The Cymbopogon genus includes about 50-60 species of perennial, tropical grasses. Some of them, such as West Indian lemongrass (C. citratus, Poaceae), are extremely aromatic with a distinctive lemon scent.1 West Indian lemongrass is cultivated in Argentina, Brazil, Haiti, Vietnam, Malaysia, Madagascar, the Philippines, Bangladesh, Thailand, Africa, and many other South American and East Asian countries. The essential oil contains about 80-85% ctiral, 20% myrcene, and 3-5% geraniol. Myrcene is thought to have analgesic effects.
Lemongrass essential oil (EO) is considered stimulating, yet relaxing.2 The oil has been used for conditions such as stress, headaches, digestion, lymphatic stagnation, acne and other oily skin conditions, cellulite, bruises, arthritis, detoxification, and nervous exhaustion.
While research has focused on the antibacterial, antifungal, and insecticidal aspects of lemongrass oil, there is a recent article reporting the oil’s use in anxiolytic conditions.3 A randomized, double-blind, controlled trial of 40 men undergoing experimental (induced) anxiety found that the subjects exposed to three and six drops of the essential oil experienced reduced anxiety and subjective tension immediately after smelling the lemongrass oil, where the control groups did not. While the subjects did experience anxiety in response to the task, they completely recovered from it in five minutes after having inhaled the lemongrass EO, unlike the control groups.
David Williams describes lemongrass oil as pale to dark yellow or amber and slightly viscous.4 The odor profile, taken over a 24-hour period, is a top note that is fresh, lemony, and sharp; a body note (after the first detectable scent [top note] has been diffused, but before the last detectable scent) that is slightly fruity, herbaceous, lemony, and slightly oily-green; and the dryout (last detectable scent) is fresh, lemon-fruity, and much fainter with no oiliness.
1Rhind JP. Fragrance and Wellbeing – Plant Aromatics and Their Influence on the Psyche. London, UK: Singing Dragon; 2014.
2Lis-Balchin M. Aromatherapy Science – A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. London, UK: Pharmaceutical Press; 2006.
3Goes TC, Ursulino FRC, Almeida-Souza TH, Alves PB, Teixeira-Silva F. Effect of lemongrass aroma on experimental anxiety in humans. J Altern Complement Med. 2015;21(12):766-773.
4Williams D. The Chemistry of Essential Oils, 2nd edition. Port Washington, NY: Micelle Press; 2008.