Learning About Lemongrass

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) belongs to the family Poaceae, along with bambooblack rice, brown ricewheat, corn, oats, barley, millet, and rye, plus many other grasses.

Most of the species of lemon grass are native to South Asia, South-east Asia and Australia. Lemongrass was reportedly being distilled for export as early as the 17th century in the Philippines. It has been a favorite oil in India for hundreds of years and is known locally as choomana poolu, which refers to the plant’s red grass stems. Lemongrass was introduced to Jamaica in 1799. Indigenous Australians used lemongrass leaves for a drink and applied it to sore eyes, cuts, and skin conditions as a wash.

In 1905 a Sri Lankan researcher called Mr. J.F Jovit had acquired several plants of “Kochin Sera” from the south India and had planted them at Bandarawela Farm for research purposes. Lemongrass was introduced to Haiti and and the United States in 1917. First commercial cultivation of lemon grass was reported in Florida and Haiti in 1947.  The first samples of the closely related citronella oil were displayed at the World’s Fair at London’s Crystal Palace in 1951.

Today, lemongrass is grown commercially in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and China.
The main chemical component found in lemongrass is citral, an aromatic compound, also known as lemonal. Citral is used in perfumes because of its lemon odor. It is the presence of citral which accounts for lemongrass’ lemon scent. The compounds myrcene, citronellal, geranyl acetate, nerol and geraniol are found in varying quantities in citral. Myrcene, geraniol and nerol contribute to lemongrass’ strong fragrance. Geranyl acetate is a flavoring agent.
Campesterol in lemongrass prevents the absorption of “bad” LDL cholesterol, balances blood cholesterol levels, and displays anti-inflammatory properties, which may make it beneficial for arthritis and cardiovascular diseases, among other health conditions.
Lemongrass can:
  1. Fight free radicals. Manganese in lemongrass is a co-factor for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase, which disarms free radicals produced within the mitochondria (the energy production factories within your cells).
  2. Build strong bodies. Manganese in lemongrass activates enzymes for using several key nutrients, and facilitates protein and carbohydrate metabolism and formation of bone. Iron is an integral component of hemoglobin, which transports oxygen from the lungs to all body cells, and is also part of key enzyme systems for energy production and metabolism. Potassium in lemongrass regulates muscle contraction, including heart rythym, regulates nerve transmission; stores carbohydrates for muscles to use as fuel, promotes regular muscle growth, maintains proper electrolyte and acid-base (pH) balance; lowers blood pressure by counteracting the detrimental effects of sodium and regulating fluid balance, and maintains the density and strength of bones by decreasing urinary calcium loss. Folate in lemongrass acts as a co-factor for enzymes involved in the synthesis of DNA, supports red blood cell production and helps prevent anemia, supports cell production, especially in your skin, allows nerves to function properly, helps prevent neural tube defects in fetuses, helps prevent osteoporosis-related bone fractures, and helps prevent dementias including Alzheimer’s disease.
  3. Lower your heart attack risk. Potassium in lemongrass regulates muscle contraction, including heart rythym, and lowers blood pressure by counteracting the detrimental effects of sodium and regulating fluid balance. Folate in lemongrass helps lower levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that is an independent risk factor for heart attack, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease.  Magnesium in lemongrass is a calcium channel blocker that relaxes your veins and arteries, which reduces resistance and improves the flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients throughout your body. A deficiency of magnesium is not only associated with heart attack but that immediately following a heart attack, lack of sufficient magnesium promotes free radical injury to the heart. Campesterol in lemongrass prevents the absorption of “bad” LDL cholesterol, balances blood cholesterol levels, and displays anti-inflammatory properties, which may make it beneficial for cardiovascular diseases, among other health conditions.
  4. Fight infections. Citral is an antimicrobial and can destroy or inhibit microorganisms. It also has antifungal properties.
  5. Repel insects. The citronella in lemongrass has pheromonal qualities, and acts as an insecticide.
  6. Help you use vitamin A. Lemongrass has a positive effective on your body’s ability to use vitamin A.
  7. Improve circulation. Lemongrass has rubefacient properties, meaning that it may be able to improve blood circulation.
  8. Relieve colds and fever. Used to alleviate certain respiratory conditions including laryngitis and sore throats, lemongrass has an anti-pyretic property, which reduces high fevers. Called fevergrass in some cultures, the vapor is inhaled, leading to increased perspiration and eventually the lowering of fever.
  9. Relieve pain and aid in healing. Campesterol in lemongrass displays anti-inflammatory properties, which may make it beneficial for arthritis, among other health conditions. Lemongrass has powerful pain relieving properties. It helps to alleviate muscle spasms by relaxing the muscles, leading to the reduction of pain-related symptoms. It is thus useful for all types of pain including abdominal pain, headaches, joint pains, muscle pains, digestive tract spasms, muscle cramps, stomachache and others. This remedy has also been linked to increasing the body’s ability to repair damaged connective tissue such as cartilage, ligaments and tendons and is thus recommended for these types of injuries.

Nutrients in 100 grams of lemongrass

Nutrient Amount Daily Value
manganese

5.2 mg

261%
iron

8.2 mg

45%
potassium

723 mg

21%
folate

75 µg

19%
magnesium

60 mg

15%
zinc

2.2 mg

15%
copper

0.3 mg

13%
phosphorus

101 mg

10%
carbohydrates

25.3 g

8%
riboflavin

0.1 mg

8%
calcium

65 mg

7%
niacin

1.1 mg

6%
Calories

99

5%
vitamin C

2.6 mg

4%
protein

1.8 g

4%
thiamine

0.1 mg

4%
vitamin B6

0.1 mg

4%
selenium

0.7 mcg

1%
fat 0.5 g 1%
pantothenic acid

0.1 mg

1%
vitamin A

6 IU

0.75%
sodium

6 mg

0.25%
cholesterol

0 mg

0%

Fresh lemongrass stalks and leaf buds are available all year in local markets. Choose fresh lemongrass leaves and stems with a fresh fragrance of lemon and a hint of rose. Avoid yellow discolored and spotted leaves.

Once at home, wash stems in clean cold water. Air-dry. Separate leaves from the stem. Place lemongrass stems in a sealed container, and keep it separately inside the refrigerator as the herb tends to spread its flavor to other foods. Stored this way, it stays fresh for up to 2-3 weeks.
The stems can also be frozen and keep well in this condition for several months.
Dry and ground lemongrass powder (sereh powder) may also be available in the markets. Buy from organic sources. Keep the dried herb in an airtight container and place it in a cool, dark and dry place, where it will keep fresh for several months.
The most common preparation of lemongrass for tea consumption involves picking and leaving the leaves to dry. The dried leaves are brewed in hot water for a few minutes. After straining the leaf residue, you can add sweeter. For flavoring recipes the crushed or pulverized dried leaves are added during meal preparation. They add a unique citrus flavor to recipes.
You can use lemongrass in many East Asian dishes. Use fresh chopped stems and leaf buds, as well as dried or ground herb parts, in cooking.

The herb imparts distinctive lemon flavor when cut or crushed, due to the release of the essential oil citral. Before eating, discard tough stems and fibers as they aren’t easy to chew.

Here are some serving tips:

  • Lemongrass is widely used in soups, stir-fries, marinades, and curries in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Philippines, and Indonesia.
  • Tom yum is a favorite soup name in Thailand made of fresh lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, galangal, lime juice, and crushed chili peppers.
  • Lemongrass tea is a very refreshing beverage.
  • The fine buds and stems used as a garnish in salads.
  • Ground dried lemon grass powder (sereh powder) is used in place of stems in marinades in Indonesia.
  • Lemmongrass is also used as flavoring base in pickles.

This blog uses the latest nutritional data available from the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), and the FDA (United States Food and Drug Administration), as well as nutritional data provided by food growers and manufacturers about their products. We believe the information on this website to be accurate. However, we are not responsible for typographical or other errors. Nutrition information for recipes is calculated by Living Cookbook based on the ingredients in each recipe based on statistical averages. Nutrition may vary based on methods of preparation, origin and freshness of ingredients, and other factors.

This blog is not a substitute for the services of a trained health professional. Although we provide nutritional information, the information on this blog is for informational purposes only. No information offered by or through this blog shall be construed as or understood to be medical advice or care. None of the information on this blog should be used to diagnose or treat any health problem or disease. Consult with a health care provider before taking any product or using any information on this blog. Please discuss any concerns with your health care provider.

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