Lemongrass

Synonyms: West Indian lemon grass
Scientific Name: Cymbopogon citratus L.
Family: Poaceae (grass family)

Habitat

Probably East India and Indonesia

Constituents

Essential oil with citral as chief constituent, flavonoids, triterpenes

Description

Just thinking of lemongrass conjures up exotic images suffused with the fragrances of Thai cuisine. This perennial plant, which belongs to the grass family, is at home in tropical climates. It has smooth, bluish-green leaves consisting of a short, closed sheath at the base and a long, open blade which can grow to a length of up to 150 centimeters and droops gracefully at the tip. The sharp blades grow in clumps up to 120 centimeters across and when crushed give off a lemony aroma. Each new leaf grows within the sheath of the youngest leaf. This gives rise to a ring of leaves, thickened at the base, the leaves encased within each other onion-fashion and with the oldest leaves on the outside. Lemongrass produces its ear-like inflorescence only rarely. Its usual means of spreading is by runners.

When we talk about grass we usually think of the grass growing on a meadow or a garden lawn, for example. But it is worth taking a closer look at the grass family. After all, besides lemon grass it includes such important crops as wheat, rye, barley, oats, millet, maize, rice, sugar cane and bamboo. The hollow stems of grass are called culms. Its leaves and flowers branch out from these stems at thickened, solid growth points, the nodes. The very simple, wind-pollinated inflorescences of the grasses are known as spikelets and these are enclosed in bracts known as glumes. The inflorescences are arranged in

varying ways: as ears (e.g. wheat, maize), spikes (e.g. rye, barley), panicles (e.g. oats, rice) or racemes, i.e. unbranched spikelet stalks on an elongated axis.

Uses

In large doses the citral contained in the essential oil of lemongrass has calming, pain-relieving properties. Asian folk medicine therefore uses lemongrass nervous agitation and fevers. As the familiar seasoning in Asian dishes or an ingredient of herbal teas it stimulates the appetite and soothes gastrointestinal symptoms..

Interesting Facts

The botanical term Cymbopogon is derived from the Greek kymbe = boat and pogon = beard. It describes the boat-shaped glumes and the densely clustered inflorescences which resemble a thick beard.

Caravans from tropical Asia brought lemon grass to Europe in the Middle Ages. Here it was used in the brewing of beer and the production of spiced wine. Lemongrass only really became part of our culture in the 1980s, however, both as an aromatic oil for aroma lamps and as an ingredient in the increasingly popular Asian cuisine.

The lemongrass in traditional dishes from South East Asia and Sri Lanka is always fresh, as dried grass is much less aromatic. The juicy, thickened base of the leaves is used because this is where most essential oil is found. The white inside is finely chopped and mixed into the food. Older, woody stems are best pounded and cooked whole with the other ingredients, and then fished out before serving. The lemony aroma with a hint of rose fragrance rounds off the flavour of a dish nicely. For a refreshing, thirst-quenching drink soak fresh leaves in cold water. In India lemon grass is used primarily for perfume-making and as an herb.

Anyone wishing to grow their own lemon grass plant can go into any Asian speciality shop and buy a

freshly cut stem. Place it in water and the cut surface will produce roots. Plant the rooted stem and it will turn into an aromatic plant. Incidentally – fresh lemon grass stalks keep very well frozen.

The Plant at Dr. Hauschka Skin Care

In Dr. Hauschka Lemon Lemongrass Vitalizing Body Oil, Lemon Lemongrass Vitalizing Body Wash and Lemon Lemongrass Vitalizing Body Milk the essential oil of lemon grass can unfold its firming qualities. The body oil and the body moisturier contain an extract of lemongrass carefully prepared using our own special rhythmic process. For this, dried lemongrass from certified organic sources is allowed to fuse for a week with sunflower oil from certified organic sunflowers. During this phase the mixture is warmed to 37 degrees Celsius – human body temperature. The mixture is stirred carefully mornings and evenings. In this way all the strength of the lemon grass is transferred to the oil.

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