Caution: Excessive Use of Lemongrass May Be Harmful to Your Health
Lemongrass, scientifically known as Cymbopogon citratus, is a common herb used in cooking to enrich food flavor. Many people are aware that this apparently common grass has many health benefits, too. Because of the many health benefits of lemongrass, many forms of preparations are sold in the lucrative alternative medicine market.
Health Benefits of Lemongrass
There are many health benefits of lemongrass which have been discussed extensively elsewhere. Among those alleged important health benefits of lemongrass are listed below:
1. Lemongrass can strengthen the immune system.
2. Lemongrass can fight fungal infections.
3. Lemongrass can regulate hypertension.
4. Lemongrass can remove stomach gas.
5. Lemongrass can reduce inflammation.
6. Lemongrass may help prevent cancer.
7. Lemongrass can kill harmful bacteria.
8. Lemongrass relieves muscle cramps.
9. Lemongrass can remove body odor.
10. Lemongrass can kill pesky insects.
11. Lemongrass can fight depression.
12. Lemongrass can sanitize wounds.
13. Lemongrass can stop bleeding.
14. Lemongrass can control fever.
15. Lemongrass relieves spasms.
16. Lemongrass can reduce pain.
17. Lemongrass can aid sleep.
Confounding Research Findings on Lemongrass
A very important and groundbreaking discovery that stands out among the health benefits of lemongrass listed above is that an essential oil extracted from the herb can cure cancer. A study conducted by Dudai et al. (2005) of the Hazeva Research and Development Center, Jacob Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Beer Sheva, Israel revealed that lemongrass caused apoptosis or programmed cell death in cancer cells. This is due to the presence of citral in the herb. What is amazing is that a high concentration of citral induced apoptosis without harming the normal cells.
However, it is worthy to note that an earlier research found out that citral, the active component of lemongrass, can have the opposite effect to body cells. The findings of Geldoff and Rao in 1992 strongly suggested that citral can induce prostatic hyperplasia in rats. Simply stated, this refers to the enlargement of the prostate due to the estrogenic action of citral. Cells may abnormally increase in number due to citral. Citral can induce benign tumor that may eventually lead to cancer.
Disclaimer: No Approved Therapeutic Claims
While so many health benefits of lemongrass have been listed and touted by many advertisers and marketers, many of those health benefits are mainly speculation or not yet confirmed by science. The alleged health benefits of lemongrass are founded on anecdotal evidence. Anecdotal evidence means that the purported health benefits of lemongrass were based mainly on people’s testimonies which could not be construed as factual because these are just perceptions. Also, taking the herb's extracts would be beneficial for some people but these may not work for others.
This is the reason why many of health products have labels written on them: "No Approved Therapeutic Claims." This is a disclaimer that the producer of the product could not guarantee its efficacy. This may be because there were no studies or long-term research yet to determine the efficacy of the product in actually treating anything.
Warning for Lemongrass
People with kidney or liver diseases should not use lemongrass in any form without consulting with their doctor. A person that has kind of allergies to lemongrass should not use it in any form either. Keep lemon grass away from your eyes; wash your hands after handling lemon grass oils.
It is also recommended that pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid using lemongrass, since it is not known how lemon grass might affect a newborn.
If you are undergoing chemotherapy treatments, avoid lemongrass since it can act as an antioxidant and may reduce the effectiveness of some chemotherapy agents.
There is, therefore, a need to be cautious about herbal remedies or supplements because the desired effect may be contrary to what was expected. Again, the rule is to do things in moderation. Excessive use of products from the apparently harmless herb like lemongrass may in the long term be harmful to one's health.
Yes, there are a few warnings about lemongrass, but continuing studies do show promise as an herb that might kill cancer cells.
Dudai, N., Weinstein, Y., Krup, M., Rabinski, T., and R. Ofir. Citral is a new inducer of caspase-3 in tumor cell lines. Planta Med. 2005 May;71(5):484-8.
Geldoff, A., Engel, C. and Br Rao, 1992. Estrogenic action of commonly used fragrant agent citral induces prostatic hyperplasia. Urol Res. 1992;20(2):139-44.