These notes were originally prepared for two short CPD (Continuing Professional Development) "essential oils refresher" sessions which I led for Professional Aromatherapy Network in South Yorkshire. I would be glad to lead such sessions for other groups, e.g. local/regional IFPA or IFA branches.

For list of other essential oil profiles see USES.
To buy organic lemongrass oil visit the ONLINE SHOP.


Cymbopogon Citratus or Flexuosus

Although many sources use the two botanical names interchangeably, Charles Wells states that there are two distinct varieties, Citratus and Flexuosus, and that Citratus (West Indian Lemongrass) contains the analgesic active compound myrcene, while Flexuosus (East Indian Lemongrass) does not (1). Some commercial oil is also distilled from C. Pendulus.

Origin Julia Lawless says the West Indian (Citratus), though probably native to Sri Lanka, is now cultivated in the West Indies, Africa, and tropical Asia, with Guatemala and India among main producers. East Indian, though native to East India, is now mainly cultivated in West India! Is that clear!? Comes from the same family (Gramineae) as vetiver, citronella, palmarosa (2). The plant can grow to three feet high or more (3).

Extraction Steam distillation of chopped fresh and partially dried leaves (grass) (2). 

History Traditional Indian medicine uses lemongrass for fever and infectious illness. Also used as insecticide and food flavouring (2). “Monoterpene citral as the major constituent (75%) finds uses as flavouring agents, and in perfumery and pharmaceutical industry and as a natural precursor of semisynthetic vitamin A” (4). Flexuosus is often preferred by the perfume industry as it contains less myrcene and, therefore, has a longer shelf life (5). Grass used in Asian cuisine. Oil, or citral extracted from it, used to adulterate melissa and lemon verbena.

Contra-indications Tisserand & Balacs give glaucoma (oral administration only), prostatic hyperplasia, and caution for dermal administration for hypersensitive, diseased, or damaged skin, and children under 2 years of age. They suggest a possible hormonal effect based on animal experiments, but mostly at levels well above those used in aromatherapy. Citral in isolation can induce sensitisation reactions, but usually this effect does not carry over into the oil, presumably due to the actions of other components, though it is still possible in rare instances (6). Martin Watt says “there are a few reports of skin irritation caused by hypersensitivity or prolonged exposure to the concentrated oil and sensitisation may occur. Vesicular dermatitis appeared in eight workers exposed to a cargo of lemongrass oil and the NEAT oil is a skin irritant” (7).

Chemistry Citratus - citral 65-85%, myrcene 12-25%, dipentene, linalool, geraniol and others. Flexuosus – includes citral up to 85%, geraniol, methyl eugenol, borneol (2).

Blending Suggestions Usually listed as top note but I wonder if more top to middle. Strong smell. Colour yellow to amber to reddish-brown. Basil, benzoin, bergamot, black pepper, camomile German, camomile roman, cardamom, cedarwood Virginian, citronella, clary sage, coriander, cypress, elemi, eucalyptus, fennel, frankincense, geranium, grapefruit, ho wood, jasmine, juniper berry, lavender, lemon, lime, mandarin, marjoram, melissa, neroli, orange, patchouli, peppermint, petitgrain, pine needle, ravensara, rose, rosemary, rosewood, tea tree, thyme.

Major Properties Analgesic (citratus), antifungal, anti-inflammatory?, antiseptic, astringent?, bactericidal, deodorant, insecticidal, vasodilator?, stimulant?, tonic


1) Essentially Oils Newsletter Jan. 1996.  “Prompted by an article by Bob Harris and Rhiannon Lewis of the Natural Therapies Database U.K. - 'Lemongrass and its Use in Aromatic Medicine'”

2) Julia Lawless, The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, Element, Shaftesbury, 1992, p.120.

3), May 2004.

4) Cymbopogon : The Aromatic Grass Monograph, ed. Sushil Kumar, Samresh Dwivedi, A.K. Kukreja, J.R. Sharma and G.D. Bagchi. Lucknow, Central Institute of Medicinal & Aromatic Plants, 2000, quoted at May 2004.

5) Gernot Katzer's Spice Pages, May 2004.

6) Robert Tisserand, & Tony Balacs, Essential Oil Safety, Churchill Livingstone, Edinburgh, 1995, pp. 146-7.

7) Martin Watt, Plant Aromatics, Set 4, p.76 (undated); referring to H. Mendelsohn, Arch. Derm. Syph. 1944, 50, 34 and1946, 53, 94;

Other sources for information, present and past; books, articles or other material by Patricia Davis/London School of Aromatherapy, Valerie Ann Worwood, Shirley Price, Robert Tisserand. International Journal of Aromatherapy.



Paul Boizot. Information revised 04.06.04. Page updated 28.10.14.

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