(Natural News) Lemongrass (Cymbopogon) is a popular herb used for cooking and various medicinal purposes. In traditional medicine, this aromatic plant is known as a remedy for stomach problems, joint pain, the common cold, fever, as well as other conditions. Today, lemongrass is commonly associated with herbal teas that help heal the body, boost immunity, and promote good sleep. Its essential oil, meanwhile, is used to prevent infections, relieve pain and headaches, and enhance the mood. In a recent study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, researchers from The Federal University of Sergipe in Brazil reported another benefit of lemongrass on mental health: When used for aromatherapy, just a few drops of lemongrass essential oil can reduce anxiety in people subjected to anxiety-inducing situations.
Lemongrass essential oil is a natural anxiolytic
For their study, the researchers used essential oil from a species of lemongrass known as C. citratus or West Indian lemongrass. To test its effects on anxiety, they recruited 40 healthy male volunteers and divided them into four groups. The first group inhaled three to six drops of the lemongrass essential oil, while the second group inhaled tea tree essential oil. The third group inhaled distilled water and served as the non-aromatic control. Meanwhile, the fourth group didn’t inhale anything.
Immediately after inhalation, the researchers subjected each volunteer to an experimental model of anxiety. This model is a video-monitored version of the Stroop Color-Word Test (SCWT), which is often used to assess a person’s ability to cope with cognitive stress and process complex input. The researchers evaluated psychologic parameters, such as state anxiety, subjective tension, tranquilization, and sedation; and physiologic parameters, such as heart rate and gastrocnemius electromyogram activity, before inhalation and before, during, and after the SCWT.
The researchers reported that, unlike the control groups, the lemongrass group experienced a reduction in state anxiety and subjective tension immediately after inhaling lemongrass essential oil. Although the group still showed anxious responses during the SCWT, they fully recovered from them within five minutes. On the other hand, inhalation of either lemongrass or tea tree essential oil did not prevent physiologic alterations during the test. This result is consistent with previous studies which used the anxiolytic drug diazepam.
Based on these results, the researchers concluded that even brief exposure to lemongrass essential oil offers anxiolytic benefits, but more investigations are needed to clarify the clinical relevance of lemongrass as anxiety treatment.
The health benefits of lemongrass
Lemongrass is a perennial plant with long leaves and a citrusy smell reminiscent of lemon. More than 50 different species of lemongrass are known to exist, but only the East and West Indian varieties, namely C. flexuosus and C. citratus, are used for cooking. Citronella (C. nardus), a plant famous for its mosquito-repellent properties, also belongs to the lemongrass family. Although it looks and smells similar to edible lemongrass and goes through the same extraction process to yield citronella essential oil, these plants should not be confused with one another.
The health benefits of lemongrass is just as varied as its applications and chemical components. According to studies, lemongrass is rich in compounds like citronellal, terpinolene, and myrcene. Citronellal has anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties, while terpinolene has mildly sedative and anxiolytic properties. Myrcene, on the other hand, is known for its anti-aging and analgesic effects. (Related: Several studies conclude lemongrass to be an effective natural way to lower blood pressure.)
Here are some other benefits associated with lemongrass:
- It is a rich source of antioxidants.
- Lemongrass is an effective diuretic.
- Lemongrass essential oil prevents microbial infections.
- Lemongrass is an effective adjuvant therapy to chemo-radiation.
- It relieves stomach and joint pains.
- It promotes digestive health.
- Lemongrass helps lower blood pressure.
- It reduces cholesterol levels.
- Lemongrass detoxifies the body.
- It alleviates menstrual pain.
- It relieves headaches.
- Lemongrass promotes relaxation.
Lemongrass can be used in many ways: You can use lemongrass essential oil for massages and aromatherapy; add lemongrass leaves to dishes; or steep them in boiling water to make a tisane, or tea. Whichever way you choose to use it, lemongrass is generally safe for human consumption. However, before using it as a complementary treatment, consult with your healthcare provider to ensure that it doesn’t counteract any of your current medications.