By Godwin Ihesie
Many herbal medicine practitioners believe that herbs can be seen as plant materials (leaves, flowers, seeds, stems, bark, rhizomes and or roots) that can be used for healing purposes. They also believe that when these plant materials are prepared holistically and used appropriately, they are capable of: eliminating toxins from our blood and tissues, invigorating our nervous and glandular systems, transmitting healing radiation or “life force” to us and therefore raise our energy levels and perceptions.
Herbs or herbal preparations can also be used specifically in the treatment and the prevention of certain diseases. To optimally realize the full benefits of herbs, some holistically-minded herbal practitioners recommend that herbs should be used as whole – in the form nature provides them or as near natural condition as possible. For only the use of whole herbs – left unchanged in their original forms – can guarantee their full health benefit.
The nature-beings (unknown to many), who nurture plants and make them grow, stand directly in the Power of God and work in His Laws, the Laws of Nature; therefore, plants and herbs have perfection built into them and they possess wonderful healing properties, so long as man has not interfered with them. Because of these, if herbal medicines are prepared holistically as they should, they could restore a sick body to normalcy and augment health in a miraculous way.
If, however, a fraction of the herb’s chemical constituent is isolated or extracted and used as an “active ingredient” with the intention of achieving a definable physiological effect as is hitherto done in the pharmacological industries, the so-called active ingredient devoid of its associated naturally occurring constituent factors, becomes a “drug” which could be more potent than the parent herb and could therefore have cumulative and delayed toxic side-effects.
A notable British herbalist, David Hoffmann, in his book, “The New Holistic Herbal,” polished in the United Kingdom in 1990 by Element Book Limited, wrote that:
“From a holistic perspective the whole plant must be respected as an integrated biologically evolved unit that is beyond the analytical comprehension of science. It will only be when science steps beyond the analytical reduction units it has placed on itself that a deeper understanding of plant chemical synergy will emerge”.
This, however, does not mean to say that a good knowledge of herbal toxicology and the study of constituents of herbs should be out of place in herbal medicine, but herbal study should be done within a holistic context and also to establish a sound scientific basis for modern herbal medicine; since this will go a long way in removing the magic, superstition, and fear that were in the past associated with the practice of herbal medicine.
Lemongrass is one of the most versatile of herbs known all over the globe. It is believed to be is a native of the tropics: tropical Southeast Asia; and is widely cultivated in tropical regions of the world, Central and South America, West Indies, and is used in Thailand and in Vietnam for its culinary values.
The botanical name is Cymbopogon citrates (syn. Andropogon citrates), and it belongs to the grass family Gramineae (Poaceae). The common English names are lemon grass, fever grass, citronella grass, etc. Lemon grass is a lemon-scented perennial grass with long, thin blade-like green leaves. It grows luxuriantly on a sandy soil and plenty of moisture.
The Part Used includes the stalks, the leaves, and the oil.
Main constituents: Lemon grass has been found to contain essential oil of lemongrass – which consists mainly of citral (a mixture of two stereoisomeric monterpene aldehydes), alkaloids, flavonoids, etc.
Therapeutic Properties: Lemongrass has been found to possess the following therapeutic actions: antimicrobial, antiseptic, antiemetic, anticarcinogenic, astringent, antitussive, antirheumatic, analgesic, antispasmodic , anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, anti-oxidant, antipyretic, carminative, insect repellent, deodorant, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, fungicidal, galactagogue, insecticidal, nervine, hypotensive, sedative, etc.
The method of preparation:
Lemon grass can be used fresh, as raw juice, or dried; or the dried leaves can be ground into powder and be made into capsules. The oil extracted through distillation can also be used.
Lemongrass infusion (tea) can be prepared by steeping 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the finely cut leaves of the (fresh or dried) plant in one teacup of boiled water. The mixture is allowed to stand for 15 minutes. Then the tea is sieved, sweetened with pure honey and taken orally when it is still hot – before or after the meal – 3 or 4 times daily. Up to 15 fresh lemongrass leaves can be made into the decoction (boiled) and be taken orally three times a day.
Uses of Lemongrass
The long, thin blade-like green leaves of lemon grass can be sliced very fine or can be pounded and be added directly to dishes, soups, sea foods and pork or poultry sauces as an aromatic flavour. Cooking with lemongrass is very popular among the Southeast Asian countries, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, etc.
Lemon grass tea has a delightful pungent and lemon-like fragrance due to the high content of essential oil (citral). It is an effective carminative agent that helps to promote normal digestion, dispel indigestion, flatulence and abdominal distension. It is an effective intestinal antiseptic. 1-4 cups of the tea per day is recommended for the treatment of digestive problems, flatulence (gas), indigestion, abdominal pain, diarrhea, gastric irritability, cholera and vomiting. It lowers high blood cholesterol.
As a Diaphoretic Agent
Lemon grass tea induces profuse perspiration or sweating and helps to bring down high body temperature, fever, chills, flu symptoms, headaches and other types of pain. It helps in eliminating toxins from the surface of the body and brings cooling effects on the body. Lemon grass tea has blood and liver cleansing action, and taking the tea regularly helps in building up immunity against recurrent malaria attacks.
As a Mild Sedative Tea
Lemongrass tea taken before bed time induces restful sleep, relieves stress, fatigue, nervousness and anxiety, combats depression and bad moods.
As an Analgesic/Anti-inflammatory Agent
Lemongrass tea is one of the most popular remedies used in treating minor pains, rheumatic pains, lumbago, backache, dysmenorrhea (menstrual pains) and difficult menstruation.
Other Uses of Lemongrass Tea
Lemon grass tea is taken cold to induce urination (as diuretic) in cases of water retention, urinary tract infections and to help in reducing high blood pressure. Also, Lemon grass tea is taken hot in cases of colds and catarrh, cough and pneumonia.
The essential oil obtained from the leaves of lemon grass through distillation is sold in most health shops. Few drops of the essential oil could be diluted in hot water and taken orally for the above-mentioned conditions.
External uses of lemongrass
The fresh leaves can be crushed and rubbed directly on the skin to treat ringworm and athlete’s foot or as an on-the-spot outdoor insect repellent.
The essential oil is diluted with carrier oil like coconut oil or olive oil (2 drops of the lemon grass oil to about 2 spoonfuls of carrier oils), and this is then applied locally over the affected parts in cases of lower back pain, neuralgia, sciatica, sprains, tendinitis and rheumatism, circulatory problems, athlete’s foot, ringworms, cuts, scrapes, acne and pimples.
Owing to the antibacterial, antiseptic and astringent properties of lemongrass essential oil, it is widely used in cosmetic industries as a fragrance for perfumes, soaps, and creams. It is also added to shampoo to combat greasy hair and to cream as a deodorant to curb excessive perspiration, to help close pores and to cleanse oily skin.
It is important to mention here that Lemongrass plant has what is known as medico-magical properties. In most rural communities, it is planted around the home to repel insects, serpents, and dragons.
The freshly harvested leaves are boiled and used as a purification bath, and this is believed to help purify the aura and also help to attract and keep a lover and to keep his or her fidelity.