The Health Benefits of Lemongrass Essential Oil

Potential uses for fungal infections, dandruff, and other issues

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus, Cymbopogon flexuosus) oil is a type of essential oil often used in aromatherapy and by natural medicine practitioners for a variety of purposes, including reducing inflammation, relieving headaches, improving dandruff, and easing indigestion.

Native to islands in Southeastern Asia, lemongrass is a tall grass that grows in tropical climates. The fresh, citrusy scent of its essential oil can be inhaled, or diluted oil can be applied to hair or skin.

Joff Lee / Photlibrary / Getty Images

Health Benefits

Inhaling the aroma of lemongrass essential oil or absorbing it through the skin is said to transmit messages to the brain's limbic system, a region that influences the nervous system.

According to aromatherapy proponents, essential oils may affect a number of biological factors, including heart rate, stress levels, blood pressure, breathing, and immune function. Lemongrass essential oil is typically used for:

  • Acne
  • Anxiety
  • Athlete's foot
  • Excessive sweating
  • Headaches
  • Indigestion
  • Muscle aches

In addition, lemongrass essential oil is said to act as a natural insect repellent and air freshener, and may also alleviate stress and relieve pain.

To date, few scientific studies have evaluated the health effects of aromatherapeutic use of lemongrass essential oil. However, several of its chemical components have been found to have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antimicrobial, antiviral, antioxidant, antidepressant, and sedative qualities.

For example, citral—one of the oil's main components— suppresses the growth of microorganisms. Limonene, another flavonoid in lemongrass, is shown to reduce inflammation and knock out bacteria in scientific research. Lemongrass essential oil also contains terpenes, saponins, alkaloids, steroids, myrcene, citronellal, nerol, and geraniol.

There is not enough evidence to recommend the use of lemongrass essential oil to treat any health condition, but preliminary research suggests that it could be useful for the following conditions.

Always check with your doctor before using complementary and alternative medicine for illnesses. Self-treating a chronic condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.


A 2015 study found lemongrass essential oil may help fight dandruff.

Researchers gave subjects with dandruff a hair tonic containing either lemongrass essential oil (Cymbopogon flexuosus) or a placebo twice a day. After 14 days, those using the lemongrass hair tonic showed a significant decrease in dandruff compared to the placebo group.

Fungal Infections

Several in vitro studies have found that lemongrass oil's antifungal properties may eliminate certain strains of fungus.

For example, a 2015 report published in the International Journal of Nanomedicine found that lemongrass essential oil may help inhibit the growth of Candida albicans, the fungus that causes yeast infections.

However, too few human trials have been performed to confirm lemongrass oil's use to treat any type of fungal infection.

Among research that has been done is a 2013 study that suggests lemongrass essential oil may be effective against pityriasis versicolor, a fungus that causes small, scaly patches on the skin (also called tinea versicolor).

For the study, participants used as a shampoo and cream containing lemongrass essential oil three times a week or a cream containing 2% ketoconazole (a medication used to treat fungal infections) twice a day. After 40 days, those treated with lemongrass has a 60% reduction in symptoms, compared with 80% in those using ketoconazole.


Although there's limited evidence of the effectiveness of lemongrass essential oil as an anxiety remedy, one preliminary study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2015 suggests that brief exposure may confer anti-anxiety benefits.

Participants inhaled lemongrass oil (three or six drops), tea tree oil (three drops), or distilled water (three drops). Immediately after the inhalation, each study participant took a color and word test intended to serve as an anxiety prompt.

Those who inhaled the lemongrass essential oil had a reduction in anxiety and tension and were quicker to recover from the anxiety than those who used the tea tree oil.


Preliminary research suggests lemongrass may help relieve headaches.

According to a 2011 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, eugenol—a compound in lemongrass essential oil—impacts both the neurotransmitter serotonin and blood-platelet action, two factors that contribute to headaches.

Stomach Upset

Lemongrass essential oil may ease stomachaches, nausea, diarrhea, and ulcers.

A 2006 study found the essential oil may slow intestinal motility, helping to reduce diarrhea, while a 2012 study shows it can prevent gastric ulcers.

The research, however, is limited to studies in mice.

Possible Side Effects

Lemongrass essential oil should not be taken internally without the supervision of a health professional. Internal use of lemongrass essential oil may have toxic effects.

Some individuals may experience irritation when applying lemongrass oil to the skin. A skin patch test should be done before using this or any essential oil.

Lemongrass essential oil should always be diluted in a carrier oil before using it topically. Avoid applying it near the mouth, nose, and eyes. Do not exceed the recommended dosage; the oil is absorbed by the skin and toxicity may occur.

Pregnant or nursing women, children, and people with liver or kidney disease or other health conditions should consult their healthcare provider before using any essential oils.

Dosage and Preparation

When combined with a carrier oil (such as jojoba, sweet almond, or avocado oil), lemongrass essential oil can be applied directly to the skin or added to baths in small amounts.

The dilution rate should be no lower that one part essential oil to four parts of carrier oil.

Undiluted lemongrass essential oil can be inhaled after sprinkling a drop of the oil onto a cloth or tissue, or by using an aromatherapy diffuser or vaporizer.

What to Look For

Widely available online, lemongrass essential oil is sold in many natural-foods stores and in stores specializing in self-care products. However, the quality can vary between different brands, and oils are not regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.

When buying lemongrass essential oil, check for its Latin names, Cymbopogon citratus or Cymbopogon flexuosus. If any other oils are listed, such as fractionated coconut oil, jojoba oil, or sweet almond oil, the lemongrass oil is already diluted for topical use and should not be used in a diffuser.

Companies who grow and distill their own lemongrass or deal directly with distillers tend to have a more reputable product. Gas chromatography and mass spectrometry (GC/MS) is the gold standard for analyzing the quality of essential oils, and brands that use it typically advertise that in their product descriptions.

Essential oils should be packaged in a dark amber or cobalt bottle and stored out of sunlight.

Other Questions

Can lemongrass essential oil be used in cooking?
Yes. Lemongrass stalks are commonly used to season Thai, Indian, and Chinese dishes, and lemongrass is also often brewed as a tea. The oil can be used in cooking too, and this is generally regarded as safe by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Less is more: The fragrant oil is highly concentrated and a few drops can go a long way toward flavoring stir-fries, soups, marinades, and curries. Add two to three drops at a time, stir and taste test.

Does lemongrass essential oil lighten skin?
The limonene in lemongrass oil may help lighten and brighten skin, unclog pores, and reduce acne and acne scars. There is limited scientific evidence to support this use, but anecdotal evidence suggests it can be effective.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Shah G, Shri R, Panchal V, Sharma N, Singh B, Mann A. Scientific basis for the therapeutic use of Cymbopogon citratus, stapf (lemon grass). J Adv Pharm Technol Res. 2011;2(1):3-8. doi:10.4103/2231-4040.79796

  2. Dhifi W, Bellili S, Jazi S, Bahloul N, Mnif W. Essential oils' chemical characterization and investigation of some biological activities: a critical review. Medicines (Basel). 2016;3(4). doi:10.3390/medicines3040025

  3. Han X, Parker T. Lemongrass () essential oil demonstrated anti-inflammatory effect in pre-inflamed human dermal fibroblasts. Biochim Open. 2017;4:107-111. doi:10.1016/j.biopen.2017.03.004

  4. Dany S, Mohanty P, Tangade P, Rajput P, Batra M. Efficacy of 0.25% lemongrass oil mouthwash: a three arm prospective parallel clinical study. J Clin Diagn Res. 2015;9(10):ZC13-7. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2015/14465.6581

  5. De souza M, Vieira A, Beserra F, Pellizzon C, Nóbrega R, Rozza A. Gastroprotective effect of limonene in rats: influence on oxidative stress, inflammation and gene expression. Phytomedicine. 2019;53:37-42. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2018.09.027

  6. Chaisripipat W, Lourith N, Kanlayavattanakul M. Anti-dandruff hair tonic containing lemongrass (cymbopogon flexuosus) oil. Forsch Komplementmed. 2015;22(4):226-9. doi:10.1159/000432407

  7. Madeira P, Carvalho L, Paschoal M, et al. In vitro effects of lemongrass extract on candida albicans biofilms, human cells viability, and denture surface. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2016;6:71. doi:10.3389/fcimb.2016.00071

  8. Aldawsari H, Badr-eldin S, Labib G, El-kamel A. Design and formulation of a topical hydrogel integrating lemongrass-loaded nanosponges with an enhanced antifungal effect: in vitro/in vivo evaluation. Int J Nanomedicine. 2015;10:893-902. doi:10.2147/IJN.S74771

  9. Carmo E, Pereira Fde O, Cavalcante N, Gayoso C, Lima Ede O. Treatment of pityriasis versicolor with topical application of essential oil of cymbopogon citratus (DC) stapf - therapeutic pilot study. An Bras Dermatol. 2013;88(3):381-5. doi:10.1590/abd1806-4841.20131800

  10. Goes T, Ursulino F, Almeida-Souza T, Alves P, Teixeira-Silva F. Effect of lemongrass aroma on experimental anxiety in humans. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2015, Dec 21(12): 766-73. doi:10.1089/acm.2015.0099

  11. Grice I, Rogers K, Griffiths L. Isolation of bioactive compounds that relate to the anti-platelet activity of cymbopogon ambiguus. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:467134. doi:10.1093/ecam/nep213

  12. Tangpu V, Yadav A. Antidiarrhoeal activity of cymbopogon citratus and its main constituent citral. Pharmacologyonline 2006;2:290-298.

  13. Fernandes C, De souza H, De oliveria G, Costa J, Kerntopf M, Campos A. Investigation of the mechanisms underlying the gastroprotective effect of cymbopogon citratus essential oil. J Young Pharm. 2012;4(1):28-32. doi:10.4103/0975-1483.93578

  14. Sinha S, Jothiramajayam M, Ghosh M, Mukherjee A. Evaluation of toxicity of essential oils palmarosa, citronella, lemongrass and vetiver in human lymphocytes. Food Chem Toxicol. 2014;68:71-7. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2014.02.036

  15. Tisserand Institute. How to use essential oils safely - general safety guidelines.

  16. U.S. Food And Drug Administration. Aromatherapy. Updated December 5, 2017.

  17. Johns Hopkins Medicine. Aromatherapy: do essential oils really work?.

  18. U.S. Food And Drug Administration. Code of federal regulations-title 21, part 182-substances generally recognized as safe. Updated April 2019.