~ Lemongrass ~ EO PROFILE & Herbal Use

Synopsis: An ambitious discussion of the essential oil of the grass oil Lemongrass with the uses, growth, description, organoleptic qualities and herbal uses of the plant.


Cymbopogon species

By Jeanne Rose ~ June 2017


ESSENTIAL OIL PROFILE ~ Name of Oil: Lemongrass – 2 species

 LATIN BINOMIAL/BOTANICAL FAMILY: Lemon grass West Indian (Cymbopogon citratus) and Cymbopogon flexuosus is East Indian Lemongrass.

FAMILY: Lemongrass GRASS is a genus of the Gramineae (Poaceae) family of grasses. The name Cymbopogon is derived from the Greek words “kymbe” (boat) and “pogon” (beard), referring to the flower spike arrangement.  PRONUNCIATION ~ (sim-bo-pO’ gon)

NAMING ~ Cymbopogon citratus (DC.) Stapf DC or Augustin-Pyramus deCandolle, a Swiss botanist named many plants.



Chrysopogon zizanioides is commonly known as Vetiver, a bunch grass whose roots are used. Synonym is   Vetiveria) zizanioides) Vetivert (Chrysopogon zizanioides)

Cymbopogon nardus is Citronella grass.

Cymbopogon citratus West Indian Lemongrass;

Cymbopogon flexuosus is East Indian Lemongrass

Cymbopogon martini var. motia is Palmarosa grass, syn. Andropogon martini or Cymbopogon martinii.

Cymbopogon martinii var. sofia is Gingergrass

Cymbopogon nardus is Citronella grass.


COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN: Africa: north, Macronesia, west tropical, west-central tropical, east tropical, southern tropical, middle Atlantic Ocean, and western Indian ocean. Asia-temperate: China and eastern Asia. Asia-tropical: India, Indo-China, Malesia, and Papuasia. Australasia: Australia. Pacific: southwestern, south-central, northwestern, and north-central. North America: Mexico. South America: Mesoamericana, Caribbean, northern South America, western South America, Brazil, and southern South America.

Eden Botanicals source is India for the organically-grown and Nepal for the wild-crafted.

GROWTH: Cultigen from Asia can be cultivated in Florida, flowers are rare. The culms (stems) of this dense, clump-forming grass have been used in cooking and herbal medicine for centuries. West Indian Lemongrass, C. citratus is a genus of the Gramineae (Poaceae) family of grasses. Some species (particularly the Cymbopogon citratus), are commonly cultivated as culinary and medicinal herbs because of their scent, resembling that of lemons (Citrus limon) while C. flexuosus, the East Indian species is mostly used for aromatherapy or medicine.



  1. citratus Steam distillation of fresh or partly dried leaves. Yield: 1.8-2.2%.
  2. flexuosus Steam distillation of fresh or partly dried leaves. Yield: 1.03%


Seasonal variation was found to be very effective on the yield of Lemongrass oil and its constituents. Citral percentage was maximum in winter season (November-December) and minimum during the rainy season (July-August). Oil was found to be the highest (1.03%) during pre-monsoon (March-June) and onset of monsoon.

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus (Steud.) Wats) is a perennial, multi-cut aromatic grass, which yields an essential oil used in perfumery and pharmaceutical industries and Vitamin A, has a long initial lag phase. To utilize the crop growth resources more efficiently during this phase, studies were made to explore the possibility of intercropping food legumes with Lemongrass. An experiment conducted during 1992–93 revealed that the food legumes like blackgram (Vigna mungo (L) Hepper), cowpea (Vigna unguiculata (L) Walp) or soybean (Glycine max (L) Merr.) could be intercropped in the initial stages of Lemongrass to get extra yields over and above that of Lemongrass, without affecting the yield of Lemongrass.” — http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1439-037X.1998.tb00364.x/abstract


HISTORY AND INTERESTING FACTS: Studies indicate that Cymbopogon citratus possesses various pharmacological activities such as anti-amoebic, antibacterial, antidiarrheal, anti-filarial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory properties. Various other effects like antimalarial, anti-mutagenicity, anti-mycobacterial, antioxidants, hypoglycemic and neurobehaviorial have also been studied. These results are very encouraging and indicate that this herb should be studied more extensively to confirm these results and reveal other potential therapeutic effects.

           C.flexuosus also called Cochin Grass or Malabar Grass (Malayalam: is a perennial grass native to India, Sri Lanka, Burma, and Thailand. … Lemongrass essential oil is produced by steam distillation of the freshly cut leaves, or can be extracted using alcohol.

Lemongrass oil (species not carefully indicated) is used as a pesticide and preservative, is put on the ancient palm-leaf manuscripts found in India as a preservative. It is used at the Oriental Research Institute Mysore, the French Institute of Pondicherry, the Association for the Preservation of the Saint Thomas Christian Heritage in Kerala, and many other manuscript collections in India. The oil also injects natural fluidity into the brittle palm leaves, and the hydrophobic nature of the oil keeps the manuscripts dry so the text is not lost to decay due to humidity. Lemongrass is also used in the synthesis of Vitamin A and as such can be considered a good source of the vitamin in a variety of products including a margarine type substance in India.

[The manufacture of synthetic Vitamin A from lemongrass oil owes its existence to the demand arising from the need of fortifying Vanaspati (synthetic margarine) by adding synthetic Vitamin A.]

CHEMISTRY ~ The quality of lemongrass oil is generally determined by the content of citral, the aldehyde responsible for the lemon odor. Some other constituents of the essential oils are -terpineol, myrcene, citronellol, methyl heptenone, dipentene, geraniol, limonene, nerol, and farnesol. West Indian oil differs from East Indian oil in that it is less soluble in 70 percent alcohol and has a slightly lower citral content.

Lemongrass, Cymbopogon citratus, is 75-85% citral and up to 25% myrcene. Because of the myrcene with its strongly green and vegetative note, this is not my favorite citrus odor or even one of my essential oils that I enjoy although a favorite of many.  Lemongrass used in a soap could be used for skin care, or a foot soap for athlete’s foot, also considered to help minimize perspiration and stinky sweat.

Citral, an aldehyde that is also part of the chemistry of citrus oils, always occurs as a mixture of its stereoisomer geranial and neral. (A stereo or optical isomer are identical mirror-image forms of a component, one occurring in d or dextro =right or clockwise form and the other l or laevo =left in counter-clockwise form. Think of looking at your hand and then in the mirror.)

“When given orally or by inhalation (citral), may possess prominent protective effects against bronchial asthma that is induced by inhalation of broncho-constrictors (1977). Like May Chang oil the essential oil may inhibit anaphylactic shock when inhaled, and has a relaxing effect on the tracheal muscle.”

         Citral has been shown to have an estrogenic effect causing prostatic hyperplasia (in rats), but Tisserand and Balacs referring to Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus (nees ex Steud.) J. F. Watson) say that a mild hormone-like (estrogenic) action may be assumed from the citral content but that as used in aromatherapy it is not known whether there will be an estrogenic or androgenic effect. …from Essential Oil Safety.

         Citral in Lemongrass can be extracted using alcohol.


PROPERTIES AND USAGE EO: C. citratus have antioxidant properties as well as being a wonderful addition to a skin care line for oily skin and hair. Cymbopogon citratus, Stapf (Lemon grass), the herb, is commonly used in teas, soups and curries. It is also suitable for poultry, fish and seafood.

Lemongrass is used in herbal teas and other nonalcoholic beverages in baked goods, and in confections. Oil from Lemongrass is widely used as a fragrance in perfumes and cosmetics, such as soaps and creams.

Citral, extracted from the oil, is used in flavoring soft drinks in scenting soaps and detergents, as a fragrance in perfumes and cosmetics, and as a mask for disagreeable odors in several industrial products. Citral is also used in the synthesis of ionone used in perfumes and cosmetics.  Lemongrass EO used in a soap could be used for skin care, or a foot soap for athlete’s foot, also considered to help minimize perspiration and stinky sweat.

As a medicinal plant, Lemongrass has been considered a carminative and insect repellent. The volatile oils may also have some pesticide and mutagenic activities.

Oil of West Indian lemongrass, C. citratus, acts as a central nervous system depressant. West Indian Lemongrass is reported to have antimicrobial activity. Oil of West Indian lemongrass acts as a central nervous system depressant.

Oil of East Indian lemongrass, C. flexuosus, has antifungal activity. It is believed to help with stress-related disorders, and has been shown to have antifungal and antimicrobial properties. Cymbopogon flexuosus completely inhibits all MRSA colony growth. Oil of East Indian Lemongrass has antifungal activity.

Power Up Your Tea Tree: Add 10% citral-type essential oil such as Lemongrass, Litsea cubeba or Backhousia citrata to 90% Tea Tree.  It doubles the power of the Tea Tree, lessens the irritating value of the citral EO and thus you can use less percentage, and a lower dosage, in a formula.


DIFFUSE/DIFFUSION: Lemongrass is very strong in citral and should always be mixed with other essential oil that has alcohol in it before you diffuse. Use oils such as Lavender, Tea Tree, Rose Geranium, Palmarosa or Rosemary. This will give you the cleansing air benefit of the Lemongrass and the attributes of the other essential oils such as calming for Lavender, cleansing the air of Tea Tree, balance of the Rose Geranium, the antifungal quality of the Palmarosa and the stimulation of the Rosemary. I urge you not to use Lemongrass in a diffuser in a child’s room.

Pleasant Room Diffuser Formula for Clean Air

Mix equal quantities of these essential oils. And use them in a spray bottle or diffuser.
Lavender, Lemon oil, Lemongrass, and Thyme CT. linalool essential oils
These are all good for purification and clean air.


BLENDING: Both types of Lemongrass blend well with many different oils. Remember if you want a stronger citrus scent, use C. citratus and if you want a more medicinal scent use C. flexuosus. Blends well with Atlas Cedar, Basil, Coriander Rose Geranium Jasmine, Lavender, Neroli, Palmarosa, Rosemary and Tea Tree.





HYDROSOL: Lemongrass hydrosol is useful in many types of skin care products from simple facial spray as a toner to being added to lotions or creams or body washes as a cleansing refreshing astringent. It is healing to the skin and works especially well in combination with other hydrosols from Lavender to Rosemary. Lemongrass has a very refreshing smell that adds to the products. It is especially pleasant as an after-shave spray.


Energetics-Emotional Use: Personally, I prefer the citratus type of Lemongrass as it has the most citrus forward scent. I find it to be rather sedating to my nerves and thus inhale the diluted scent when I have a stressful doctor’s appointment or nerve-wracking commute. Worwood mentions that it is an oil to help ‘one to focus’ – I assume on whatever the task is at hand.


Internal Usage in humans: Cooking with the herb: “Although the two species of Lemongrass can almost be used interchangeably, C. citratus is more relevant for cooking. In India, it is cultivated as a medical herb and for perfumes, but not used as a spice; in the rest of tropical Asia (Sri Lanka and even more Southeast Asia), it is an important culinary herb and spice.” The fresh taste of lemon grass is typical for Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka. The spice is most popular in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia and on the Indonesian islands. In Thailand, finely ground fresh lemon grass is added to curry pastes. Its fine fragrance goes well with poultry, fish and sea food. Vietnamese cookery, being much less spiced, makes use of lemon grass in several ways. “C. citratus or Lemongrass is an herb much used in tea blends”. — from Jeanne Rose “The Herbal Guide to Food”, p. 81.

Lemon is much used in cooking but because of the citral content of Lemongrass, it is often substituted for Lemon. In this respect, Citral is equivalent to about fifteen times its volume of oil of lemon.

7.C. citratus from the market

HERBAL USES OF LEMONGRASS: This plant is basically a tropical grass. It is used herbally in bath herbs, facial herbs, and hair rinse herbs. It is used to normalize overactive oil glands and thus is useful for both dry and oily skin for dandruff and other related skin problems. Lemongrass herb in shampoos and hair rinses is very healing to the overactive sebaceous glands. It is aromatic, astringent and cleansing. There are plenty of recipes and formulas in my Herbal Body Book that can be used for dandruff, seborrhea, greasy skin. Herbs are wonderful to be mixed with the essential oil and the hydrosol.

SCALY SCALP RINSE ~ If your symptoms are dry scalp, over-oily hair, inflamed hair roots or overactive oil glands, it is possible that your synthetic diet and stressful life may be the cause. The cure can be as simple as a Lemongrass herbal rinse or even any of the herbal rinses for dandruff that are mentioned in The Herbal Body Book by Jeanne Rose. See pages 289-291.

OILY HAIR SHAMPOO ~ Get equal quantities of chopped Lemongrass, Lemon peel, Willow bark and Witch Hazel bark or leaves. Mix them together and store in a glass light-proof container (add a dark label to the glass to keep it light-proof). When needed take ½ oz. of the mixed herbs and bring to a boil with 1-quart of water. Turn heat off and infuse until cool enough to use. Split into 2 parts. Add half of this infusion to up to 1-oz. of your regular shampoo. Keep the balance for the hair rinse.
To Use: Now wet hair thoroughly and apply ½ of the Lemongrass shampoo and lather. Massage into the scalp. Rinse and do it again with the 2nd half of the shampoo. Rinse thoroughly and use the last of the Lemongrass infusion as a rinse for the hair. You may or may not need to use conditioner. If you need conditioner, you can use the last of the infusion with a tablespoon or your conditioner to get the right ‘feel’ to your hair.


4 drops – Lemongrass oil, either species
2 drops – Juniper CO2
1 drop – Vetivert
13 drops Olive oil or other carrier
Mix the essential oils and add to the Olive oil or other carrier of your choice such as an unscented creamy lotion. This would be dabbed on the problems areas, especially as a nighttime remedy.

Measured by weight – one formula was as follows.
Olive = 40.485
Vetivert – 27.71
Juniper CO2 – 27.67
Lemongrass 27.62
Beaker 27.54

 WHITEN AND LIGHTEN SKIN ~ A Formula by Jeanne Rose
Will help lighten the dark nether regions and elbows, knees, toes, knuckles.
You can also use up to 4% contents of hydroquinone, a substance used to lighten dark skin, Lemon juice
Herb Tea liquid – make it strong = 1-cup
Use equal quantities of the chopped fresh or dried herb. Up to 2 T. of each fresh or 1 T. dried.
………White lily root juice or chopped root – bleaches
………Lemongrass herb – vitamin A
………Chamomile herb – soothes
………Willow Bark or Wintergreen herb (natural aspirin-bleaches and exfoliates)
Make a strong infusion with the above herbs. Measure out 1 cup.
………Add Witch hazel extract – ¼ cup or 25% of total. You now have 1 ¼ cups.
………Add ¼ cup Flax seed oil (DHA) = 1 ½ cups
To 1.5 cups of liquid (water and oil), add ¼ cup Lemon juice (you may want to choose between this and hydroquinone).
……..Add 5 drops Lemongrass essential oil and 5 drops Rosemary oil
You can now add the hydroquinone or whatever you can find that bleaches best.

Application: apply to the area at least twice a day with a cotton ball. The herb tea liquid will last about 3-days in the refrigerator and then has to be remade. Apply 10-days on and leave off 10 days.

Natural Life: Eat the correct foods that contain DHA. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid. Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is an omega-3 fatty acid. It is found in cold water fatty fish and fish oil supplements, along with eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Vegetarian sources of DHA come from seaweed. DHA is essential for the proper functioning of our brains as adults, and for the development of our nervous system and visual abilities during the first 6 months of life. In addition, omega-3 fatty acids are part of a healthy diet that helps lower risk of heart disease. Our bodies naturally produce small amounts of DHA, but we must get the amounts we need from our diet or supplements. Most people in the Western world do not get enough omega-3 fatty acids in their diet.


Toxicity: Lemongrass can be very irritating, it is best to use in moderation and always diluted. Personally, I would not use this oil on babies, children or the elderly. Do not diffuse without diluting with other high-alcohol essential oils such as Lavender.

            The internet states that “It is POSSIBLY SAFE applied to the skin short-term for medicinal purposes. However, there have been some toxic side effects, such as lung problems after inhaling lemongrass and a fatal poisoning after a child swallowed a lemongrass oil-based insect repellent.”


SAFETY PRECAUTIONS: When used externally in moderation and with other essential oils and a carrier it is non-toxic and non-irritating. Do not diffuse or use for children.

Precautions: General Precautions for Essential Oils.

As with all essential oils, do not use undiluted, do not use directly in eyes or on mucus membranes. Do not take internally unless advised by a qualified and expert practitioner. Keep away from children.


Patch Test:  If applying a new essential oil to your skin always perform a patch test to the inner arm (after you have diluted the EO in a vegetable carrier oil).

                  Wash an area of your forearm about the size of a quarter and dry carefully. Apply a diluted drop (1 drop EO + 1 drop carrier) to the area. Then apply a loose Band-Aid and wait 24 hours. If there is no reaction then go ahead and use the oil in your formulas. —The Aromatherapy Book, Applications & Inhalations, p. 64


Science Abstracts:



            Many years ago, when I first became interested in phytotherapy, this herb was extremely difficult to get, and sold for over $15.00 per pound. Now, of course, the price has been drastically reduced and the plant is easily available in the herb store as well as on the grocery store shelves.  It is used in fish cookery, herbal vinegars and salad dressings, and wherever a robust Lemon flavor is desired.  Lemongrass oil is extracted for its high Vitamin A contents; most vegetarian capsules of vitamin A are composed of this oil less the irritating principle.

Many times, I have opened a bottle of the essential oil only to be bitten on the nose by its high level of citral contained in the oil. This is good for herpes sores on the nose and lips but it does ‘bite hard’ while it heals.

Lemongrass has never been a favorite although now with the lowered intensity of the oil, I am more favorable to using it. Over the years, I have noticed that the essential oil is less intense both in color and in scent. I prefer the scent of West Indian Lemongrass, Cymbopogon citratus, to the C. flexuosus and will use it whenever I can get it.



Guenther, Ernest. The Essential Oils. Published by Krieger.
Journal of Essential Oil Research,
Mabberley, D. J. Mabberley’s Plant-Book. 3rd edition 2008, reprinted with corrections 2014.
Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols.
Rose, Jeanne. The Aromatherapy Book, Applications & Inhalations.
Rose, Jeanne. The Herbal Body Book. Frog, Ltd. Berkeley, CA. 1990
Rose, Jeanne. The Herbal Guide to Food. North Atlantic Books, Berkeley, CA. p. 81
Sonali Sinha, Manivannan Jothiramajayam, Manosij Ghosh, Anita Mukherjee Food and Chemical Toxicology Volume 68, June 2014, Pages 71–77, Evaluation of toxicity of essential oils Palmarosa, citronella, —————-lemongrass and vetiver in human lymphocytes
DISCLAIMER:  This work is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for accurate diagnosis and treatment by a qualified health care professional. Dosages are often not given, as that is a matter between you and your health care provider. The author is neither a chemist nor a medical doctor.  The content herein is the product of research and some personal and practical experience. Institute of Aromatic & Herbal Studies – Jeanne Rose©
This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.




Please refer to my blog for the profiles of these grasses.

Chrysopogon zizanioides is commonly known as Vetiver, a bunch grass whose roots are used.
Vetiveria) zizanioides) Vetivert (Chrysopogon zizanioides)

Cymbopogon citratus West Indian Lemongrass;

Cymbopogon flexuosus is East Indian Lemongrass

Cymbopogon martini var. motia is Palmarosa grass, syn. Andropogon martini or Cymbopogon martinii.

Cymbopogon martinii var. sofia is Gingergrass

Cymbopogon nardus is Citronella grass.

Photo Courtesy of Institute of Holistic Phyto-Aromatherapy ~ Reta Parker and Lemongrass


A spray with Lemongrass hydrosol
Will make you feel good and feel tall
It will act on your skin
And will heal your sore chin
And heal anything short of a fall…JeanneRose2014



~ JR ~

5 thoughts on “~ Lemongrass ~ EO PROFILE & Herbal Use

  1. This amazing compilation of facts and everday uses with suggestions in the use of Lemongrass has contributed greatly to my knowledge of blending different types of hydrosols.

    I have recently struggled with the right vocabulary to describe the scent of this herb. Ms Rose has helped me express my research and products with descriptions that all can relate too.

    Priceless info…
    Joanne Leilani

  2. Thanks, Joanne. The description of the odors was the result of using my “the Basic 7, Vocabulary of Odors” which I know that you know. Lemongrass (both species) was fun to do.

  3. Pingback: VETIVER PLANT/VETIVERT EO PROFILE | Jeanne Rose Aromatherapy Blog

  4. This is absolutely for me! I have a good source for lemongrass and distill it to make my laundry detergent. It has such a marvelous smell.

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