Some species (particularly Cymbopogon citratus) are commonly cultivated as culinary and medicinal herbs because of their scent, resembling that of lemons (Citrus limon). Common names include lemon grass, barbed wire grass, silky heads, citronella grass, cha de Dartigalongue, fever grass, tanglad, serai, hierba Luisa, or gavati chahapati, amongst many others.
Lemongrass is widely used as a culinary herb in Asian cuisines and also as a medicinal herb in India. It has a subtle citrus flavor and can be dried and powdered, or used fresh. It is commonly used in teas, soups, and curries. It is also suitable for use with poultry, fish, beef, and seafood. It is often used as a tea in African countries such as Togo, south eastern Ghana Volta Region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Latin American countries such as Mexico.
Lemongrass oil is used as a pesticide and a preservative. Research shows that lemongrass oil has antifungal properties. Despite its ability to repel some insects, such as mosquitoes, its oil is commonly used as a “lure” to attract honey bees. “Lemongrass works conveniently as well as the pheromone created by the honeybee’s Nasonov gland, also known as attractant pheromones. Because of this, lemongrass oil can be used as a lure when trapping swarms or attempting to draw the attention of hived bees.”
Citronella grass (Cymbopogon nardus and Cymbopogon winterianus) grow to about 2 m (6.6 ft) and have magenta-colored base stems. These species are used for the production of citronella oil, which is used in soaps, as an insect repellent (especially mosquitoes) in insect sprays and candles, and in aromatherapy. The principal chemical constituents of citronella, geraniol and citronellol, are antiseptics, hence their use in household disinfectants and soaps. Besides oil production, citronella grass is also used for culinary purposes, as a flavoring.
Citronella is usually planted in home gardens to ward off insects such as whitefly adults. Its cultivation enables growing some vegetables (e.g. tomatoes and broccoli) without applying pesticides. Intercropping should include physical barriers, for citronella roots can take over the field.
Lemongrass oil, used as a pesticide and preservative, is put on the ancient palm-leaf manuscripts found in India as a preservative. It is used at the Oriental Research Institute Mysore, the French Institute of Pondicherry, the Association for the Preservation of the Saint Thomas Christian Heritage in Kerala, and many other manuscript collections in India. The oil also injects natural fluidity into the brittle palm leaves, and the hydrophobic nature of the oil keeps the manuscripts dry so the text is not lost to decay due to humidity.
East Indian lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus), also called Cochin grass or Malabar grass, is native to Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, India, Sri Lanka, Burma, and Thailand, while West Indian lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) is native to South Asia and maritime Southeast Asia. While both can be used interchangeably, C. citratus is more suitable for cooking. In India, C. citratus is used both as a medical herb and in perfumes. C. citratus is consumed as a tea for anxiety in Brazilian folk medicine, but a study in humans found no effect. The tea caused a recurrence of contact dermatitis in one case.
Species included in the genus include:
- Cymbopogon ambiguus Australian lemon-scented grass – Australia, Timor
- Cymbopogon annamensis – Yunnan, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand
- Cymbopogon bhutanicus – Bhutan
- Cymbopogon bombycinus silky oilgrass – Australia
- Cymbopogon caesius – Sub-Saharan Africa, Indian Subcontinent, Yemen, Afghanistan, Madagascar, Comoros, Réunion
- Cymbopogon calcicola – Thailand, Kedah
- Cymbopogon calciphilus – Thailand
- Cymbopogon cambogiensis – Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam
- Cymbopogon citratus lemon grass – Sri Lanka, northeast and southern India, Southeast Asia
- Cymbopogon clandestinus – Thailand, Myanmar, Andaman Islands
- Cymbopogon coloratus – Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Myanmar, Vietnam
- Cymbopogon commutatus – Sahel, East Africa, Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, India, Pakistan
- Cymbopogon densiflorus – central + south-central Africa
- Cymbopogon dependens – Australia
- Cymbopogon dieterlenii – Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa
- Cymbopogon distans – Gansu, Guizhou, Shaanxi, Sichuan, Tibet, Yunnan, Nepal, northern Pakistan, Jammu & Kashmir
- Cymbopogon exsertus – Nepal, Assam
- Cymbopogon flexuosus East Indian lemon grass – Indian Subcontinent, Indochina
- Cymbopogon gidarba – Indian Subcontinent, Myanmar, Yunnan
- Cymbopogon giganteus – Africa, Madagascar
- Cymbopogon globosus – Maluku, New Guinea, Queensland
- Cymbopogon goeringii – China incl Taiwan, Korea, Japan incl Ryukyu Islands, Vietnam
- Cymbopogon gratus – Queensland
- Cymbopogon jwarancusa – Socotra, Turkey, Middle East, Arabian Peninsula, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Indian Subcontinent, Tibet, Sichuan, Yunnan, Vietnam
- Cymbopogon khasianus – Yunnan, Guangxi, Assam, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Thailand
- Cymbopogon liangshanensis – Sichuan
- Cymbopogon mandalaiaensis – Myanmar
- Cymbopogon marginatus – Cape Province of South Africa
- Cymbopogon martini palmarosa – Indian Subcontinent, Myanmar, Vietnam
- Cymbopogon mekongensis – China, Indochina
- Cymbopogon microstachys Indian Subcontinent, Myanmar, Thailand, Yunnan
- Cymbopogon microthecus – Nepal, Bhutan, Assam, West Bengal, Bangladesh
- Cymbopogon minor – Yunnan
- Cymbopogon minutiflorus – Sulawesi
- Cymbopogon nardus citronella grass (In Thai language ตะไคร้หอม (ta-khrai hom) – Indian Subcontinent, Indochina, central + southern Africa, Madagascar, Seychelles
- Cymbopogon nervatus – Myanmar, Thailand, central Africa
- Cymbopogon obtectus Silky-heads – Australia
- Cymbopogon osmastonii – India, Bangladesh
- Cymbopogon pendulus – Yunnan, eastern Himalayas, Myanmar, Vietnam
- Cymbopogon polyneuros – Tamil Nadu, Sri Lanka, Myanmar
- Cymbopogon pospischilii – eastern + southern Africa, Oman, Yemen, Himalayas, Tibet, Yunnan
- Cymbopogon procerus – Australia, New Guinea, Maluku, Lesser Sunda Islands, Sulawesi
- Cymbopogon pruinosus – islands of Indian Ocean
- Cymbopogon queenslandicus – Queensland
- Cymbopogon quinhonensis – Vietnam
- Cymbopogon rectus – Lesser Sunda Islands, Java
- Cymbopogon refractus barbed wire grass – Australia incl Norfolk Island
- Cymbopogon schoenanthus camel hay or camel grass – Sahara, Sahel, eastern Africa, Arabian Peninsular, Iran
- Cymbopogon tortilis – China incl Taiwan, Ryukyu + Bonin Is, Philippines, Vietnam, Maluku
- Cymbopogon tungmaiensis – Sichuan, Tibet, Yunnan
- Cymbopogon winterianus citronella grass – Borneo, Java, Sumatra
- Cymbopogon xichangensis – Sichuan
- Formerly included
- Sprengel, Curt (Kurt, Curtius) Polycarp Joachim 1815. Plantarum Minus Cognitarum Pugillus 2: 14
- lectotype designated by N.L. Britton & P. Wilson, Bot. Porto Rico 1: 27 (1923)
- Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
- Tropicos, Cymbopogon Spreng.
- Soenarko, S. 1977. The genus Cymbopogon Sprengel (Gramineae). Reinwardtia 9(3): 225–375
- Flora of China Vol. 22 Page 624 香茅属 xiang mao shu Cymbopogon Sprengel, Pl. Min. Cogn. Pug. 2: 14. 1815.
- Atlas of Living Australia, Cymbopogon Spreng., Lemon Grass
- Bor, N. L. 1960. Grass. Burma, Ceylon, India & Pakistan i–767. Pergamon Press, Oxford
- Shadab, Q., Hanif, M. & Chaudhary, F.M. (1992) Antifungal activity by lemongrass essential oils. Pak. J. Sci. Ind. Res. 35, 246-249.
- Wikibooks:Beekeeping/Guide to Essential Oils
- Takeguma, Massahiro. “Gowing Citronella”. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
- Blanco MM, Costa CA, Freire AO, Santos JG, Costa M (March 2009). “Neurobehavioral effect of essential oil of Cymbopogon citratus in mice”. Phytomedicine. 16 (2–3): 265–70. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2007.04.007. PMID 17561386.
- Leite JR, Seabra Mde L, Maluf E, et al. (July 1986). “Pharmacology of lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus Stapf). III. Assessment of eventual toxic, hypnotic and anxiolytic effects on humans”. J Ethnopharmacol. 17 (1): 75–83. doi:10.1016/0378-8741(86)90074-7. PMID 2429120.
- Bleasel N, Tate B, Rademaker M (August 2002). “Allergic contact dermatitis following exposure to essential oils”. Australas. J. Dermatol. 43 (3): 211–3. doi:10.1046/j.1440-0960.2002.00598.x. PMID 12121401.