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Lemony Lemongrass: the Herb, the Essential Oil

Lemongrass is one of my very favorite herbs for the herb garden – and one that I will always include – sometimes in a pot, sometimes in the ground. It’s a tender perennial, native to South and Southeast Asia, and so it won’t overwinter outdoors in northern Illinois. But if lemongrass is potted, it can happily spend the winter near a window indoors, and be brought back out to the garden again the following spring.

Lemongrass has a lovely lemony flavor and fragrance, and is often used in Thai and Vietnamese dishes. I have to admit, I’ve never cooked with lemongrass myself. I’ve only used the leaves of the herb to make the occasional cup of tea.

Lemongrass is one of those herbs that I incorporate into my herb garden, not because I plan to use it, but simply because I love the way it looks and smells. It gives height and a different texture to the herb garden – and a delightful flowing movement when the breeze blows. Lemongrass is an herb that I never want to be without, even if I never make use of a single leaf!

Lemongrass essential oil is also a favorite of mine! The essential oil is distilled from the dried leaves of the lemongrass plant. The oil has a bright scent, similar but softer than that of the more familiar lemon essential oil. It’s wonderful in the diffuser – alone, or blended with complimentary oils. As I type this, a blend of Lemongrass and Spearmint diffuses behind me.

Both the plant and the essential oil can be an effective mosquito repellent – but since Lemongrass essential oil can cause skin irritation for some people, it’s best to dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil (try 1 part essential oil to 4 parts carrier oil). I often use jojoba oil as my carrier, but any carrier oil will work.

Also, consider the following information and usage suggestion: “The lemongrass plant itself is often grown for bug repellent benefits, but the essential oil is much more portable! In [2015] trials, lemongrass matched DEET’s performance for mosquito repellent, without all of those nasty chemical risks and side effects. Add lemongrass to a water and vinegar mixture, shake, then spritz onto clothing for a DIY mosquito repellent.” (

Lemongrass essential oil has many healing properties. It's known to support digestion, as well as detoxification. If taking lemongrass essential oil internally, some sources suggest taking 1-2 drops of lemongrass in a gel capsule, in order to avoid irritation to the esophagus.

Since I like making herbal tea with lemongrass leaves, recently I decided to try making a tea with the essential oil. I added just one drop of lemongrass essential oil in a mug of hot water. It was delicious!

But please keep in mind, if you're taking any essential oil internally, be sure to use only the very best, therapeutic-grade essential oils!

Whether you grow and use the herb, or make use of the essential oil, I encourage you to get to know lemongrass. You’ll be glad you did!

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