Lemon grass, while native to the Indian subcontinent, has naturalised throughout south-east Asia where ho, wet summers and warm, dry winters provide perfect growing conditions. it is therefore, a common traditional flavouring for sweet and savoury foods in various regional cuisines. All parts are valued for the lemon tang they impart. In addition, it was used traditionally for the treatment of digestive problems, respiratory complaints and skin infections. Such usage also became part of the folk medicine of other countries where lemon grass was cultivated. (It is interesting to note that the Australian lemon-scented C.ambiguus, is used in similar ways by the Aborigines of northern Australia.)
Lemon grass was known to the ancient European work. It was undoubtedly an item of commerce between east and west as the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all used it when available, as a medicine and to scent cosmetics.
Lemon grass is cultivated commercially in Brazil Guatemala, Indonesia, the West Indies, America, Madagascar, central Afric and Australia. The oil, extracted by steam distillation, is used for scenting soaps, detergents, perfumes and cosmetics and for flavouring foods and drinks. It is usually preferred by industry to the more expensive oil from lemon rind and is responsible for most of the ‘lemon’ fragrance of bought products. it also has insecticidal properties and is used in a number of commercial insecticides.
In the West Indies it is known as ‘Fever Grass’ and is used in the treatment of fevers. Lemon grass is a very underestimated plant medicine and has a wide range of uses for home remedies, ranging from insomnia to arthritic pain.