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Source: PDR for Herbal Medicines
Publication Date: 01-JUN-06
Lemongrass. (Drug overview)

Cymbopogon citratus


Medicinal Parts: The medicinal parts are the dried leaves and the oil.

CYMBOPOGON CITRATUS (Ini yang kita bakal tanam)

Flower and Fruit: The flowers are 30 cm long and have false spikes with reddish brown sheaths 15 to 25 mm long. The racemes are 15 to 17 mm long. The sessile spikelet is 6 mm long and the upper spelts are 0.7 mm wide, lanceolate, narrowly winged, flattened at the back, slightly concave, and ribless in the lower part. The stemmed spikelet is 4.5 mm long, and the lower spelt is 0.7 mm wide. Inflorescences are rarely formed on this variety.

Leaves, Stem, and Root: Cymbopogon citratus is a perennial plant with a smooth and glabrous stalk up to 2 m. The leaf blade is linear, acuminate, up to 90 cm long and 5 mm wide and smooth on both sides. The leaf sheaths are round, glabrous, and smooth. The ligule is paperlike and less than 1 mm long.


Flower and Fruit: The inflorescence is very large and consists of a 1-m long spike with numerous racemes up to 20 mm long and arranged in zigzag configuration. The sessile spike is 5 mm long. The lower spelt is oblong-lanceolate, usually flat, narrowly winged with 3 ribs. The awn, if there is one, is 5 mm long. The petiolar spike is 5 mm long, and the lower spelt lanceolate has 7 ribs.

Leaves, Stem, and Root: Cymbopogon nardus is a perennial plant with a stalk that grows up to 2 to 2.5 m. It is smooth and glabrous. The leaf blade is up to 1 m long and 1.5 cm wide and usually light green. The upper surface is smooth, the lower surface and the margin are rough. The leaf sheaths are glabrous and yellowish-green. The basal leaf sheaths are also glabrous but green to reddish. The ligule is paper-like and about 1 mm long.

Characteristics: Cymbopogon species have essential oils in tubelike cells with corked walls.

Habitat: Citronella grass was originally indigenous to the tropics and the subtropics of the Old World. Today it is cultivated in Central and South America and Queensland, Australia.

Production: Lemongrass consists of the above-ground parts of Cymbopogon citratus. West Indian Lemongrass oil consists of the essential oil from Cymbopogon citratus. Citronella oil consists of the essential oil from Cymbopogon winterianus.

Other Names: Citronella, Fevergrass



Volatile oil (0.2-0.4%)


Citral (65-86%)

Myrcene (12-20%)


Citronellal (32-45%)

Geraniol (12-25%)

Geranyl acetate (3-8%)

Citronellyl acetate (1-4%)


Lemongrass is used for headache, flu, rheumatism, and muscle cramping. Aromatherapists recommend lemongrass oil, massaged into joints and muscles, to relieve stiffness. It is thought that the oil decreases lactic acid buildup in muscles. Lemongrass is also used as an anticoagulant. Lemongrass oil, diluted in a carrier oil, is used for oily hair, acne, scabies, ringworm, and other skin infections. The fragrance is used for its calming effect. Lemongrass leaf applied directly to the skin is an effective insect repellent.

Human studies show that powdered lemongrass leaf tea does not improve sleep or anxiety. Animal studies have shown that oral doses of lemongrass are inactive. Animal studies have also shown that lemongrass leaf decoction has a weak diuretic effect, has a minimal effect on inflammation as compared to indomethacin, and that the chemosuppressive effect of lemongrass was slightly less than pyrimethamine. In a controlled study of mice, lemongrass exhibited schizontocidal and prophylactic activity. In vitro studies have shown that main components of pure lemongrass oil, citral (neral and geranial) and myrcene have antibacterial, fungistatic, and fungicidal activity; in higher doses, the oil has a sedative/analgesic effect. In rats, IV administration of an infusion caused a drop in arterial pressure and a mild diuretic effect. The oral administration of an imprecise amount of extract caused a drop in temperature and tendency to lengthen intestinal passage time. Because of the small number of experiments carried out, a hypotensive action cannot be considered as conclusively proved. A controlled study of 32 rats showed lemongrass leaf decoction to have a weak diuretic effect (Carbajal et al, 1989).

Antibacterial Effects: The antibacterial activity of lemongrass is primarily due to the constituents' neral and geranial. The essential oil of lemongrass has exhibited antibacterial effects against several different types of bacteria (Hammer et al, 1999; Pattnaik et al, 1996).

Lemongrass essential oil inhibited numerous gram-negative and gram-positive organisms in vitro at concentrations less than or equal to 2.0%(v/v) (Hammer et al, 1999). Gram-positive organisms are more sensitive to lemongrass oil than are gram-negative organisms. Lemongrass oil is rapidly bactericidal against E coli and B subtilis. The antibacterial activity of lemongrass is impacted by pH and inoculum size. Increased pH values to the alkaline region increased antibacterial activity of lemongrass oil (Onawunmi & Ogunlana, 1986).

Anti-Inflammatory Effects: In a study of twenty rats, carageenan-induced edema was inhibited by 18.6% in rats receiving oral doses of a 20% lemongrass leaf decoction as compared to 58.6% in the control group of rats receiving indomethacin (Carbajal et al, 1989). Myrcene appears to exert a peripheral analgesic effect in rats that is different than aspirin (or related drugs) in mechanism (Lorenzetti et al, 1991).

Antifungal Effects: Lemongrass essential oil inhibited Candida albicans in vitro at concentrations of less than or equal to 2.0%(v/v) (Hammer et al, 1999). Lemongrass oil has demonstrated antifungal activity against several different types of fungi (Pattnaik et al, 1996).

Chemoprotective Effects: Lemongrass extract significantly inhibited the formation of DNA adducts and aberrant crypt foci formation (Suaeyun et al, 1997).


Bacterial Infections

Three main components of pure lemongrass oil, citral, neral/geranial, and myrcene, have been shown to have antibacterial activity of varying degrees with Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus subtilis, and Escherichia coli. Myrcene showed no significant antibacterial effect on its own; however, it enhanced the antibacterial activity of neral and geranial. Neral and geranial were active against E coli, Staph aureus, and B subtilis. E coli was most resistant of the three, then S aureus, and B subtilis were most sensitive. Pseudomonas aeruginosa was resistant to pure lemongrass oil and citral (neral and geranial) (Onawunmi et al, 1984).


Lemongrass extract (80% ethanol) significantly inhibited the formation of DNA adducts, 7-meG and O6-meG, in the colonic mucosa and muscular layer (but not the liver) of azoxymethane-treated rats. Rats were administered lemongrass, 0.5 g or 5 g/kg body weight, by intragastric gavage for 1 week prior to injection with azoxymethane (AOM). AOM-injected rats were continuously treated with lemongrass extract and sacrificed 3 weeks after the second AOM injection. Lemongrass significantly inhibited aberrant crypt foci formation at a dose of 0.5 g/kg in both initiation (p<0.0005) style="font-weight: bold; font-style: italic;">Fungal Infections

In vitro studies have demonstrated that lemongrass oil has fungistatic and fungicidal activity. Microsporum gypseum was the most susceptible and Aspergillus fumigatus the least susceptible of those organisms studied. Candida albicans, Candida pseudotropicalis, and Trichophyton mentagrophytes were also susceptible to lemongrass oil. Constituents of lemongrass oil, neral, geranial, and citronellal also showed good antifungal activity. Lemongrass constituents dipentene and myrcene showed no fungistatic or fungicidal activity (Onawunmi, 1989).


Unproven Uses: Externally, Lemongrass is used for lumbago, neuralgic and rheumatic pain, sprains, and as a mild astringent. Internally, the herb is used for gastrointestinal symptoms, and mild states of agitation.

Indian Medicine: Lemongrass is used for intestinal parasites, stomach complaints, flatulence, leprosy, bronchitis, and fever.


Pregnancy: Not to be used during pregnancy.


No adverse effects have been reported. The application of salves with the volatile oil upon the skin has led in rare cases to signs of allergy. A toxic alveolitis was observed in 2 cases following inhalation of the volatile oil.

Drug Interactions: No human interaction data available.


How Supplied: Tea

Daily Dose: 2 g of dried leaf in 150 mL of water. Dosage equals approximately 2.0 mL/kg of body weight. Two fresh minced leaves or 2 g of powdered dried leaf is used (Carlini et al, 1986, Souza Formigoni et al, 1986).

Storage: Store in airtight containers protected from light.


De Silva MG. Mfg Chemist 30:415-416. 1959.

Hammer KA, Carson CF & Riley TV. Antimicrobial activity of essential oils and other plant extracts. J Appl Microbiol; 86(6):985-990. 1999.

Leite JR, Seabra M de L, Maluf E et al. Pharmacology of lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus Stapf). III. Assessment of eventual toxic, hypnotic and anxiolytic effects on humans. J Ethnopharmacol;17(1):75-83. 1986.

Lorenzetti BB, Souza GE, Sarti SJ et al. Myrcene mimics the peripheral analgesic activity of lemongrass tea. J Ethnopharmacol; 34(1):43-48. 1991.

Onawunmi GO. Evaluation of the antifungal activity of lemon grass oil. Int J Crude Drug Res; 27(2):121-126. 1989.

Onawunmi GO & Ogunlana. A study of the antibacterial activity of the essential oil of lemon grass. Int J Crude Drug Res; 24(2):64-68. 1986.

Pattnaik S, Subramanyam VR & Kole C. Antibacterial and antifungal activity of ten essential oils in vitro. Microbios; 86(349):237-246. 1996.

Paumgarrten F, De-Carvalho R, Souza C et al. Study of the effects of beta-myrcene on rat fertility and general reproductive performance. Braz J Med Biol Res; 31(7):955-965. 1998.

Sarer E, Scheffer JJC, Svendsen AB. Composition of the essential oil of Cymbopogon citratus (DC.) STAPF cultivated in turkey. In: Sci Pharm 51:58. 1983.

Souza Formigoni MLO, Lodder HM, Gianotti Filho O et al. Pharmacology of lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus Stapf). II. Effects of daily two month administration in male and female rats and in offspring exposed "in utero." J Ethnopharmacol; 17(1):65-74. 1986.

Suaeyun R, Kinouchi T, Arimochi H et al. Inhibitory effects of lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus Stapf) on formation of azoxymethane-induced DNA adducts and aberrant crypt foci in the rat colon. Carcinogenesis; 18(5):949-955. 1997.

Further information in:

Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. Eclectic Medical Publications, Sandy, OR, 1998.

Hansel R, Keller K, Rimpler H, Schneider G (Hrsg.). Hagers Handbuch der Pharmazeutischen Praxis, 5. Aufl., Bde 4-6 (Drogen), Springer Verlag Berlin, Heidelberg, New York, 1992-1994.

Leung AY. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics, John Wiley & Sons Inc., New York 1980.

McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R et al (eds). American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. CRC Press, Boca Raton, FL, 1997.

Steinegger E, Hansel R. Pharmakognosie, 5. Aufl., Springer Verlag Heidelberg 1992.

Teuscher E. Biogene Arzneimittel, 5. Aufl., Wiss. Verlagsges. mbH Stuttgart 1997.

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