Lemongrass (Cymbopogon) is a grass native to parts of Asia, Australia, and Africa, some species of which are cultivated for use as culinary and medicinal herbs. This citrus-flavoured herb is a key ingredient in Thai cuisine, but it’s also consumed as a tea throughout Africa, a practice that is becoming increasingly common in Europe thanks to the rising popularity of herbal teas.
In this guide, we’ll look at the benefits, brewing methods, and more, telling you all you need to know about lemongrass tea, extracts, and oil.
Benefits of Lemongrass Tea
Like the Mediterranean herb lemon verbena, lemongrass produces a fragrant, fresh, lemon-flavoured tea that tastes great on its own and when used in combination with other herbs and spices. And there’s more to this tea than flavour, as it’s also said to provide a number of health benefits, including:
1. It is an Antibacterial
There have been a huge number of lab and animal studies on lemongrass’s antibacterial properties, whether by itself or in combination with other herbal remedies. It has shown to be effective at treating everything from Staph to E.coli and more. (1) (2) Some suggest these benefits could transfer to humans and that it could be used topically and orally to combat bacterial infections, but in the meantime, it’s a natural alternative to common pesticides and antibacterial compounds that could be used to clean food and surfaces.
As with herbs like thyme, lemongrass may also be an effective natural mouthwash due to its ability to inhibit bacteria growth on contact. If you’re a fan of homemade personal care products, it might be worth looking into this herb to see if it can boost their effectiveness.
2. It is an Anti-Inflammatory
The best herbal teas help reduce inflammation in the body, which in turn is responsible for their soothing effect on the digressive tract. Such is the case with teas like fennel, as well as camomile.
Lemongrass tea has also shown a lot of promise in this area. It contains the compounds citral and geranial, which are thought to be potent anti-inflammatories that work by inhibiting inflammation-causing compounds and processes in the body. (3) This inflammation can lead to a host of issues, and if it remains untreated for a prolonged period, it can cause many chronic diseases, ranging from cancer to heart disease and more. A few anti-inflammatory compounds won’t cure these diseases or prevent them from developing, but a diet rich in a variety of these compounds, in addition to a healthy lifestyle, is thought to lead to a longer, healthier life.
These anti-inflammatory effects may be responsible for the apparent analgesic properties of lemongrass. A number of animal studies used concentrated extracts of this herb and found it to be effective at reducing pain levels in mice and rats, although the concentration used and the method of administration means we’re probably not going to see similar studies and benefits in human subjects. (4) (5)
3. It May Improve Heart Health
Lemongrass may also improve the health of your heart, as studies suggest it can reduce levels of bad cholesterol while regulating blood sugar. (6) Many herbs react in this way, which is why a plant-based diet has been linked to reduced rates of heart disease, but few seem to show even more promise and lemongrass is one of them.
The antioxidant levels may also play a role here. These compounds are known to improve health in many areas by fighting free radicals and reducing cell damage and inflammation. The more natural plants, herbs, and spices you consume, the more of these compounds you’ll ingest. Studies have also shown that antioxidant compounds simply don’t provide the same benefits when mega-dosed in isolated, synthetic form—if anything, they have the opposite effect. So, there is no quick-fix, and the only way to go is to consume them in their natural form.
Lemongrass Oil Uses
Lemongrass can be concentrated into an oil—known as citronella oil—to increase its potency, flavour, and fragrance. This oil can then be used in everything from soaps and skincare products to infusers and more. It is also used as a natural pesticide and may help ward off insects and mosquitoes when applied as a balm or spray. It also has a few unique uses, with some studies suggesting it can help reduce incessant barking in dogs when used as a spray.
It’s important to take great care when using this essential oil in place of fresh or dried lemongrass, as it’s highly concentrated and may cause harm if used incorrectly. It should not be consumed directly, and caution is also advised when applying it to the skin.
You should avoid drinking lemongrass tea if you are pregnant or nursing, as there is some concern that it may increase the risk of a miscarriage in large doses. This issue aside, it should be safe to consume in moderation, but as with everything else, it’s best to avoid consuming in excess.
As mentioned above, extreme caution is advised where lemongrass oil (a.k.a. citronella oil) is concerned. It can cause skin irritation when applied directly and can also lead to everything from mild discomfort to serious side effects when consumed: there is at least 1 case of a child dying after consuming large amounts of an insect-repellant made from citronella, and some suggest it can lead to serious lung problems and poisoning-related symptoms if large amounts are inhaled.
How to Make Lemongrass Tea
Dried and fresh lemongrass is a safe, edible herb that makes a fresh, delicious tea. We have outlined a basic lemongrass tea recipe below, but feel free to experiment to create something more tailored to your tastebuds, adding sugar, honey, and even some other herbs as you go. As an example, you could boost its health benefits by adding nettle, or add something spicy and warming like ginger.
- Add 400ml–500ml of water to a pan.
- Bring to a boil.
- Add roughly 1 handful of finely chopped lemongrass stalks.
- Steep for 5 minutes.
- Turn down to a simmer and allow to steep for another 5 minutes.
- Strain stalks and pour liquid into a cup.
- Add sugar or honey.
- Serve hot, or leave to cool, add ice cubes, and enjoy cold.