Lemongrass Essential Oil
A Beginner’s Guide to Growing and Using Lemongrass Essential Oil
The wonderful thing about some herbs is that they can be enjoyed as a lovely plant, delicious in recipes and as a healthy supplement; for example, lemongrass. Essential oil from this attractive and aromatic plant has many uses around the home.
What it is
Lemongrass is a tropical herb that loves hot weather and plenty of water. As such, it is hardy only to Zone 9 for plantings outdoors. Northern gardeners need not worry, however, as this plant does equally as well as a container plant that can enjoy the warm weather outdoors during the summer and then remain healthy and happy indoors during the cold winters. It is a tall grass, reaching amazing heights of up to 9 or 10 feet in tropical conditions and approximately 3 to 4 feet when containerized in cooler climates. It is thought to have originated in India, although the Asian countries have used it in recipes for many generations.
As a food, lemongrass can be used as an ingredient to provide a citrusy aroma and flavor. It makes a delicious and healthful beverage when brewed as a tea, as well. To impart its taste and smell during grilling, the stalks can be tied together and lightly beaten with a tenderizing hammer to release their oils before using them to apply sauces to grilling meats.
As a health supplement, lemongrass essential oil can be used to alleviate pain and swelling of muscles, joints and teeth through its analgesic properties. Its antibacterial and antiseptic properties allow it to be used both internally and externally to fight certain bacterial infections. It is thought to also have anti-depressant uses; boosting good feelings and hope. Perhaps one of its most popular uses is sedative; calming and soothing the mind as well as promoting good sleep.
Lemongrass can also be used as an effective insect repellent, a natural deodorant, and an ingredient for soap making, candles and bath salts. Its strong yet sweet citrus scent makes it ideal for aromatherapy. It can be added to olive oil and used as a natural wood polish and moisturizer.
Raising lemongrass at home will enable the gardener to utilize the herb for all of these functions and more. In temperate regions where lemongrass is a four season plant, harvesting can occur at any time the fresh flavor or scent is desired. Otherwise, it can be enjoyed visually as a landscape grass.
Cooler regions will require that the lemongrass be grown in a container to allow it be brought indoors over the winter. Kept in full sun and given frequent watering, the plant will flourish. In the fall, bring it inside and trim the stems back to about 8. (Note: do not discard these stems!! Use these to brew tea, add to soup stocks or dry it and chop finely for use as a sprinkle seasoning for meats or vegetables, or even add it to desserts for a fresh, citrus flavor.) After cutting back, place the container in a cool spot away from direct sun, and minimize watering to allow the plant to go dormant. Late winter will stimulate the plant into growth; when this growth is noted, return the plant to a sunny window and resume watering to encourage optimal growth.
Herbs that can offer a variety of uses are favorite plants of gardeners, and one of these herbs is lemongrass. Essential oils from the plant make if very popular as a scent and a flavor, as well as being extremely beneficial in a number of health related issues. With its ease in growing and its many uses, it is easy to see how this plant is a favorite of many.