#1 – What is lemongrass?
Lemongrass is a tall perennial grass with distinct lemony fragrance and flavour. Cymbopogon, as lemongrass is botanically known, grows in dense clumps, erupting from the tough bulbous base with a spread of about one meter wide and about three feet in height. Its leaves are dull green with razor sharp edges, and with an appearance similar to that of grass. Lemongrass thrives in warm weather. It does not do well in extremely cold climates. Lemongrass seldom bears seeds and is almost always propagated from a section of root.
#2 – Is lemongrass mentioned anywhere in the Bible?
Yes, lemongrass is mentioned in the Bible, in this scripture:
“Take thou also unto thee principal spices, of pure myrrh five hundred shekels, and of sweet cinnamon half so much, even two hundred and fifty shekels, and of sweet calamus two hundred and fifty shekels,” –Exodus 30:23 (underlining mine for emphasis).
Sweet smelling calamus refers to the many aromatic kinds of grass found growing in abundance in the Holy Land. Lemongrass belongs to this family aromatic grass. In the above-quoted scripture, the Lord instructed Moses on the proper way to make and use Holy Oil. This oil was special and very valuable, that perfume was not even to be made in the same way.
#3 – Where can I find lemongrass?
Lemongrass is known to grow wild in Africa and Southeast Asia. In fact, lemon grass is not one of those herbs you will have to seek out in the forest or bush, for it can be found growing in the backyards of most homes in rural Nigeria. Our people have used it predominantly for medicinal purposes since ancient times. Today, due to its health benefits, this plant has gained enormous popularity in the Western hemisphere.
#4 – What are the health benefits of lemongrass?
Over the years, the lemongrass plant, like so many other sources of natural drinks and cures, has slowly faded from use and cultivation, with the increasing role of orthodox medicine. Although there seems to be little scientific basis for the medicinal claims attributed to this grass, lemongrass has been used in the past for the treatment of a variety of ailments, some of which are:
- Infections of the stomach, colon, and urinary tract
- Skin infections
- Food poisoning
- Body odour.
- Joint pains
- Muscle pains
- Achy joints (rheumatism)
- Common cold
“Lemongrass is considered by herbalists to have useful medicinal properties producing antibacterial, antifungal and fever-reducing effects. Claims in this regard have been supported by animal and laboratory studies. For instance, in a test tube investigation published in the medical journal Microbios in 1996, researchers demonstrated that lemongrass was effective against 22 strains of bacteria and 12 types of fungi. Scientific research has further buttressed the herb’s reputation as an analgesic and sedative. Myrcene, a chemical found in the essential oil of Cymbopogon Citratus, the variety of lemon grass commonly used for medicinal purposes, acts as a ‘site-specific’ pain reliever, unlike Aspirin and similar analgesics which relieve pain in the entire body simultaneously. Also, lemon grass is known to likely affect the way the body processes cholesterol. It helps to eliminate stress and aids relaxation as well as digestion” – Retrieved from Nigeria’s Lemon Grass Tea, Newswatch Magazine of Sunday, May 13, 2007; <http://www.newswatchngr.com/editorial/allaccess/business/10513223922.htm>Date of Access: Saturday, 28th of September, 2013.
However, more evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of lemongrass for these uses.
# 5 – How does lemongrass work to cure these sicknesses?
Lemongrass possesses antipyretic properties that are beneficial in bringing down fever. Thus, lemongrass is administered to people having a fever. Its oil also contains analgesic properties which help in relieving pain from headaches, joint and muscle pains. Lemongrass possesses antipyretic properties that are beneficial in bringing down fever. Lemongrass contains antimicrobial and antibacterial properties and it is also used to kill germs. Lemongrass might help prevent the growth of some bacteria and yeast. Lemongrass also contains substances that are thought to relieve pain, reduce fever, stimulate the uterus and menstrual flow, and have antioxidant properties. Lemongrass herb has numerous health benefiting essential oils, chemicals, minerals and vitamins that are known to have anti-oxidant and disease preventing properties. The herb contains almost 99 calories per 100 g but yet it contains no cholesterol. The primary chemical component in lemongrass herb is citral or lemonal, an aldehyde responsible for its unique lemon fragrance. Citral also has strong anti-microbial and antifungal properties. In addition, this special grass contains other constituents of the essential oils such as
- methyl heptenone
- dipentene, geraniol
- limonene, geranyl acetate
- nerol, etc.
These compounds are known to have counter-irritant, rubefacient, insecticidal, antifungal and antiseptic properties. Its leaves and stems are very good in folic acid. It can safely be estimated that 100g leaves and stem provide about 75 µg or 19% of RDA. Folates are important in the division of cells and DNA synthesis. When given during the preconception period, it can help prevent neural tube defects in the baby. Its herb parts are also believed to be rich in many invaluable essential vitamins such as pantothenic acid (vitamin B5), pyridoxine (vitamin B-6) and thiamin (vitamin B-1). These vitamins are essential because our body requires them from external sources in order to be able to replenish. Furthermore, fresh herb contains small amounts of anti-oxidant vitamins such as Vitamin-C and Vitamin-A. Lemongrass herb parts, whether fresh or dried, are rich sources of minerals like potassium, zinc, calcium, iron, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids, which helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese is used by the body as a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase.
#6 – How is lemongrass applied to cure these sicknesses?
Some people apply lemongrass and its essential oil directly to the skin for a headache, stomachache, abdominal pain, and muscle pain. By inhalation, the essential oil of lemongrass is used as aromatherapy for muscle pain. In food and beverages, lemongrass is used as a flavoring. For example, lemongrass leaves are commonly used as “lemon” flavoring in herbal teas. In manufacturing, lemongrass is used as a fragrance in soaps and cosmetics. Lemongrass is also used in making vitamin A and natural citral.
#7 – How do I grow lemongrass?
Lemongrass may be grown from seeds, but it is a rather lengthy process. It is actually easier to grow lemongrass from the mature plant. I insist that you do not have to go to a market or grocery store to buy lemon grass, especially if you’re not living in mega Nigerian cities like Lagos, Abuja or Port Harcourt. But if you have to purchase a bundle of lemongrass, trim the tops of the plant, and excise any dead parts. Place the trimmed grass in container or jar of water, then place this in sunlight. Within a few days, the stem will develop roots and can be transplanted in your garden where it will have access to the sun. In many instances, if you have seen traces of any root on the plant, just bury the stem in the soil and watch the grass bloom. The propagation of lemongrass is easy. The plant thrives on nothing more than a sunny spot, rich soil, and plenty of water. Lemongrass is tough like most grasses and does not need the constant attention you have to give to our delicate plants like tomatoes.
#8 – How do I use lemongrass as herbal tea?
The first way I saw my parents’ use this plant was as herbal tea. In accordance with its name, lemongrass easily brews up into a delightful, lemony-flavored tea whose fragrance permeates beyond the kitchen. After cutting several long blades of foliage from the plant, wash them up, and chop them into inch-long pieces with a pair of scissors or a knife. Although the lemongrass is not known to repel many insects, particularly the mosquito, it is safe to thoroughly wash the leaves to clear dust and other foreign materials. You can use a kettle, but many people prefer to use a wide pot to accommodate the foliage. Then cover the bits of grass with water, bring the liquid to a boil, and steep for twelve to fifteen minutes. Some people prefer to put the cut-up foliage in a heated teapot, and pour boiling water into the container, and steam until the resulting tea is as strong. However, I do not believe you will get the best of the plant’s chlorophyll and nutrients via this mode and I still prefer boiling the foliage. Sweeten the hot drink with honey, or chill the tea and serve it cold as desired.
#9 – Does lemongrass have any side effect?
Lemongrass seems to be safe for most people when used in modest food amounts. It may be possibly safe when used for medicinal purposes, in the short term. Many native concoctions for malaria and other ailments (called “agbo” in South-Western Nigeria) have the lemongrass cooked alongside it. However, there have been reports of some toxic side effects such as lung issues after inhaling lemongrass. Of course, where lemongrass is prepared for insecticide use, it is not supposed to be ingested. It is generally not safe to use lemongrass during pregnancy and breastfeeding too. Lemongrass has been known to start menstrual flow and indeed many girls have ingested large amounts in the hope that it can prevent conception after intercourse. The appropriate dose of lemongrass depends on several factors such as the user’s age, health, and several other health conditions. I must be honest that I do not have enough scientific information to determine the appropriate range of doses for lemongrass for the treatment of different ailments earlier listed. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. If your lemongrass is packaged as alternative medicine, be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other alternative healthcare professional before using it.