Family: Poaceae (Gramineae), Cymbopogon species
Source: Simon, J.E., A.F. Chadwick and L.E. Craker. 1984.
Herbs: An Indexed Bibliography. 1971-1980. The Scientific Literature
on Selected Herbs, and Aromatic and Medicinal Plants of the Temperate
Zone. Archon Books, 770 pp., Hamden, CT.
Lemongrass, a perennial herb widely cultivated in the tropics
and subtropics, designates two different species, East Indian,
Cymbopogon flexuosus (DC.) Stapf., and West Indian, Cymbopogon
citratus (DC. ex Nees) Stapf. East Indian lemongrass, also
known as cochin or Malabar grass is native to India, while West
Indian lemongrass is native to southern India and Ceylon. The
lemongrasses are cultivated commercially in Guatemala, India,
the People's Republic of China, Paraguay, England, Sri Lanka,
and other parts of Indochina, Africa, Central America, and South
America (11.1-73). The plant grows in dense clumps up to
2 meters in diameter and has leaves up to 1 meter long.
The reported life zone for lemongrass is 18 to 29 degrees centigrade
with an annual precipitation of 0.7 to 4.1 meters with a soil
pH of 5.0 to 5.8 (East Indian) or 4.3 to 8.4 (West Indian) (14.1-9).
The plants need a warm, humid climate in full sun. They grow well
in sandy soils with adequate drainage. Since the plants rarely
flower or set seed, propagation is by root or plant division.
The plants are harvested mechanically or by hand about four times
each year with the productive populations lasting between four
and eight years (14.1-9). Extensive breeding programs have
developed many varieties of lemongrass.
The quality of lemongrass oil is generally determined by the content
of citral, the aldehyde responsible for the lemon odor. Some other
constituents of the essential oils are -terpineol, myrcene,
citronellol, methyl heptenone, dipentene, geraniol, limonene,
nerol, and farnesol (14.1-9). West Indian oil differs from
East Indian oil in that it is less soluble in 70 percent alcohol
and has a slightly lower citral content (14.1-9).
Lemongrass is used in herbal teas and other nonalcoholic beverages
in baked goods, and in confections. Oil from lemongrass is widely
used as a fragrance in perfumes and cosmetics, such as soaps and
creams. Citral, extracted from the oil, is used in flavoring soft
drinks in scenting soaps and detergents, as a fragrance in perfumes
and cosmetics, and as a mask for disagreeable odors in several
industrial products. Citral is also used in the synthesis of ionones
used in perfumes and cosmetics (11.1-73, 14.1-9).
As a medicinal plant, lemongrass has been considered a carminative
and insect repellent. West Indian lemongrass is reported to have
antimicrobial activity (1.8-84, 1.8-130). Oil of West
Indian lemongrass acts as a central nervous system depressant
(7.6-187). Oil of East Indian lemongrass has antifungal activity
(1.8-132). The volatile oils may also have some pesticide
and mutagenic activities (11.1-96, 11.1-136).
Cymbopogon nardus is a source of citronella oil. Cymbopogon
martinii is reportedly toxic to fungi (1.8-53).
Lemongrass is generally recognized as safe for human consumption
as a plant extract/essential oil (21 CFR section 182.20 ).
[Note: References listed above in parentheses can be found in
full in the original reference].
Last modified 6-Dec-1997