Common Names

  • Fever grass
  • Barbed wire grass
  • Silky heads

For Patients & Caregivers

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.
  • Perfume/Aromatherapy
    Essential oils from lemongrass are commonly used in perfumes and aromatherapy.
  • Anticancer
    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.
  • Vasodilation
    Lab studies suggest that lemongrass can lower blood pressure by relaxing blood vessels. Human studies are needed.
  • Sedative
    Animal studies have shown that lemongrass injections can produce sedative effects. However, drinking lemongrass tea does not have the same effect in humans.
  • Antifungal
    A clinical trial of HIV/AIDS patients with oral thrush indicated that lemongrass is an effective antifungal treatment.
  • Anti-inflammatory
    Lab studies showed favorable results but human data are lacking.
  • Antioxidant
    Studies in mice showed that lemongrass acts as an effective antioxidant; however, clinical evidence is lacking.
  • Anxiolytic
    Clinical studies show that lemongrass tea does not lower anxiety or produce calming effects.
You are undergoing chemotherapy: Lemongrass can act as an antioxidant and may reduce the effectiveness of some chemo agents.
You are pregnant: Citral and myrcene in lemongrass caused birth defects in rats.
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive urination
  • Increased appetite
  • In high doses, essential oil of lemograss can damage liver and stomach mucous membranes.
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For Healthcare Professionals

Cymbopogon citratus, Cymbopogon flexuous

The genus Cymbopogon consists of several lemongrass species (1) that are prevalent in the tropical regions of Africa and Asia, (2) including C. citratus (West Indian) and C. flexuous (East Indian). 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 (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.

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

  • Anticancer
  • Food flavoring
  • Perfumery/aromatherapy
  • Insect repellent
  • Vasorelaxation
  • Sedative
  • Antifungal
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anxiolytic

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, with 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 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 the inflammation marker myeloperoxidase from neutrophils. It also suppresses IL-6 and IL-1alpha production in mice peritoneal macrophages (13) and inhibits COX2 enzymes in human breast cancer cells (8).

  • Because of its antioxidant potential, lemongrass may interfere with the actions of some chemotherapeutic agents.
  • Lemongrass should be avoided during pregnancy as high doses of citral and myrcene caused birth defects in rats (16)(17).
  • Dizziness, drowsiness, dry mouth, polyuria, and increased appetite (5)(7).
  • In high doses, the essential oil of C.citratus can damage liver and stomach mucosae (18).
  • Citral, found in the essential oil of lemongrass, was shown to induce glutathione-S-transferase (9).
  • Beta-myrcene, another constituent of lemongrass, can interfere with cytochrome P450 liver enzymes (19)(20), although lemongrass-prescription drug interactions have not been reported.

  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. Nerio LS, Olivero-Verbel J, Stashenko E. Repellent activity of essential oils: a review. Bioresour Technol 2010;101(1):72-8.

  4. Dudai N, et al. Citral is a new inducer of caspase-3 in tumor cell lines. Planta Med 2005;71(5):484-8

  5. Sforcin JM, et al. Lemongrass effects on IL-1beta and IL-6 production by macrophages. Nat Prod Res 2009;23(12):1151-9.

  6. Ernst E. Herbal remedies for anxiety - a systematic review of controlled clinical trials. Phytomedicine 2006;13(3):205-8.

  7. Blanco MM, et al. Neurobehavioral effect of essential oil of Cymbopogon citratus in mice. Phytomedicine 2009;16(2-3):265-70.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

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