Originally from India, lemongrass is an important medicine in South America and Southeast Asia. It is grown in Central America, Brazil and China, and is one of the ten best-selling essential oils in the world (about 1,500 tons per year). It is used in soaps, cosmetic fragrances and deodorants, and gives Ivory soap its familiar scent. The constituent citral is extracted from it.
Family: Poaceae (Gramineae)
Extraction: Distilled from partially dried leaves. It has a distinctive lemon-herbal, slightly bitter fragrance.
Medicinal Action: It is antiseptic and treats pain from indigestion, muscle cramps, rheumatism, nerve conditions and headaches. It is also an effective anticoagulant.
Cosmetic/Skin Use: Lemongrass counters oily hair, acne, skin infections, scabies and ringworm. It is also deodorant.
Considerations: Nontoxic, but it causes skin sensitivity in some people. Lemongrass will burn the skin if not sufficiently diluted.
Emotional Attribute: The fragrance is sedating and soothing.
Palmarosa (C. martini) –Palmarosa’s lemon-rose fragrance is reminiscent of the richer, more expensive rose geranium, which it is often used to adulterate. The scent varies depending on its quality and age, and on whether it comes from India, Brazil, the Philippines or Java. Palmarosa treats stress and nervous exhaustion. A cell regenerator, it balances oil production and can be used on any complexion type, but especially for acne, infected skin or varicose veins. The constituent geraniol is extracted from it.
Lemongrass Cochin (C. flexuosus) –Grown in India primarily for isolation of citral.
Citronella (C. nardus) –While riding an elephant near the Egyptian border in 332 B.C., Alexander the Great supposedly became intoxicated when he smelled “spikenard.” More likely, it was citronella being crushed underfoot. Known as “nard,” citronella was first exhibited at London’s Crystal Palace in 1851 and proceeded to become the primary scent in cleaning products. It is a physical and emotional purifier, used to treat colds, infections and oily complexions. Inexpensive citronella often adulterates lemon verbena and melissa, although it is distinctly camphorous and harsh, and can irritate skin. The preparation Oleum Melissae Indicum is actually made from citronella oil, not melissa.
Java Citronella (C. winterianus) –Widely cultivated because it yields twice the oil of the Ceylon type and is a little sweeter. A source of the constituent citronellal.