The Tradition of Lemongrass

The Tradition of Lemongrass

The Tradition of LemongrassBy Eleanor Athens

The lemongrass plant (cymbopogon citratus) is a native of India and Sri Lanka. Lemongrass is perhaps best known for its appearance in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. However, the extract and essential oil are also very important to the perfume and cosmetics industries. Lemongrass has long been used in traditional Indian medicine to fight fever and infection, giving it the alternate common name of fevergrass.

Citral, the major chemical constituent of lemongrass essential oil, is used as a perfume and flavoring. The oil itself is antiseptic, antibacterial, and antiviral. It also has good deodorising properties. In aromatherapy lemongrass is used as an antidepressant, to soothe aches and pains, and to relieve stress.

Lemongrass does well with full sun and good drainage. Native to tropical habitats, it prefers humidity and uniform rainfall. However, with some help, it will tolerate a range of climates. This plant is a semi-hardy perennial that goes dormant in the winter. If you live where it snows, lemongrass should be potted and brought indoors. It spreads through underground shoots, and can be propagated through division.

Tall, densely tufted, aromatic clumping stalks of light green blades make lemongrass a useful ornamental. Located behind shorter plants in a border or bed it will add texture and movement. It also makes a nice upright focal point for the center of a pot planting. With heights from three to six feet and a speedy growth, lemongrass can make an great impact in the garden.

I have had great success growing lemongrass from store-bought stalks. If you can't find it at your local supermarket, many Asian groceries carry it. Try to find spears with fresh, fat, light-green bases. The leaves should be tightly wrapped, not dry or curling. Peel off the outer leaves. Place the stalk upright in a bottle or jar of water in a sunny location. It may take a couple of weeks for them to root. Once they do, plant your lemongrass outside or in a pot. Mine are doing very well indoors by a window.

Always be careful when making your own skin care products to read the ingredient list and avoid anything which you are sensitive to. If any persistent stinging or redness occurs, thoroughly cleanse the area and rinse well with cool water. Sometimes skin sensitivities can develop seemingly out of the blue. If this happens, discontinue use. When working with essential oils, remember how potent they can be. It takes perhaps 10 pounds of lavender to make just one ounce of the essential oil. Also, it is best to consult your doctor before using essential oils if you are pregnant or epileptic.

Lemongrass Bug Begone

7 drops lemongrass essential oil
3 drops lemon balm essential oil
3 drops rosemary, basil, or eucalyptus essential oil
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil (look for expeller-pressed on the label of your carrier oil: grapeseed, sweet almond and apricot kernel are just a few of those aromatherapists commonly select)

Shake ingredients together in a clean glass bottle. Apply to exposed skin, keeping out of eyes. Store tightly capped out of direct light. OR, substitute 3 Tbsp. water for the oil, and keep in a small mister in the refrigerator. Very good for hot summers!

Florida Water Eau de Cologne

1/4 cup vodka
5 cloves
2 Tbsp. thinly sliced lemongrass
1/2 cinnamon stick (about 2 inches long)
1 Tbsp. lemon peel
2 Tbsp. orange flower water
3 Tbsp. distilled water

Place dry ingredients in jar and cover with vodka. Let stand for a week, shaking daily. At the end of the week strain, and add orange flower water and distilled water. Pour into mister or diffuser, and use as perfume.

About the author:

Eleanor Athens is the founder of E aromachologic fragrance oils; scents created from pure essential oils and perfumer's absolutes. Her interests in phyto- and aromatherapy led to the creation of a fragrance line that uses natural, organic, and cruelty-free ingredients to enhance the well-being of the wearer. Email her at or visit her website.



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