lemon grass, barbed wire grass, silky heads, citronella grass (See Citronella C. nardus), cha de Dartigalongue, fever grass
Poaceae (The Grass Family)
C. citratus gets its name from the fragrant, lemon scent found in the long grass-like leaves
Citronellol. Myrcene. Citral (70-85% volatile oil) Gerniol. High in silica like all plants found in the grass family. High in vitamins A and D. (Wood)
Gown widely in tropical, and subtropical environments, it’s native to all of southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent.
Lemongrass grows in clumps 3 feet wide and up to 5 to 6 feet tall of long, blade-like leaves. Rarely flowers. Not frost hardy. Its roots grow to over 20 inches deep, thus making it a good plant to control soil erosion.
Soil for C. citratus needs to be rich, and well-draining, in a southern, full sun location. Fertilize the soil with manure to maintain high nitrogen and micronutrient levels.
Plant 24 inches (60cm) apart and keep roots moist. They do not like soil drying out. To transplant, trim leaves to 3 to 4 inches (7 to 10 cm) and then divide roots.
Few pests will bother lemongrass. Occasionally, spider mites can infest growing lemongrass leaves.
Harvest plants when stalks are at least 12” tall and a ½” at the base. Cut stalk near the base, where the root begins. Store in a cool, dry environment till use. To dry, hang upside down in a cool, dry place away from light. It can be dried in a dehydrator. Dried leaves will keep their scent and flavor for up to one year. Stocks can be frozen, as well as puréed and kept in the freezer for later use.
Fresh, dried, frozen, or pureed leaves can be used in cooking, infusions, or for tincturing. Infuse fresh or dried leaves for 5 to 10 minutes. Tincture herb in 80 proof (or a mixture of half 80 proof and half 190 proof grain alcohol) for 3 to 6 weeks.
Use caution when handling this plant. The leaves can be razor-sharp.
Sour, cooling, and astringent. Lemony, grassy, and herbal.
Top Note. Lemongrass has a penetrating, lemony herbaceous scent. This oil has a very soothing effect on the emotions. It helps support healthy immune and circulatory systems.
The essential oil blends well with other citruses, rosemary, florals (geranium, lavender, palmarosa), as well as woody and earthy scents (cedarwood, patchouli, and vetiver). A most versatile oil.
History & Culture
Along with Citronella (C. nardus) these grasses and their oils have been used as natural pesticides and insect repellents.
A standard and main ingredient in Van Van Oil, as Lemon Verbena/Vervain (Aloysia citriodora) oil is expensive and does not linger as a perfume.
Lemongrass is a common fragrance in soaps, deodorants, and other cosmetic/hygiene/cleaning products due to its fresh and herbaceous lemon scent.
It has been used as an insect repellent where ever it has been grown or traded. Since its arrival in the Americas, it has been used in perfumery, cleaning products, as well as an insect repellent. It can be found in many natural bug sprays on supermarket shelves today.
Culinary Use: Strip the outer fibrous layer of leaves. These can be added to soup stocks to impart a subtle lemony flavor. Dried or cut lemongrass should be soaked in hot water for one hour before being used in cooking. The inner layers can be thinly sliced and added to stir fries. The fresh or dried herb can be used in infusions or tinctures.
Lemongrass leaves and stems can be muddled into cocktails, infused into simple syrups and vodkas, and used as a garnish. It infuses well with gin and limes.
Medicinal Use: With its sour and cooling prosperities, it seems to be good at cooling overheated tissues, specifically connective tissues. It can also be good for atrophic or weak tissues, bring water back into the cells. (Wood, Gumbel).
The essential oil can be used alone or with other oils on strains, bruises, or other muscle injuries. (Wood) Always dilute essential oils in a carrier oil (like jojoba or grapeseed) before applying to the skin.
There is some, though little, published research that C. citratus is antibiotic and inhibits the growth of yeast. It also contains phytochemicals that are thought to relieve pain, reduce swelling and fevers, regulate blood sugar levels, stimulate the uterus and menstruation. While the evidence is limited, please use caution when ingesting lemongrass for medicinal or culinary reasons if pregnant.
Lemongrass also contains high levels of silica like Oatstraw (Avena sativa) and Shavegrass/Horsetail (Equisetum arvense). (Wood)
In a 2012 study in rats, Citronellol was shown to reduce blood pressure by vasodilatation in cardiac tissues. Take that into consideration when using lemongrass internally, or in aromatherapy. (Bastos) However, conclusions from this study suggested that an average adult male* would need to consume 600 to 800 mg of pure Citronellol to achieve these results. That’s a lot of lemongrass; far more than would be ingested in a meal or found in an infusion/decoction or another prepared herbal remedy.
*The “standard in the medicinal research industry is an adult male. Who saw that one coming?
Magical Use: Love and Protection magic. Found in Van Van Oil, which has a reputation for protection, prosperity, and love drawing effects. It’s found in many blends for banishing curses, hexes, tricks, as well as in romance, sex, and love oils. Making a tea with lemongrass can be added to floor washes to rid the area of negative energy and harmful magic. (Yronwood)
Corresponding to Mercury and Venus. These associations are found in texts starting in the 1980s. The association with Mercury is perhaps due to it’s history of being grown in the far east and being traveling far distances through trade; trade being ruled by Mercury. The association to Venus is perhaps due to its common use in love and prosperity magic.
Bibliography & Resources
Bastos JF. Moreira IJ. Ribeiro TP. Medeiros IA. Antoniolli AR. De Sousa DP. Santos MR. (2010). "Hypotensive and vasorelaxant effects of citronellol, a monoterpene alcohol, in rats". Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology. 106(4): 331–337
Bogan, Chas. (2018). The Secret Keys of Conjure: Unlocking the Mysteries of American Folk Magic. Woodbury: Minnesota. Llewellyn Worldwide Publishing.
Hutchison, Frances. Ed. (2004). Encyclopedia of Herb Gardening. San Francisco, California. Fog City Press.
Gumbel, Ditetruh, PhD. (1993) Principles of Holistic Therapy with Herbal Essences. 2nd revised and expanded English ed. Brussels: Hang,
Stewart, Amy. (2013) The Drunken Botanist: The Plants that create the world’s greatest drinks. Chapel Hill, North Carolina.: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill.
Wood, Matthew. (2008). The Earthwise Herbal. Vol. 1. A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants. Berkley, California. North Atlantic Books.
Yronwood, Catherine. “Lemon Grass Leaves in Hoodoo Folk Magic, Spell-craft, and Occultism.” Herb Magic. http://www.herbmagic.com/lemon-grass.html