A tropical aromatic grass growing to 90cm in height in India (slightly taller or shorter when grown elsewhere).

This genus of 56 species of perennial, occasionally annual, aromatic grasses occurs in tropical and warm temperate parts of Asia and Europe. Many are rich in essential oils, containing large amounts of citral and geraniol, which are lemon- and rose-scented respectively. The best known species is C. citratus (lemon grass), which is grown on a large scale in India and Guatemala. Lemon grass oil consists chiefly of citral (75-85 percent) and citronellal. It is used directly in aromatherapy, perfumery, and food flavoring, or for manufacturing other perfume ingredients. Several other species are cultivated for their oils. These include: C. flexuosus (East Indian/Cochin lemon grass), grown mainly in Kerala, India, for lemon grass oil, used for food flavoring; C. martinii (palmarosa, rosha, geranium grass) from India, source of Turkish geranium oil, used to adulterate rose oil and widely used in rose perfumes, soaps, and insect repellents: C. martinii var. sofia (ginger grass), which has a cruder scent; and C. nardus (citronella), grown in Sri Lanka and Java for citronella oil-similar in fragrance and properties to Melissa officinalis (See, lemon balm. Cymbopogon is from the Greek kymbe, "boat", and pogon, "beard", referring to the appearance of the floral spikelets.

Clump-forming perennial wth robust, dense, often cane-like stems, and arching, lemon-scented, linear leaves, to 90cm (3ft) long. Awnless spikelets appear in lax panicles, to 5cm (2in) long in summer.

Common Name:
Botanical Name:
Cymbopogon citratus
Native Location:
United States, Africa, Guatemala, S India, Sri-Lanka
Well-drained soil in sun with moderate humidity. Flowering is rare in plants grown in containers or under cover.
By seed sown in spring at 13-18°C (55-64°F), by division in spring.
Stems are cut at ground level and used fresh for oil extraction, dried for powder, and either fresh or dried for infusions. The leaf blades may be removed and the lower 7-10cm (3-4in) used as a fresh herb.
1.5m (5ft)
1m (3ft)
Min. 7°C (45°F)
Steam Distillation
Parts Used:
Leaves, stems, oil
Color and Odor:
The essential oil is golden-yellow with a strong, sweet, lemony scent.
Long used in India especially for fevers and infectious diseases. Very useful as a room freshener and deodorizer.
Tonic, stimulant, strong antiseptic, bactericide, refreshing and deodorant.
A bitter, aromatic, cooling herb that increases perspiration and relieves spasms. Also has a sedative action and is effective against fungal and bacterial infections.
Vitamin Content:
Vitamin A
Magical Influences:
Psychic Awareness, Purification
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for digestive problems in children, and minor feverish illnesses. Externally for ringworm, lice, athlete's foot, arthritis, and scabies.
Culinary Uses:
Base of leaves is used fresh, or as sereh powder, in SE Asian cooking, especially with fish, meat, sauces, and curries. Leaves are infused for tea.
Economic Uses:
Oil is used in soap, hair oils, perfumes, and cosmetics, and for flavoring in the food industry. Also important in the manufacture of vitamin A, and ionones (synthetic violet perfumes).
  • Respiratory System—Helpful in preventing respiratory infections, sore throats and laryngitis.
  • Muscular System—Helps to tone muscles and make them more supple.
  • Emotions—Lemongrass is purifying and stimulates awareness. It refreshes the mind and is helpful for mental fatigue and loss of concentration.
Lemongrass 5 Lemongrass 5 Lemongrass 4
Eucalyptus 4 Rosemary 4 Orange 4
Sandalwood 3 Coriander 3 Basil 2
Aromatherapy Blends and recipes by Franzesca Watson Copyright © 1995 Thorsons, Harper Parker Publishing Inc. Pp 124-125
Magical Aromatherapy by Scott Cunningham Copyright © 1989 Llewellyn Publications, Inc. Pp. 105-106
The Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited. pp 187-188