Ever wondered how Thai food gets that lemony, citrusy flavour? The ingredient responsible for it is known as Lemongrass, among other names like citronella, Sweet Rush, and fever grass.
Although it is used profusely in Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines and even Vietnam, the roots of lemongrass lie in India and Nepal. From this region it migrated to South-east Asia where it is now used in Asian teas, soups and curries.
Lemongrass was used extensively in ancient Ayurvedic medicines. Its medicinal properties have been known for centuries and include:
- Stress relief: Lemongrass is used in aromatherapy candles and oils for its calming, stress relieving quality. It is a sedative that is often recommended for people suffering from insomnia, fatigue or depression, as it promotes a good night’s sleep and overall well-being.
- Anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and antiseptic: Lemongrass wards off fungal, bacterial and viral infections. It relieves cough and nasal congestion and boosts the body’s immune system.
- Anti-pyretic: Lemongrass can promote perspiration and lower fevers or cool the body in high temperatures.
- An effective diuretic: When consumed in the form of tea, lemongrass helps reduce uric acid, cholesterol, and excess fats in your body. It helps increase urination to aid in digestion and maintains healthy blood pressure and kidney function.
- Helps the digestive system: Lemongrass alleviates acidity, indigestion and gastroenteritis. It cleanses the liver, pancreas, kidney, bladder and the digestive tract. People suffering from nausea are advised to drink lemongrass tea.
- Good for the skin: The Vitamin A in lemongrass improves the skin by reducing acne and pimples. It also reduces cellulite.
- Calms the central nervous system: The strength and activity of the nervous system is enhanced by the consumption of lemongrass. It also helps cure many nervous disorders like Parkinson’s disease and vertigo.
- Anti-cancer properties: An Israeli research found that lemongrass caused apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells in different types of cancer.
- Builds muscle strength: It tones the muscles and tissues in our limbs and relieves arthritic pain and rheumatism.
- Analgesic properties: Lemongrass reduces inflammation and reduces muscles and joint pain, headaches, toothaches and even eye pain.
In addition to the above listed health benefits, lemongrass reduces blood pressure, improves blood circulation, helps flatulence and colic. It is a known deodorant and is used as a home remedy for menstrual cramps when it is mixed with pepper. Lemongrass can be used as an insect repellant and the essential oil can either be applied on the arms and legs to prevent insect bites and keep away bugs.
With this burgeoning list of positive qualities, it is a wonder that lemongrass is not used more cuisines! So how can you benefit from lemongrass? While shopping for lemongrass, choose the leaves carefully. They should be grey-green, thin and long. They should be fibrous and the outside leaves as well as the tips should be chopped finely or thrown away. The base of the leaves needs to be ground.
Lemongrass is extremely flexible in use. It can be used fresh or dried. Asian cooking uses lemongrass by chopping it finely and adding it to curry. It lends a sour taste to food that goes well with ginger. Another way is to make a concoction of lemongrass boiled with water and drink the emergent tea. Lemongrass is also available in the form of an essential oil.