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Want a delicious way to boost your immune system, aid your muscles and connective tissue, and reduce cellulite? Then the herb lemongrass is for you.
Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citrates) is a perennial plant with culinary and medicinal uses that is native to India and Nepal. Commonly used in Thai, Vietnamese, and Caribbean cooking, lemongrass is finally becoming popular in the U.S., and with good reason.
Herbs are one of nature's greatest gifts — especially lemongrass, with its immune and digestive benefits. It may even reduce cellulite! Using lemongrass alongside Body Ecology’s Fermented Herbal Blend for Candida can help to control Candida overgrowth and bring the body back into balance.
Lemongrass can be used to make soups, stews, teas, and curries. It has a light, lemony smell and flavor, with a hint of ginger. When it comes to Western cooking, many professional chefs liken lemongrass to fresh ginger — it can be swapped out in the same dishes and same quantities, in most cases. If you cook with lemongrass, also consider blending it with cilantro, garlic, and chilies.
You may already appreciate the distinct taste of lemongrass in some of your favorite dishes. (We love substituting lemongrass in the refreshing and easy Ginger Salad Dressing found in The Body Ecology Living Cookbook.) In addition to using lemongrass in fish and poultry dishes, salads, savory sauces, stir-fries, stocks and soups, vegetable side dishes, and teas, lemongrass has also been hailed as a superfood in the kitchen for its many health benefits that you’ll see below. Right alongside “super” nutritious foods like kefir, kale, broccoli, salmon, and blueberries, cooking with lemongrass is thought to aid in cleansing and detoxification.
When using fresh lemongrass for flavoring, you can lightly pound the dry stalks to release their volatile oils and then cut them into strips. When cooking lemongrass in a dish, thinly slice the pale control core and mince or blend into tiny particles.
Indigenous people in Nepal and in traditional Indian medicine used antioxidant-rich lemongrass for infectious diseases, fever, and as a sedative for the central nervous system.
Animal studies have also shown that lemongrass oil may help to prevent colon cancer and other cancers.1
Researchers are uncertain as to the exact properties in lemongrass oil that inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells, but it may be because it contains the highest amount of citral versus any other known plant. Lemongrass oil may contain up to 80 percent citral.2 Citral, a substance also found in lemon peels, is known to relieve cramps, spasms, headaches, and rheumatism. Researchers note that lemongrass oil's antioxidant qualities and ability to inhibit the enzyme that promotes the growth of cancer cells are promising.1
Just a decade ago, lemongrass use soared in popularity in Israel as cancer patients from around the country headed to local farms to purchase fresh stalks of the herb. This time, therapeutic lemongrass use wasn’t just a passing trend — cancer patients undergoing radiation and chemotherapy were being told by their doctors to drink eight glasses of water with fresh lemongrass on the days they had treatment. After Israeli researchers discovered that the citral in just one gram of lemongrass per drink could trigger cancer cells to commit suicide, lemongrass farms became the “mecca” for cancer sufferers in Israel.3,4
Other animal studies have shown that lemongrass oil inhibits the growth of Helicobacter pylori (H. pylori), the opportunistic pathogen that is behind ulcers and other gastroduodenal diseases.5
In 2008, researchers also proved lemongrass’s ability to work as an antifungal, when lemongrass oil and citral were observed to have “potent in vitro activity” against Candida.6 When combined with other essential oils, lemongrass oil may be even more effective at fighting the pathogenic Candida yeast. Using lemongrass and clove essential oils together could help bust through Candida’s protective biofilm that makes it so difficult to reach, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology.7 Fermented herbs can be used alongside lemongrass essential oil to strip Candida’s sticky biofilm and command dangerous yeast cells to self-destruct. For more serious illnesses, like hospital-acquired infections, using lemongrass to fight Candida may be especially beneficial. Candida biofilms are notoriously resistant to common antifungal drugs and can pose a serious health threat.
Likewise, lemongrass was proven to be an effective antibacterial against pathogenic and drug-resistant bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus), Bacillus cereus (B. cereus), Bacillus subtilis (B. subtilis), Escherichia coli (E. coli), and Klebsiella pneumoniae (K. pneumoniae) in 2010.8 For therapeutic treatment, lemongrass also has some scientific backing for its anti-amebic, antidiarrheal, anti-inflammatory, antimalarial, antioxidant, hypocholesterolemic, hypoglycemic, larvicidal, and neurobehavioral uses, among others.9
Below are some of the most common uses for lemongrass essential oil.
Some of the well-known healing properties of lemongrass may apply to:
Lemongrass can be purchased in Asian markets and health food stores and comes fresh, dried, and powdered. You can also grow lemongrass yourself, either indoors or outdoors in a warm climate.
Fresh lemongrass is better than powdered or dried, and the most potent form is lemongrass essential oil. Essential oils are 70 times more concentrated than their plant counterparts and have been used throughout history for health and wellness. At Body Ecology, we have long recommended the use of essential oils for health and relaxation.
We suggest using this method for essential oil application:
**Please note that only high-quality organic essential oils should be used, while avoiding the many cheap, synthetic essential oils that contain chemicals, added ingredients, and preservatives on the market. High-quality organic essential oils should be used under the care of a Certified Aromatherapist to prevent harm to the liver from incorrect or over-use.
Whether you want to add a new taste to your cooking, heal your body, or quiet your mind, lemongrass and lemongrass essential oil are great additions to your naturally health lifestyle. With a growing body of scientific research to back its use, lemongrass reminds us of one of our most important Body Ecology Principles: Using food as medicine.
Not only is lemongrass flavorful in food and refreshing as an essential oil, but it can provide direct health benefits when used regularly. As Donna Gates, founder of The Body Ecology Diet and fermented foods pioneer, explains, “Yes, healing and delicious can go hand in hand!” And when you’re cooking with lemongrass, Donna says, “Whether you cook for yourself or also for those you love, it’s important to prepare each meal with the intention to heal, and with calmness and appreciation for the benefits that healthy, nutritious food can bring.”
A popular herb used in Thai, Vietnamese, and Caribbean cuisine, with traditional therapeutic use in India and Nepal, lemongrass, or Cymbopogon citrates, is now becoming more well-known in the U.S. You may already enjoy lemongrass for its flavor in cooking, often swapped out for ginger in Western dishes. Like kale, broccoli, kefir, and salmon, nourishing and cleansing lemongrass is considered a superfood in the kitchen. And when it’s used as a concentrated essential oil, it has a long list of health benefits.
Rich in antioxidants, lemongrass oil has traditionally been used to treat fever and infectious diseases and calm the central nervous system. Some animal studies suggest that lemongrass oil may help prevent colon and other types of cancers. Lemongrass contains up to 80 percent citral at the highest concentration of any other plant, making it especially powerful as a headache, cramp, and spasm reliever. Lemongrass may inhibit dangerous bacterial growth and work as an antifungal to fight against Candida. Fermented herbs can also be used to control Candida overgrowth, alongside a natural remedy like lemongrass essential oil.
Lemongrass makes a flavorful addition to fresh and healing dishes, like some of those found in The Body Ecology Living Cookbook. When used as an essential oil, lemongrass becomes even more potent. Lemongrass essential oil has the potential to relieve inflammation, arthritis, swelling, and infection, while soothing digestion, stimulating the liver, supporting cartilage and tendon health, minimizing cellulite, strengthening the immune system, cleansing and toning the skin, and much more.
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