Cymbopogon (Lemongrass) is a genus of about 55 species of grasses, (of which the type species is Cymbopogon citratus a natural and soft tea Anxiolytic) 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,cha de Dartigalongue, fever grass, tanglad, hierba Luisa or gavati chaha amongst many others.
Lemongrass is native to India and tropical Asia. It is widely used as a herb in Asian cuisine. It has a subtle citrus flavour and can be dried and powdered, or used fresh. Lemongrass is commonly used in teas, soups, and curries. It is also suitable for poultry, fish, beef, and seafood. It is often used as a tea in African countries such as Togo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Latin American countries such as Mexico.
A common ingredient in Thai cooking, lemongrass provides a zesty lemon flavour and aroma to many Thai dishes. Lemon juice (or lime) may be substituted for lemongrass in a pinch, but citrus fruits will not be able to fully replicate its particular qualities. Lemongrass is also thought to have numerous health benefits , especially when used in combination with other Thai spices such as garlic, fresh chillies, and coriander. Tom Yum is thought to be capable of combating colds, flu, and even some cancers. (To Make Tom Yum Soup yourself at home, see our Tom Yum Soup recipe.)
Citronella grass (Cymbopogon nardus and Cymbopogon winterianus) grows to about 2 metres (about 6.5 feet) and has red base stems. These species are used for the production of citronella oil, which is used in soaps, as an insect repellent in insect sprays and candles, and also in aromatherapy, which is famous in Bintan Island, Indonesia. Therefore it’s assumed that its origin is from 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 flavouring.
Lemongrass Oil, used as a pesticide and preservative, is put on the ancient palm-leaf manuscripts found in India as a preservative. It is used at the Oriental Research Institute Mysore, the French Institute of Pondicherry, the Association for the Preservation of the Saint Thomas Christian Heritage in Kerala and many other manuscript collections in India. 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 Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus), also called Cochin Grass or Malabar Grass (Malayalam: ഇഞ്ചിപ്പുല്ല് (inchippullu), is native to Cambodia, India, Sri Lanka, Burma, and Thailand while the West-Indian lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) is native to maritime Southeast Asia. It is known as serai in Malaysia, serai or sereh in Indonesia, and tanglad in the Philippines. 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. Lemongrass is also known as Gavati Chaha (गवती चहा) 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’ used against coughs, colds, etc. It has medicinal properties and is used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine. It is supposed to help with relieving cough and nasal congestion. In Kerala, lemongrass is steeped as an herbal tea called “Chukku Kaapi”, literally “dried ginger coffee”.
- When purchasing lemongrass, look for firm stalks (not soft or rubbery, which means it’s too old).
- Lower stalk should be pale yellow (almost white) in colour, while upper stalks are green (do not purchase if outer leaves are crusty or brown).
- Usually fresh lemongrass is sold in groupings of 3-4 stalks, secured with an elastic band. Stalks are approximately 30cm long (or more).
- Look for fresh lemongrass at your local grocery store or Asian market.
Substitutes for Lemongrass
- Frozen lemongrass is a good substitute for fresh
- Dried lemongrass (soaked in hot water) is only a fair substitute.
- Use powdered version (called sereh powder), but only if absolutely necessary
- Lemon zest (zest from 1 lemon = 2 stalks lemongrass)
- lemon verbena
- lemon balm
- lemon leaves
Lemongrass and Health – How does it work?
Lemongrass might help prevent the growth of some bacteria and yeast. Lemongrass also contains substances that are thought to relieve pain and swelling, reduce fever, improve levels of sugar and cholesterol in the blood, stimulate the uterus and menstrual flow, and have antioxidant properties.
Nutrition Facts - Lemon grass (citronella), raw
- Servings Per Container1
- Serving Size100g
- Amount per serving
- % Daily Value*
- Total Fat0.49 g0.63%
- Saturated Fat0.119 g0.6%
- Trans Fat0.0 g
- Polyunsaturated Fat0.170 g
- Monounsaturated Fat0.054 g
- Cholesterol0.0 mg0%
- Sodium6 mg0.26%
- Total Carbohydrate25.31 g9.2%
- Protein1.82 g3.64%
- Vitamin D (Cholecalciferol)0 mcg0%
- Calcium65 mg5%
- Iron8.17 mg45.39%
- Potassium723 mg15.38%
- Vitamin A6 mcg0.67%
- Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)2.6 mg2.89%
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamin)0.065 mg5.42%
- Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)0.135 mg10.38%
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin)1.101 mg6.88%
- Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)0.080 mg6.15%
- Folate75 mcg18.75%
- Vitamin B12 (Cobalamine)0 mcg0%
- Phosphorus101 mg14.43%
- Magnesium60 mg15%
- Zinc2.23 mg20.27%