi E, Jantan I. Inhibitory effect of selected medicinal plants on the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated human peripheral blood mononuclear cells. J Nat Med. Jul 2014;68(3):647-653.
  27. Tayeboon GS, Tavakoli F, Hassani S, et al. Effects of Cymbopogon citratus and Ferula assa-foetida extracts on glutamate-induced neurotoxicity. In Vitro Cell Dev Biol Anim. Oct 2013;49(9):706-715.
  28. Boaduo NK, Katerere D, Eloff JN, et al. Evaluation of six plant species used traditionally in the treatment and control of diabetes mellitus in South Africa using in vitro methods. Pharm Biol. Jun 2014;52(6):756-761.
  29. Thangam R, Sathuvan M, Poongodi A, et al. Activation of intrinsic apoptotic signaling pathway in cancer cells by Cymbopogon citratus polysaccharide fractions. Carbohydr Polym. Jul 17 2014;107:138-150.
  30. Halabi MF, Sheikh BY. Anti-proliferative effect and phytochemical analysis of Cymbopogon citratus extract. Biomed Res Int. 2014;2014:906239.
  31. Bao XL, Yuan HH, Wang CZ, et al. Polysaccharides from Cymbopogon citratus with antitumor and immunomodulatory activity. Pharm Biol. Jan 2015;53(1):117-124.
  32. Boukhatem MN, Ferhat MA, Kameli A, et al. Lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) essential oil as a potent anti-inflammatory and antifungal drugs. Libyan J Med. 2014;9:25431.
  33. Mitoshi M, Kuriyama I, Nakayama H, et al. Suppression of allergic and inflammatory responses by essential oils derived from herbal plants and citrus fruits. Int J Mol Med. Jun 2014;33(6):1643-1651.
  34. Santos Serafim Machado M, Ferreira Silva HB, Rios R, et al. The anti-allergic activity of Cymbopogon citratus is mediated via inhibition of nuclear factor kappa B (Nf-Kappab) activation. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2015;15:168.
  35. Costa CA, Kohn DO, de Lima VM, et al. The GABAergic system contributes to the anxiolytic-like effect of essential oil from Cymbopogon citratus (lemongrass). J Ethnopharmacol. Sep 1 2011;137(1):828-836.
  36. Ullah N, Khan MA, Khan T, et al. Cymbopogon citratus protects against the renal injury induced by toxic doses of aminoglycosides in rabbits. Indian J Pharm Sci. Mar 2013;75(2):241-246.
  37. Rahim SM, Taha EM, Al-janabi MS, et al. Hepatoprotective effect of Cymbopogon citratus aqueous extract against hydrogen peroxide-induced liver injury in male rats. Afr J Tradit Complement Altern Med. 2014;11(2):447-451.
  38. Shen Y, Sun Z, Guo X. Citral inhibits lipopolysaccharide-induced acute lung injury by activating PPAR-gamma. Eur J Pharmacol. Jan 15 2015;747:45-51.
  39. Sagradas J, Costa G, Figueirinha A, et al. Gastroprotective effect of Cymbopogon citratus infusion on acute ethanol-induced gastric lesions in rats. J Ethnopharmacol. Sep 15 2015;173:134-138.
  40. Rahim SM, Taha EM, Mubark ZM, et al. Protective effect of Cymbopogon citratus on hydrogen peroxide-induced oxidative stress in the reproductive system of male rats. Syst Biol Reprod Med. Dec 2013;59(6):329-336.
  41. Warad SB, Kolar SS, Kalburgi V, et al. Lemongrass essential oil gel as a local drug delivery agent for the treatment of periodontitis. Anc Sci Life. Apr 2013;32(4):205-211.
  42. Carmo ES, Pereira Fde O, Cavalcante NM, et al. Treatment of pityriasis versicolor with topical application of essential oil of Cymbopogon citratus (DC) Stapf - therapeutic pilot study. An Bras Dermatol. May-Jun 2013;88(3):381-385.
  43. Ekpenyong CE, Daniel NE, Antai AB. Bioactive natural constituents from lemongrass tea and erythropoiesis boosting effects: potential use in prevention and treatment of anemia. J Med Food. Jan 2015;18(1):118-127.
  44. Ekpenyong CE, Daniel NE, Antai AB. Effect of lemongrass tea consumption on estimated glomerular filtration rate and creatinine clearance rate. J Ren Nutr. Jan 2015;25(1):57-66.
  45. Goes TC, Ursulino FR, Almeida-Souza TH, et al. Effect of lemongrass aroma on experimental anxiety in humans. J Altern Complement Med. Sep 14 2015.
  46. Campos J, Schmeda-Hirschmann G, Leiva E, et al. Lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus (D.C) Stapf) polyphenols protect human umbilical vein endothelial cell (HUVECs) from oxidative damage induced by high glucose, hydrogen peroxide and oxidised low-density lipoprotein. Food Chem. May 15 2014;151:175-181.
  47. Francisco V, Costa G, Figueirinha A, et al. Anti-inflammatory activity of Cymbopogon citratus leaves infusion via proteasome and nuclear factor-kappaB pathway inhibition: contribution of chlorogenic acid. J Ethnopharmacol. Jun 21 2013;148(1):126-134.
  48. Uter W, Schmidt E, Geier J, et al. Contact allergy to essential oils: current patch test results (2000-2008) from the Information Network of Departments of Dermatology (IVDK). Contact Dermatitis. Nov 2010;63(5):277-283.
  49. Bleasel N, Tate B, Rademaker M. Allergic contact dermatitis following exposure to essential oils. Australas J Dermatol. Aug 2002;43(3):211-213.
  50. Subha DS, Pradeep T. Periodontal Therapy with 0.25% Lemongrass Oil Mouthwash in Reducing Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases: A 3-Arm Prospective Parallel Experimental Study. Ethiop J Health Sci. 2017 Sep;27(5):531-540.
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