As I walked past a Thai massage spa en route the grocery store, I saw a lady walking out of the spa, so happy and energized. What a blank gaze, she might have thought. Or maybe not. She knew that I was lost looking at her. But she walked unperturbed. Yes. I was looking at her, but not at her really. Something else drew my attention away. My gaze turned into a gasp, only for good though. One pair of tiny nostrils is an unfair geometry to experience such fragrance, I thought to myself. But come to think of it, the spa door was just closing as the lady exited, and there was not a lot of room for so much fragrance that swept my attention. Wait, what’s this strong aroma? How could it be so intense in such a short time, through a narrow door, that was already closing? It got me curious. And I had to enter the spa just for the free smells. Or at least. Welcome to lemongrass Wednesday, greeted the signboard.
Cymbopogon citratus is the Latin name of this South Asian/ North African herb. Going by its family name citratus, it is a citrus plant. Unlike other herbs, this is a weed. It looks like an ordinary weed grass, but has a strong citrus flavor, which is why it has been used in a realm of fields such as medicine, food, perfume and a disinfectant, to name a few.
Composition – Geranial, Neral
To understand this oil, it helps to learn the chemical composition. The DNA of this oil is decided by two aldehydes – geranial and neral, of which, the former is responsible for the lemony aroma and the latter gives acute sweetness. The combination of the two is a strong, sweet, lemon like flavor accompanied by raw bitterness that comes from the native weed. Aldehydes inherently have the ability to cleanse surfaces. When diffused, they can rejuvenate and lessen feelings of stress. The two major varieties are citratus and flexuosus families. It is an important herb in Ayurveda. The oil is extracted from the leaves of this plant. And thus, it can be identified by its pale or bright yellow color, with a strong, lemony and earthy scent.
Refreshing benefits –
The oil from the flexuosus derivatives is commonly used in the perfume industry. In combination with sweet almond oil, it could be a winning combo for massage oils. It is a promising additive to DIY household cleaning products. Lemongrass oil is a natural air freshener. It induces hygiene by its ability to repel insects and flies. Here again, the citral geranial content helps in keeping the surroundings free from mosquitoes and ants.
The citratus component is getting used in newer dishes in cooking. Lemongrass soups are a thing in several Thai restaurants off late. The bold flavor soothes travel fatigue, and mundaneness in routines. Lemon Orzo, the traditional Thai red curry, steamed lemon grass recipes and many more recipes world over, bask in the aroma and glory of lemongrass. The raw herb makes it to the list of aromatic tea and countless other beverages.
In medicine, lemongrass oil is found to be antibacterial and antifungal (possibly due to geranial). It is also believed to remove excess gas from the intestines thereby aiding in gastrointestinal health and digestion. A flavonoid compound called luteolin has been linked to combating cancer cells, apart from improving symptoms of lung infections and multiple sclerosis. The intuitive citrus scent could potentially elevate our senses, thereby uplifting the mood and the freshness in the atmosphere. The strong aroma takes over the atmospheric odor, thus aiding anxiety relief, irritability and insomnia.
A study conducted in 2009, tested whether essential lemongrass oil vapor helped the atmosphere. It was observed that 89% of atmospheric bacteria were removed within 15 hours, when lemongrass oil was sprayed in an office environment.
The citral concentration is so intense that it is believed to potentially burn outer skin (just by external application), if the oil is not blended carefully. With properly researched and combined mixtures, the lemongrass oil could turn out be an amazing culinary ingredient, or aromatherapy medicine. It is a treat to put it to right use, and reap its benefits.
By the time I was done reading the note, my throat and my lips had dried out entirely. I closed my mouth, to protect myself. I had a thousand thoughts rush my mind, in awe of the experiments, our ancestors have done world over. Every culture has tried and tested this herb in food, medicine and cosmetics. Massive respect for all of that hard work. As I approached the exit door, my mind was refreshed and I am guessing it reflected on my face. I am pretty confident about this although I did not get to see myself in any mirror. The lady gazing at me, contemplating a visit to this spa, had her attention divided by the scent of this citrus senorita. I walked unperturbed. Deja vu! I know that feeling miss. But with a tricky smile this time, for I was passing on the ecstasy of this geranial Cymbopogon citratus, to the one approaching with curiosity. Ah, what could a small herb do to your evening?!
All of the content above is from various sources on the web. The medicines and the recipes discussed, are proven to be effective based on the experiences and other blogs on the internet. Not all of these have been personally tried and tested by me. I am no expert in this oil usage. Good luck trying!
This post has been written in collaboration with the IndianSuperHeroes. They have these oils purely extracted from the herbs. You can find them in their store right here.