Cymbopogon citratus DC Stapf

[From Greek, kymbe = boat and pogon = beard and from Latin, citrus = citron]

Physical description: It is a fragrant, aromatic herb which grows to a height of 1.6 m. Leaves: the blade is lanceolate, linear and 15 cm-60 cm x 1 cm-2 cm. The plant has been cultivated for the production of Lemon Grass Oil in India, Ceylon, and Malaysia (Fig. 406).

Synonymy: Andropogon citratus DC., Andropogon nardus L. var. ceriferus Hack., Andropogon schoenanthus sensu Lour.

Common names: Lemon grass, ginger grass, citronella grass; chiendent-citron (French); agya ghas (Hindi); vashna pulla (Tamil); sa, hurong mao (Vietnamese); chakai (Thai); sere (Javanese).

Uses: In the Asia-Pacific the leaves of Cymbopogon citratus (DC.) Stapf are often used in aromatic baths to resolve swelling, as a perfume, to promote blood circulation, treat skin diseases, heal ulcers and sores. In China, the plant is used to invigorate health, promote digestion, treat asthma, cough, cold, and to clear the voice. In Malaysia, the plant is used to promote urination and to promote recovery from childbirth, and it is believed that "diamonds can be found below the roots". In the Palau Islands, the plant is used to combat fever. In the Philippines, Cymbopogon citratus (DC.) Stapf is used to promote urination. Asians living in UK use this plant to promote sweating, to invigorate health and to improve digestion.

Pharmaceutical interest: Cymbopogon species have the tendency to elaborate subtile mixtures of monoterpenes including citral, geraniol, and citronel-lal, which impart to the plant a very distinctive fragrance. Citronella Oil (British Pharmaceutical Codex, 1963) from Cymbopogon nardus or Cymbopogon win-terianus is used as a constituent of insect repellents, perfumes, soaps and brilliantine. Lemon Grass Oil (British Pharmaceutical Codex, 1954) obtained from Cymbopogon flexuosus and Cymbopogon citratus was formerly used to promote digestion and to manufacture perfumes. Its chief constituent Lemon Grass Oil is rubefacient.

Anti-inflammatory and diuretic properties : A decoction of leaves of Cymbopogon citratus (DC.) Stapf displays dose-dependent hypotensive, diuretic and anti-inflammatory properties when given per os to animals (Carbajal D et al., 1989).

Analgesic properties: Lemon grass oil increases the reaction time to thermal stimuli both after oral (25 mg/Kg) and intraperitonneal (25 mg/Kg-100 mg/Kg) administration. Fifty mg/Kg to 200 mg/Kg of lemon grass oil given per os or intraperitonneally strongly inhibits the acetic acid-induced writhing in mice. In the formalin test, 50 mg/Kg-200 mg/Kg of lemon grass oil given intraperitonneally, inhibits preferentially the second phase of the response. The opioid antagonist naloxone blocks the central antinociceptive effect of lemon grass oil, suggesting that lemon grass oil acts both at the peripheral and the central levels (Viana GS et al., 2000).

Antitumor properties: There is an expanding body of evidence to suggest that citral prevents the formation of tumors. Lemon Grass oil protects 344 male Fischer rats partially hepatectomized against diethylnitrosamine-induced (intraperitoneal doses of 100 mg/Kg body weight) early phase hepatocarcinogenesis (Puatanachokchai R et al., 2001). Note that citral (3, 7-dimethyl-2, 6-octadienal) isolated from a methanol extract of lemon-grass induces glutathione S-transferase activity (that detoxifies polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) in rat normal liver epithelial cell-line, RL34 cells cultured in vitro (NakamuraY et al, 2003). Extracts of lemon grass significantly inhibit the formation of aberrant crypt foci in the colon mucosa, inhibits fecal p-glucuronidase competitively and displays antioxidant property (Suaeyun R etal., 1997).

Cardiovascular properties: An aqueous extract of the plant shows some levels of activity on isolated hearts of rats (Gazola R et al., 2004).

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