Originally native to grasslands in south-east Asia, today lemongrass is cultivated in numerous tropical regions, including Guatamala, the West Indies, and the Philippines, as a culinary herb as well as for its essential oil. The herb is a well-known digestive remedy in some regions of Asia, and is used as a flavoring in perfumery and the food industry.
Parts used: Leaves and stems, essential oil.
Main constituents: Volatile oil mostly citral (65–85%) as well as nerol, citronellol, geraniol, borneol, and myrcene.
Effect: Antispasmodic, analgesic, antiseptic, antibacterial, antidepressant, astringent, carminative, febrifuge, antifungal, sedative, tonic.
HOW TO USE
Massage rub: Dilute 20 drops of essential oil in 2fl oz (60ml) of almond oil and massage into aching muscles; you can also use it on the abdomen for stomach cramps.
Lotion: Dilute 30 drops of essential oil in 1 tbsp vodka, add to 1⁄2 cup water, and use in a spray bottle as an insect repellant (ticks, fleas, and lice), or as a deodorant and antiperspirant.
Infusion: Drink 1 cup (1-2 tsp herb per cup boiling water) 3 times daily for indigestion, stomach cramps, or gas.
Poultice: Simmer a handful of chopped fresh lemongrass for 1–2 minutes in olive oil and use on painful or arthritic joints.
HOW TO GET
Grow: Grow in containers in cooler regions and over-winter in a conservatory or heated greenhouse, as not frost hardy (minimum temperature 45°F/7°C). In frost-free areas plant in moist, well-drained, fertile soil in full sun, leaving 24in (60cm) between plants. Sow seeds (at 64°F/18°C) in earlys pring in seed trays and transplant to 3.5in (7cm) pots when large enough. You can also propagate by root division in late spring.
Forage: Very little chance to be found growing wild other than in its native area of grassland in south-east Asia.
Harvest: Gather stems throughout the year.
Caution: Don’t take the essential oil internally without professional consultation. Avoid therapeutic doses in pregnancy, but culinary quantities are safe.