The Benefits of Lemongrass Essential Oil

lemongrass
Lemongrass essential oil is sourced from lemongrass. Joff Lee/Photlibrary/Getty Images

With its fresh, citrusy scent, lemongrass essential oil is a type of essential oil often used in aromatherapy. Inhaling the scent of the oil (or using the oil in carrier oils, body oils, and hair and skin products) is said to offer a variety of benefits. 

One of the main components of lemongrass essential oil is citral, a compound found to act as an antimicrobial (a substance that destroys or suppresses the growth of microorganisms, including bacteria and fungi).

Lemongrass essential oil also contains limonene, a compound shown to reduce inflammation and knock out bacteria in scientific research.

How Does It Work?

In aromatherapy, inhaling the aroma of lemongrass essential oil (or absorbing lemongrass essential oil through the skin) is thought to transmit messages to a brain region involved in controlling emotions.

Known as the limbic system, this brain region also influences the nervous system. Aromatherapy proponents suggest that essential oils may affect a number of biological factors, including heart rate, stress levels, blood pressure, breathing, and immune function.

Uses

In aromatherapy, lemongrass essential oil is typically used for the following problems:

  • Acne
  • Anxiety
  • Athlete's foot
  • Excessive sweating
  • Headaches
  • Indigestion
  • Muscle aches

In addition, lemongrass essential oil is said to act as a natural insect repellent and is used as an air freshener.

Lemongrass essential oil is also used to alleviate stress and relieve pain.

The Benefits

So far, the health effects of aromatherapeutic use of lemongrass essential oil have been tested in very few scientific studies. Still, some preliminary research indicates that lemongrass essential oil may offer certain benefits.

1) Hair

Lemongrass oil may help fight dandruff, according to a 2015 study.

Participants in the study, who all had dandruff, used a hair tonic containing lemongrass essential oil (Cymbopogon flexuosus) or a placebo twice a day for 14 days. By the study's end, particpants showed a significant decrease in dandruff after using the hair tonic with lemongrass essential oil.

2) Skin

Several studies (including a 2015 report published in the International Journal of Nanomedicine) suggest that lemongrass essential oil may help inhibit the growth of certain fungi (such as Candida albicans, a fungus known to contribute to yeast infections). However, there is currently a lack of clinical trials testing the use of lemongrass essential oil to treat of any type of fungal infection.

Lemongrass essential oil may help with a fungal infection called pityriasis versicolor, according to a 2013 study. For the study, participants used a shampoo and cream containing lemongrass essential oil or 2 percent ketpconazole (a medication used to treat fungal infections). The shampoo was used three times a week and the cream, twice a day. After 40 days of treatment, the mycological cure rate was 60 percent in those treated with lemongrass essential oil and over 80 percent in those using ketoconazole.

3) Anxiety

Although there's limited evidence on the effectiveness of lemongrass essential oil as an anxiety remedy, one preliminary study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine suggests that brief exposure may possess anti-anxiety properties.

Participants in the study inhaled lemongrass oil (three or six drops), tea tree oil (three drops), or distilled water (three drops). Immediately after the inhalation, each study participant took a color and word test. Those who inhaled the lemongrass essential oil had a reduction in anxiety and tension and were quicker to recover from the anxiety than those who took the tea tree oil.

Tips on Using It

When combined with a carrier oil (such as jojoba, sweet almond, or avocado), lemongrass essential oil can be applied directly to the skin or added to baths in small amounts.

Lemongrass essential oil can also be inhaled after sprinkling a drop of the oil onto a cloth or tissue, or by using an aromatherapy diffuser or vaporizer.

Possible Side Effects

Lemongrass essential oil shouldn't be taken internally without the supervision of a health professional. Internal use of lemongrass essential oil may have toxic effects.

In addition, some individuals may experience irritation when applying lemongrass essential oil to the skin. A skin patch test should be done before using any essential oil.

The oil should always be diluted in a carrier oil before using it on skin and shouldn't be used in the eyes or mucous membranes. The oil is absorbed by the skin and toxicity can occur if too much is used.

Pregnant or nursing women, children, and people with liver or kidney disease or other health conditions should consult with their health care providers before using essential oils.

It's also important to note that self-treating a chronic condition with lemongrass essential oil and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. Learn more about how to use ​essential oil safely.

Where to Find It

Here are some tips on purchasing essential oils.

Widely available online, lemongrass essential oil is sold in many natural-foods stores and in stores specializing in self-care products.

Sources:

Aldawsari HM, Badr-Eldin SM, Labib GS, El-Kamel AH. Design and formulation of a topical hydrogel integrating lemongrass-loaded nanosponges with an enhanced antifungal effect: in vitro/in vivo evaluation. Int J Nanomedicine. 2015 Jan 29;10:893-902. 

Carmo ES, Pereira Fde O, Cavalcante NM, Gayoso CW, Lima Ede O. Treatment of pityriasis versicolor with topical application of essential oil of Cymbopogon citratus (DC) Stapf - therapeutic pilot study. An Bras Dermatol. 2013 May-Jun;88(3):381-5.

Chaisripipat W, Lourith N, Kanlayavattanakul M. Anti-dandruff Hair Tonic Containing Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus) Oil. Forsch Komplementmed. 2015;22(4):226-9. 

Goes TC, Ursulino FR, Almeida-Souza TH, Alves PB, Teixeira-Silva F. Effect of Lemongrass Aroma on Experimental Anxiety in Humans. J Altern Complement Med. 2015 Dec;21(12):766-73. 

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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