Cymbopogon (lemongrass) is a genus of about 55 species of grasses, native to warm temperate and tropical regions of the Old World and Oceania. It is a tall perennial grass. Common names include lemon grass, lemongrass, barbed wire grass, silky heads, citronella grass, fever grass or Hierba Luisa amongst many others.
Lemon grass is native to India. It is widely used as a herb in Asian cuisine. It has a citrus flavor and can be dried and powdered, or used fresh.
Lemon grass is commonly used in teas, soups, and curries. It is also suitable for poultry, fish, and seafood. It is often used as a tea in African and Latin American countries (e.g., Togo, Mexico, DR Congo).
Research also shows that lemon grass oil has anti-fungal properties.
In 2006 Dr. Rivka Ofir and Prof. Yakov Weinstein, incumbant of the Albert Katz chair in Cell-Differentation and Malignant Diseases, from the Department Of Microbiology amd Immunology at Ben Gurion University in Israel, led a research team and found that Lemon grass (cymbopogon citratus) caused apoptosis (programmed cell death) in malignant cancer cells. According to Dr. Ofir, Citral is the substance that causes the cancer cells to kill themselves.
The BGU researchers checked the influence of the citral on normal cells and malignant cancer cells that were grown on a petri dish. The quantity added in the concentrate was equivelent to the amount in a cup of regular tea using one gram of lemon grass in hot water. While the citral killed the cancer cells, it left the normal cells unharmed showing selective toxicity which amazed the researchers.
The findings were published in the scientific journal Planta Medica, which highlights research on alternative and herbal treatments.
Shortly afterwards doctors were prescribing patients to drink eight cups of hot water with lemon grass steeped in it on the days of their cheomotherapy and radiation treatments as well as three a day in in-between treatments.
Citronella Grass (Cymbopogon nardus and Cymbopogon winterianus) is similar to the species above but grows to 2 m and has red base stems. These species are used for the production of citronella oil, which is used in soaps, as a insect repellent in insect sprays and candles, and also in aromatherapy, which is famous in Bintan, Indonesia. The principal chemical constituents of citronella, geraniol and citronellol, are antiseptics, hence their use in household disinfectants and soaps. Besides oil production, citronella grass is also used for culinary purposes, in tea and as a flavoring.
Lemon Grass Oil, used as a pesticide and preservative, is put on the ancient manuscripts found in India in Oriental Research Institute Mysore.
The lemon grass oil also injects natural fluidity into the brittle palm leaves and the hydrophobic nature of the oil keeps the manuscripts dry so that the text is not lost to decay due to humidity.
East-Indian Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon flexuosus), also called Cochin Grass or Malabar Grass (Malayalam: (inchippull), is native to Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka, Burma,and Thailand while the West-Indian lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus), also known as serai in Malay, is assumed to have its origins in Malaysia. Indonesian people used to call it serai too or sereh. While both can be used interchangeably, C. citratus is more suited for cooking. In India C. citratus is used both as a medical herb and in perfumes. Cymbopogon citratus is consumed as a tea for anxiety in Brazilian folk medicine, but a study in humans found no effect. The tea caused a recurrence of contact dermatitis in one case.
Lemon grass is also known as "Gavati Chaha" in the Marathi language(Gavat-grass; chaha-tea), and is used as an addition to tea,and in preparations like 'kadha' which is a traditional herbal 'soup' against cough,cold etc. It has medicinal properties and is used extensively in ancient Indian Ayurvedic medicines. It is supposed to help with relieving cough and nasal congestion.