Lemongrass (botanical name cymbopogon citratus) belongs to the Poaceae family and is also known by other common names, such as fever grass, citronella grass, silky heads, barbed wire grass, lemon grass, Hierba Luisa, cha de Dartigalongue, Gavati Chaha and several others. In fact, this perennial genus comprises approximately 55 different species of grass. Lemongrass is native to India, but has been naturalized in several tropical, warm and temperate regions of the world. Normally, this plant is seen growing in abundance in the wild, but it is also cultivated in Chennai (India), Malay and the West Indies. This genus is widely used for therapeutic, culinary and other purposes. It has a citrus flavour and can be used in various forms - fresh, dried out, powdered and crushed.
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While lemongrass is extensively used in teas, curries and soups, its anti-fungal properties make it useful in therapy, especially aromatherapy. This plant is rich in vitamin C and contains high amounts of antioxidants and, therefore, is excellent in combating diseases in our body. It is especially used to treat fevers, colds and coughs and is also good for healthy skin and lowering blood cholesterol. It is also an effective preservative. At the same time, the potent aroma of this plant makes it an excellent insect repellent.
One can obtain the essential oil enclosed in lemongrass by distillation during the period between July and January. As much as 100 kg of lemongrass yields 21 kg of the essential oil. In fact, lemongrass essential oil is among the largest produced essential oils worldwide - more than 2,000 tons of this oil is distilled annually. The oil has a dry sherry hue and a very potent aroma something akin to that of lemon.
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As mentioned before, as many as 55 plant species belong to the genus Cymbopogon and Poaceae family. All these species are perennial and grow naturally in tropical as well as temperate climatic conditions. These species possess numerous therapeutic properties and the dried out lemongrass is used in teas, soups and curries in several regions across the globe. This plant belonging to this genus has derived its name - lemongrass - owing to its lemon or citrus essence. Nevertheless, lemongrass does not taste sour. On the contrary, it has a gentle and sweet taste.
The essential oil enclosed by lemongrass is obtained by distilling the plant, especially the Eastern Indian lemongrass and the West Indian lemongrass. As aforementioned, the oil extracted from the plants belonging to this genus possesses numerous therapeutic properties - it is anti-bacterial, astringent and also acts as a sedative for the nervous system. This essential oil is extensively used to treat several medical conditions, including headaches, depression and even jet lag.
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While lemongrass still remains to be associated with India, the country of its origin, presently the plant grows naturally in other places too - other regions of Asia, South America and Africa. This plant produces typically long and slender leaves that generally grow to a height of around three feet (one meter) to five feet (1.5 meter). The essential oil is extracted from the leaves of the plant. In fact, lemongrass essential oil is obtained by a process known as steam distillation. The steam distillation process includes boiling the plants and then collecting the essential oil by condensing the vapour. Once the lemongrass essential oil is obtained, it is condensed into a very potent form. Usually, lemongrass essential oil has a watery appearance and its hue may vary from deep yellow to amber. Lemongrass essential oil possesses an individual aroma similar to lemon and it is generally said to be rejuvenating.
Chemical analysis of the lemongrass essential oil has revealed that the chemical substances enclosed by this plant differ on the plant species from which it was obtained. It has been found that all species of lemongrass plants contain a chemical substance known as citral. Citral is the primary element in lemongrass plant and plays the major role in the preparation of this aromatic essential oil. This chemical is extremely anti-microbial and explains why the lemongrass oil is extensively used in treating contagions like the athlete's foot.
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Apart from its medicinal properties that are effective in healing several conditions, lemongrass essential oil also forms an important ingredient in soaps and perfumes basically for beauty purposes. When this oil is applied topically on the skin or used in a steamer, it helps to treat oily skin as well as fight acne. In addition, lemongrass essential oil also forms an ingredient in lotions as well as oils for massages and is topically applied to the skin to get rid of cellulite (lumpy fat deposits, especially in the thighs and buttocks). Lemongrass is also valued for its deodorant properties or features that help to fight excessive perspiration and bad odour.
Several studies have confirmed that lemongrass essential oil is extremely helpful for our body, as it offers numerous health advantages. This oil helps our body from becoming susceptible to ailments, such as flatulence, athlete's foot, colds, fevers and muscle aches. In addition, the essential oil obtained from the long leaves of the plants of this genus is also highly helpful in healing skin problems like acne and maintaining a healthy skin. However, the lemongrass essential oil is perhaps the best available medication to fight the problem of too much sweating.
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The best thing about lemongrass essential oil is that it is not noxious and is safe for use. However, this does not denote that one should not exercise caution while using this essential oil. In fact, lemongrass essential oil is known to cause skin irritation, especially when used in excessive amounts or high concentrations. Especially, this oil may result in sensitivity among people who are prone to allergies. In addition, it is advisable that women should never use this oil topically during pregnancy.
Precisely speaking, the advantages provided by lemongrass essential oil far exceed the appeal of the oil. People value lemongrass essential oil for its actions on the nervous system. Many herbal medicine practitioners recommend this oil to people enduring depression, nervous anxiety and even jet lag. This essential oil is also extensively used to combat colds and bring down high temperatures during fever. When you intend to use this oil for any of these purposes, you should generally use it in bamboo vaporizers or oil burners.
To extract lemongrass essential oil, you first need to dry the plants' leaves and then pass them through a process known as steam distillation. Chemical analysis of lemongrass essential oil has revealed that it encloses chemicals like citronellol, myrcene and geranyl acetate. In addition, this oil has rich content of vitamin A and also encloses elements, such as neral, nerol, geraniol, limonene and citral. Lemongrass essential oil has a yellowish hue and is watery in normal conditions in comparison to other essential oils. The benefits obtained from the use of lemongrass are attributed to the herb's therapeutic and other properties. The lemongrass essential oil is anti-microbial, anti-depressant, anti-pyretic (a medication that prevents or checks fever), astringent, antiseptic, deodorant, anti-bacterial, diuretic, galactagogue (a drug that helps in increasing breast milk secretion), and fungicidal, sedative, nervine (any drug that helps to relieve disorders of the nerve), insecticidal and tonic or stimulant. These therapeutic properties of the oil have made it popular both among herbal medicine practitioners as well as the common people who use it extensively to treat various conditions. There are numerous uses of lemongrass essential oil and here we will discuss a number of them in brief.
Lemongrass essential oil possesses the aptitude to provide relief from aches and inflammation and, therefore, it is widely used as a massage oil to alleviate throbbing muscles and joint aches. In viral infections, this oil is also used to alleviate headaches. It is also effective in providing relief from toothaches.
Lemongrass essential oil strengthens the immune system, thereby helping the body to combat against harmful microbes. It acts by slowing down their growth - both internally and externally. This oil is said to inhibit bacterial contagions, including infections of the urinary tract and other contagions associated with the stomach, colon and the respiratory tract. In addition, the fungicidal property of lemongrass essential oil makes it an effective remedy for internal and external infections caused by fungi.
Lemongrass essential oil possesses anti-depressant property and when it is used for this purpose, it facilitates in recuperating the mental strength and self-esteem or confidence. This essential oil is extensively used to combat nervous anxiety and also severe cases of depression. In addition, it is used as a stimulant to reinforce the nerves and also to make them active. This is all the more true in instances of neurodegenerative ailments like Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's disease. Lemongrass essential oil also has the potential to heal other nervous problems, including vertigo, fits and trembling of the hands or limbs.
Since lemongrass essential oil possesses antiseptic properties, it forms an important ingredient in many antiseptic creams meant for external application. A tea prepared from lemongrass has also been found to be effective in treating internal wounds. In addition, it has also been proved that lemongrass essential oil is helpful in bringing down high temperatures during fever - hence, its another common name is fever grass. The astringent property of lemongrass essential oil is helpful in stopping hemorrhage from open wounds. This oil works by facilitating the process of forming blood clots.
The diuretic property of lemongrass essential oil promotes outflow of urine and, thereby helps in lowering high blood pressure as well as eliminating waste and toxic substances from the body. The essential oil obtained from lemongrass is also galactagogue and helps in inducing formation as well as secretion of breast milk. Presence of lemongrass essential oil in the mother's breast milk also helps the babies to combat infections and protects them from various contagious ailments.
Many people hold lemongrass essential oil in high esteem for its excellent sedative properties. In addition, many people prefer lemongrass essential oil to get rid of insects owing to its extremely effective insecticidal properties.
The citrus-like smell as well as its non-acidic nature makes lemongrass essential oil one of the preferred oils for aromatherapy. The lemony fragrance of lemongrass essential oil brings about a sensation of well-being. In its normal state, lemongrass oil is in a concentrated form and, hence, one should be careful to dilute it before use. Using high concentrations of lemongrass essential oil is likely to cause skin irritation, especially in individuals who have a sensitive skin.
Many people like lemongrass essential oil because it has a fresh, down-to-earth and lemon-like smell that is just wonderful. This oil is most suited to provide relaxation and comfort to the weary body. As mentioned before, lemongrass essential oil is obtained from its dried out leaves by a process known as steam distillation. In normal conditions, lemongrass essential oil is in a watery state and, hence, quite thin in stability.
People in India commonly refer to the lemongrass plant as 'choomana poolu'. The plant is frequently used to denote 'Indian Melissa oil' which is extensively used in Ayurveda - the ancient form of Indian medicine. In Ayurveda, traditional physicians use the lemongrass essential oil to bring down high temperatures when one is suffering from fever. In addition, Ayurvedic medicine practitioners also use this essential oil to treat infectious diseases. It is believed that lemongrass oil is extremely effective in treating different contagions caused by microbes, including bacteria and fungi. In addition to being an important ingredient in various medications, lemongrass essential oil is also used in making soaps and perfumes that have citrus or lemony fragrance.
Like other essential oils, lemongrass essential oil too is extremely beneficial for our body, but may result in adverse effects when used in excess or without precaution. Therefore, it is essential to talk with a professional and competent aroma therapist before you start using this oil to treat any condition. Interestingly enough, lemongrass essential oil is occasionally used by unscrupulous people to adulterate other oils and give them an aroma that resembles the scent of verbena or rose. In addition, it has often been reported that topical application of lemongrass essential oil results in irritation of the skin. As a result, it is advisable that women should not use this lemongrass oil or the herb in any form during pregnancy.
Although lemongrass essential oil is said to be non-noxious and safe for use, it has the potential to sensitize the skin of individuals who have susceptible or damaged skin. This oil is also harmful for people prone to allergies and, hence, they should avoid using it. This is also the primary reason why people should exercise caution while using lemongrass essential oil. In addition, this oil should not be used on small children whose skins are normally very sensitive. Like in the case of other essential oils, in this case too one should consult a professional specializing in the use of essential oils before he or she begins to use lemongrass essential oil. These professionals are the best persons to examine your individual condition and determine whether the oil is suitable for you.