Lemongrass is a stalky grass with a fresh, citrusy flavor that’s commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine (Thai food, anyone?). But when you’re not eating some delish lemongrass chicken, the herb also makes a stellar essential oil that can be used topically or inhaled.
Here’s a deep dive into the possible health benefits of lemongrass essential oil, plus how to use it safely.
While research suggests there are health benefits, the FDA doesn’t monitor or regulate the purity or quality of essential oils. It’s important to talk with your healthcare provider before you begin using essential oils and be sure to research the quality of a brand’s products. Always do a patch test before trying a new essential oil.
What are the benefits of lemongrass essential oil?
As with many essential oils, we need a lot more information to find out more about the effects of lemongrass essential oil. But research has looked into a number of possible health benefits, including:
- Antibacterial properties
- Antifungal properties
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Pain relief
- Antioxidant properties
- Improved digestive health
- Diarrhea relief
- Reduced cholesterol
- Blood sugar regulation
- Stress and anxiety relief
- Headache and migraine relief
Lemongrass essential oil might offer some bomb benefits for your mind and body. Here are 11 ways it could help your health.
1. Antibacterial properties
Lemongrass essential oil has some pretty dope antibacterial properties.
A 2016 test-tube study found that it could fight off Acinetobacter baumannii, a type of bacteria that can cause infections in the urinary tract, blood, and lungs (pneumonia). But more studies on humans are needed to find out just how well it works.
2. Antifungal properties
A 2014 test-tube study found that lemongrass essential oil was effective against Candida albicans, C. tropicalis, and Aspergillus niger fungi. This means it might help fight fungal infections IRL. But we need more human studies to find out more about all the fungus-fighting effects.
(BTW, Candida albicans is the mastermind behind yeast infections and thrush. Ugh! But *please* don’t put essential oil up your vajayjay. It can be irritating and might make the infection worse.)
3. Anti-inflammatory properties
Lemongrass contains compounds called citral and geranial that are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties.
In a 2014 animal study, researchers found that oral lemongrass essential oil helped reduce inflammation in mice with carrageenan-induced paw edema. The same study also found that a topical solution of the oil reduced inflammation in mice that had ear edema.
But we def need more research to find out whether these effects would occur in humans. And it’s important to note that, unlike the rats in this study, you should never ingest essential oils.
4. Pain relief
Since lemongrass might help calm inflammation, there’s also a chance it could reduce pain.
In a small 2017 study, daily topical lemongrass oil use helped decrease pain levels in folks with rheumatoid arthritis. Generally, pain levels decreased from 80 to 50 percent within the 30 days.
While this is great news, we need more studies to find out whether these pain relief powers are the real deal.
5. Antioxidant properties
Lemongrass essential oil might have some top-notch antioxidant properties.
One 2015 study found that lemongrass mouthwash had strong antioxidant effects. That means it might make a good complementary therapy for folks who have gingivitis or other oral health probs.
According to another 2015 study, lemongrass helped hunt down free radicals in an in-vitro environment.
The bad news? We still need more studies to show how it works and what concentrations are the most effective.
6. May help digestive health
Some anecdotal evidence suggests lemongrass can help reduce nausea, pain, bloating, and cramping caused by a variety of gastrointestinal conditions.
While a 2012 study found that lemongrass essential oil helped prevent gastric ulcers in mice, we still need more human studies to find out whether this is a legit benefit.
7. May treat diarrhea
Diarrhea stinks 💩. Thankfully, lemongrass might help get your bowels back on track.
According to research from 2011, the plant has some pretty sweet antidiarrheal effects. But we need more studies to find out whether it can really stop the trots.
Also, researchers are still trying to figure out the best way to take lemongrass as a tummy treatment (e.g., through inhalation, tinctures, or tea).
8. May reduce cholesterol
Lemongrass oil might help your heart health. A 2011 study on rats found that lemongrass oil could reduce hyperlipidemia (high levels of fat particles in the blood).
A 2007 study found that lemongrass oil reduced cholesterol in rats that were fed a high cholesterol diet for 2 weeks. But the researchers fed the oil to the rats orally, and ingesting essential oils is not recommended for us humans. If you’re concerned about your cholesterol levels, consult a healthcare pro to find a safe treatment.
And keep in mind that we need more research on the potential effects of lemongrass oil for cholesterol in humans.
9. Might help regulate blood sugar
Lemongrass oil might help reduce blood sugar levels in folks with type 2 diabetes, according to a 2007 animal study. The researchers gave 125 to 500 milligrams of lemongrass oil to rats orally for 42 days and found that it helped lower blood sugar levels and increase HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
But this isn’t cold, hard proof that lemongrass alone can help regulate blood sugar. And again, please don’t try this at home — ingesting essential oils can be dangerous and is not recommended.
10. Stress and anxiety relief
Some folks use lemongrass essential oil as a way to calm down. It’s a popular addition to aromatherapy, mindfulness, and yoga practices. There’s also a chance it can increase the anti-stress benefits of massage therapy.
A 2015 study examined the use of sweet almond and lemongrass oils during massage. Participants who received a massage with the oil once a week for 3 weeks had lower diastolic blood pressure than those who didn’t. This might suggest a reduction in stress levels, but we need more studies to find out for sure.
11. Headache and migraine relief
Lemongrass might help a pounding head. One 2011 study found that native Australian lemongrass could help relieve headache and migraine pain. The researchers noted that a compound called eugenol might be the reason, thanks to its aspirin-like effects. But once again, we need more concrete proof.
Diluted lemongrass oil is generally recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration. But there are still some side effects to watch out for.
For one thing, high doses can be poisonous. It can also be super toxic to kids and pets. And we’ll say it again: You should *never* ingest essential oils.
Lemongrass oil can also have some not-so-nice skin symptoms. Some folks experience a rash, itching, hives, blistering, or redness. Here are some tips to minimize your risks:
- Don’t apply it to broken or damaged skin.
- Dilute lemongrass essential oil with a carrier oil before use.
- Stick to high quality oils that don’t contain added fillers or fragrances.
- Avoid using it if you have sensitive skin or a condition like eczema or psoriasis.
Here’s how you can safely use lemongrass as an aromatherapy or topical treatment.
Lemongrass essential oil for inhalation
You can experience the aromatherapy benefits of lemongrass essential oil by inhaling its scent via any of these methods:
- Add a few drops to an essential oil diffuser.
- Add a few drops to a bowl of warm water and inhale the steam.
- Sprinkle a few drops on a handkerchief or cotton ball and breathe it in.
Lemongrass essential oil for topical use
You can buy a pre-diluted bottle of lemongrass oil at health-food stores or online. But you can also DIY it.
Just add up to 12 drops of essential oil to a teaspoon of carrier oil (jojoba, almond, olive, and coconut oils are all top-tier choices). Then gently massage it into your skin. You can also dab it on your neck, wrists, or temples as a soothing alternative to perfume.
Do a patch test first
You should always do a patch test before applying a new product or oil to your skin. Even if it’s diluted, it can still cause a reaction. Here’s what you do:
- Apply a couple drops of diluted lemongrass essential oil to a small patch of your skin. Your forearm and behind your ear are good choices.
- Cover the area with a clean bandage and wait 24 hours.
- If you don’t notice any irritation, you should be good to go!
Reminder: Never apply pure essential oil to your skin. It’s way too strong.
Lemongrass makes a fragrant essential oil that may offer health benefits such as antibacterial and antifungal properties, stress management, and pain relief. But more research is still needed to find out which of the proposed perks are for real.
When diluted, lemongrass oil is generally considered safe to use as an inhaled or topical treatment. Just be sure to stick to high quality brands and discontinue use ASAP if you notice any irritation.