This stalky, grassy plant with its lemony scent grows in many tropical or temperate climates, especially in Southeast-Asia, and is aptly named Lemon Grass.
You can grow it elsewhere too – we had a prolific plant in our street garden in Cape Town and it grew so well, providing good cover and habitat for birds and chameleons, that we had to cut it back from time to time when it started to dwarf everything else in the garden.
A common ingredient in Thai cooking, lemon grass provides a zesty lemon flavor and aroma to many Thai dishes. It is also known as "fever grass" because it was used as a cholera and/or fever remedy in the traditional Ayurvedic medical treatments of India. In fact, lemon grass has become one of the ten best selling essential oils in the world - bought and used by culinary artists, aromatherapists and alternative medical practitioners alike.
Many grow this grass in their gardens (particularly in Asia) so that they can make use of its many health benefits – those essential oils, chemicals, minerals and vitamins that are known to have anti-oxidant and disease preventing properties.
Some of those great benefits
- Research conducted in 2010 at the National Defense Medical College in Japan found lemon grass to be a therapeutic treatment for inflammatory bowel disease – it has the ability to inhibit excessive production of leukocytes, a type of white blood cell, from reaching inflamed intestines.
- Australian lemongrass is used by Aboriginal Australians as traditional medicine. A five-year study by a team at Griffith University in Australia confirmed that lemongrass is as good as aspirin for treating headaches, and it is also an effective migraine treatment.
- The primary chemical component in lemongrass herb is citral or lemonal, an aldehyde responsible for its unique lemon odor but citral also has strong anti-microbial and anti-fungal properties.
- The leaves and stems are rich in folic acid - folates are important in cell division and DNA synthesis. When given during the peri-conception period, folic acid can help prevent neural tube defects in the baby.
- Its herb parts are also rich in essential B vitamins as well as containing small amounts of vitamins C and A. Minerals too can be found such as potassium, zinc, calcium, iron, manganese, copper and magnesium.
Use lemon grass for these home remedies
- For cleaning the liver, kidney, pancreas, digestive tract and the bladder while eliminating toxic substances and improving the digestive system.
- For fever, coughs and colds.
- To help lessen the effects of stress and pain while lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- For gout, diarrhea and stomach ache, menstrual problems and as a natural acne treatment.
When shopping for lemon grass
If you are unable to grow your own supply in your garden, then fresh lemon grass stalks and leaf buds are generally available around the year from a herb or health store or an Asian market.
Choose lemon grass leaves and stems with a fresh and lemon-like flavor plus a hint of rose fragrance. Avoid any leaves that are discolored, yellow or spotted. Wash the stems in clean cold water before air drying. Separate the leaves from the stem and if you are not going to use straight away, place lemon grass stems in a zip pouch, and keep separately in the refrigerator to prevent its flavor spreading to other foods. This herb can stray fresh for 2 to 3 weeks. You can even freeze them for several months at a time.
The easiest way to take lemon grass is by making a tea
Pound a 1 inch (2 cm) piece of lemon grass, put it in a cup and fill with boiling water. Leave it to brew for five minutes with an occasional stir before drinking.