Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus, Cymbopogon nardus)
Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.
Abafado (Portuguese), alpha-citral, alpha-eudesmol, alpha-pinene, alpha-terpineole, Andropogon citratus, Andropogon nardus, bai mak nao (Lao), beta-citral (neral), beta-eudesmol, beta-myrcene, bhustrina (India), borneol, British Indian lemongrass, caffeic acid, camphene, capim-cidrão (Portuguese), carene-2, caspase-3, Ceylon citronella grass, chlorogenic acid, citral, citronella oil, citronellal, citronellol, Cochin lemongrass, cryptomeridiol, (+)-cymbodiacetal, Cymbopogon ambiguus, Cymbopogon citrates, Cymbopogon citratus DC., Cymbopogon excavatus, Cymbopogon flexuosus, Cymbopogon goeringii, Cymbopogon martinii, Cymbopogon nardus, Cymbopogon proximus, Cymbopogon schoenanthus L., Cymbopogon winterianus, Cymbopogon winterianus Jowitt, East Indian lemongrass, elemicin, elemol, erba di limone (Italian), essência de capim-limão (Portuguese), essential oils, farnesol, fever grass, geraniol, geranium grass, geranyl acetate, germacrene-D, Graminaeae (family), Guatemala lemongrass, Halfa barr, herbe de citron (French), hierba de limón (Spanish), java citronella, lemon grass, lemon grass extract (LGE), lemon grass oil, lemon herbs, lemongrass oil, lemongrass stalk, Lg, limonene, linalool, Madagascar lemongrass, Melissa grass, MYR, myrcene, Natrapel®, neochlorogenic acid, neral, nerolidol, palmarosa, palmarosa oil, pinene, piperitone, Poaceae (family), proximadiol, Santalum acuminatum, santolinyl acetate, sera (India, Sinhalese), serai (Malay), sere (Indonesian), sereh (Indonesian), Sudanese flora, takrai (Thai), terpene beta-myrcene, West Indian lemongrass, Zitronengras (German).
Note: This review does not include citronella oil or stone root.
Lemongrass is grown in Guatemala, India, Paraguay, England, Sri Lanka, China, and other parts of Indochina, Africa, Central America, and South America. It has been used traditionally to lower high blood pressure and as an anti-inflammatory. In India, lemongrass is used as a medicinal herb and in perfumes. It is also used in Brazilian folk medicine in a tea called abafado, as a sedative, for gastrointestinal problems, and for fever. Lemongrass oil has a fresh, strong, lemon-like, and pungent odor and is used in deodorants, herbal teas, skin care products, fragrances, and insect repellents, and for aromatherapy.
Research is being conducted to examine the potential antimalarial, antioxidant, anticancer, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties of lemongrass. Currently, there is very little scientific evidence investigating the use of lemongrass in humans.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Early research has not shown any effect of lemongrass on serum cholesterol levels. However, more research is warranted in this area.
Lemongrass is used in Brazilian folk medicine for nervous disturbances. However, early study of lemongrass has not confirmed this use. More research is needed.
Early research suggests that lemongrass may have beneficial effects for the treatment of oral candidiasis in patients with HIV/AIDS. More research is needed in this area.
*Key to grades:A: Strong scientific evidence for this use; B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use; D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work); F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.
Abdominal pain, acne, aggressive behavior, analgesic (pain-relieving), antibacterial, anticoagulant, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiseptic, antispasmodic, anxiety, appetite stimulant, aromatherapy, arthritis, astringent, athlete's foot, athletic performance, bad breath, bee stings, body fat reducer (cellulite), body odor, bruises, cancer, cardiovascular health, cholera, colitis, common cold, connective tissue disorders, convulsions, cough, cramps, detoxification, diabetes, digestion, diuretic, ear infection, energy, excessive perspiration, exhaustion, fatigue, fever, flavoring, flea control, food additive, food preservative, fragrance, gastroenteritis (inflammation of the stomach), gas, gastrointestinal disorders, genetic damage, headache, high blood pressure, immune function, infections, inflammation, inflammatory bowel conditions, insecticide, insect repellant, intestinal parasites, irritability, jet lag, lactation stimulation, laryngitis, lice, lymph flow enhancement, malaria, menstrual flow stimulant, muscle cramps, musculoskeletal pain, nausea, nerve pain, nervous disorders, nervous exhaustion, pain, parasites (skin), radiation protection, rheumatism, ringworm, SARS, scabies, skin conditions, skin toner, sleep, sore throat, stimulant, stomach spasms, stress, tick repellant, tonic, vasodilator, vomiting, warts, yeast infections.
The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.
Adults (over 18 years old)
There is no proven safe or effective dose of lemongrass for adults. Traditionally, 1-2 teaspoons of lemongrass in six ounces of boiling water has been taken by mouth as a tea. Two grams of lemongrass herb, cut and powdered into one cup of boiling water, has also been taken by mouth. For high cholesterol, 140 milligrams of lemongrass oil in a capsule once a day for 90 days has been taken by mouth with no significant benefit. For sedation, lemongrass tea was taken by mouth with no significant benefit. For thrush, half a packet (12.5 milliliters) of dried lemongrass was used to make an infusion with 500 milliliters of boiling water. The infusion was boiled for 10 minutes and cooled. For the first treatment, patients drank 125 milliliters of lemongrass infusion and then drank 250 milliliters twice a day for a total of 10 days (a fresh infusion was made every 24 hours).
Children (under 18 years old)
There is no proven safe or effective dose of lemongrass for children.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to lemongrass, its constituents, or any member of the Poaceae family. Lemongrass and other essential oils, both applied on the skin and taken as a tea, may cause allergic contact skin reactions.
Side Effects and Warnings
A common side effect of lemongrass oil is rash. Lemongrass may also cause irritation and burning if not properly diluted when used on the skin.
Lemongrass may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in patients with diabetes or hypoglycemia and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Serum glucose levels may need to be monitored by a healthcare provider. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
Lemongrass may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking drugs or herbs or supplements that lower blood pressure.
Lemongrass may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in patients with bleeding disorders or those taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
Use cautiously in patients using diuretics, anticonvulsants, or agents processed by the liver's cytochrome P450 enzyme system.
Use cautiously in patients with liver conditions. Lemongrass may cause slight increases in liver function tests, particularly bilirubin, or an increase in pancreatic tests, particularly amylase.
Avoid in patients who are allergic to lemongrass, its constituents, or any member of the Poaceae family.
Avoid in patients who are pregnant.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Lemongrass is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding, due to lack of sufficient human data. Early scientific evidence is conflicting. Some chemical compounds found in lemongrass (beta-myrcene) may cause decreased birth weight, increased perinatal mortality, and delay in development when taken at high doses. Also, high doses caused fetal abnormalities in animal studies. However, an infusion of lemongrass leaves did not show any toxic or harmful effects. More research is needed before a conclusion can be made.
Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.
Interactions with Drugs
Lemongrass oil may increase absorption of drugs through the skin.
Lemongrass may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, antiplatelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).
Lemongrass may lower blood pressure and should be used cautiously with other drugs that alter blood pressure. Also, caution is advised in patients taking drugs that affect the heart, as this combination may alter the effects of the drug or cause unwanted side effects.
Lemongrass may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. Patients taking insulin or drugs for diabetes by mouth should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare provider. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
Lemongrass may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver's cytochrome P450 enzyme system. As a result, the levels of these drugs may be altered in the blood and may cause increased or decreased effects or potentially serious adverse reactions. Individuals using any medications should check the package insert and speak with a healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, about possible interactions.
Lemongrass may also interact with analgesics (pain reducers), antibiotics, anticonvulsants, antifungals, anti-inflammatories, antimalarials (drugs used for malaria), antivirals, cholesterol-lowering agents, cholinesterase inhibitors (drugs that inhibit the enzyme cholinesterase), diuretics (drugs that increase urination), and vasodilators (drugs that widen blood vessels).
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Lemongrass oil may increase absorption of herbs and supplements through the skin.
Lemongrass may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.
Lemongrass may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also lower blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.
Lemongrass may lower blood pressure and should be used cautiously with other herbs and supplements that alter blood pressure. Also, caution is advised in patients taking herbs or supplements that affect the heart, as this combination may alter the effects of the herb or cause unwanted side effects.
Lemongrass may interfere with the way the body processes certain herbs or supplements using the liver's cytochrome P450 enzyme system. As a result, the levels of other herbs or supplements may become too high in the blood. It may also alter the effects that other herbs or supplements possibly have on the P450 system.
Lemongrass may also interact with analgesics (pain reducers), antibacterials, anticonvulsants, antifungals, anti-inflammatories, antimalarials (drugs used for malaria), antioxidants, antivirals, chitosan, cholesterol-lowering agents, cholinesterase inhibitors (drugs that inhibit the enzyme cholinesterase), diuretics (drugs that increase urination), and vasodilators (drugs that widen blood vessels).
This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
Bankole SA, Joda AO, Ashidi JS. The use of powder and essential oil of Cymbopogon citratus against mould deterioration and aflatoxin contamination of "egusi" melon seeds. J Basic Microbiol. 2005;45(1):20-30. View Abstract
Duarte MC., Figueira GM, Sartoratto A, et al. Anti-Candida activity of Brazilian medicinal plants. J Ethnopharmacol 2-28-2005;97(2):305-311. View Abstract
Dudai N, Weinstein Y, Krup M, et al. Citral is a new inducer of caspase-3 in tumor cell lines. Planta Med 2005;71(5):484-488. View Abstract
El Kamali HH, Hamza MA, El Amir MY. Antibacterial activity of the essential oil from Cymbopogon nervatus inflorescence. Fitoterapia 2005;76(5):446-449. View Abstract
Elson CE, Underbakke GL, Hanson P, et al. Impact of lemongrass oil, an essential oil, on serum cholesterol. Lipids 1989 Aug;24(8):677-9. View Abstract
Heimerdinger A, Olivo CJ, Molento MB, et al. [Alcoholic extract of lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) on the control of Boophilus microplus in cattle]. Rev Bras.Parasitol.Vet. 2006;15(1):37-39. View Abstract
Ketoh GK, Koumaglo HK, Glitho IA, et al. Comparative effects of Cymbopogon schoenanthus essential oil and piperitone on Callosobruchus maculatus development. Fitoterapia 7-16-2006; View Abstract
Lalko J, Api AM. Investigation of the dermal sensitization potential of various essential oils in the local lymph node assay. Food Chem Toxicol 2006;44(5):739-746. View Abstract
Leite JR, Seabra Mde L, Maluf E, et al. Pharmacology of lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus Stapf). III. Assessment of eventual toxic, hypnotic and anxiolytic effects on humans. J Ethnopharmacol 1986 Jul;17(1):75-83. View Abstract
Pawar VC, Thaker VS. In vitro efficacy of 75 essential oils against Aspergillus niger. Mycoses 2006;49(4):316-323. View Abstract
Raybaudi-Massilia RM, Mosqueda-Melgar J, Martin-Belloso O. Antimicrobial activity of essential oils on Salmonella enteritidis, Escherichia coli, and Listeria innocua in fruit juices. J Food Prot. 2006;69(7):1579-1586. View Abstract
Rim IS, Jee CH. Acaricidal effects of herb essential oils against Dermatophagoides farinae and D. pteronyssinus (Acari: Pyroglyphidae) and qualitative analysis of a herb Mentha pulegium(pennyroyal). Korean J Parasitol. 2006;44(2):133-138. View Abstract
Tampieri MP, Galuppi R, Macchioni F, et al. The inhibition of Candida albicans by selected essential oils and their major components. Mycopathologia 2005;159(3):339-345. View Abstract
Tchoumbougnang F, Zollo PH, Dagne E, Mekonnen Y. In vivo antimalarial activity of essential oils from Cymbopogon citratus and Ocimum gratissimum on mice infected with Plasmodium berghei. Planta Med 2005;71(1):20-23. View Abstract
Wright SC, Maree JE, and Sibanyoni M. Treatment of oral thrush in HIV/AIDS patients with lemon juice and lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) and gentian violet. Phytomedicine 2009 Mar;16(2-3):118-24. View Abstract
Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.
March 22, 2017