Lemongrass, also known as citronella, lemon tea leaves or Cymbopogon, is a perennial herb with tall blades up to ten feet high. It is native to warm, subtropical and tropical Southeast Asian climates as well as parts of Australia, Africa, and India. Famous for its citrus scent and lemon like flavor as a tea or spice, lemongrass is also valued in aromatherapy for its calming abilities. The medicinal and therapeutic benefits of lemongrass for hair can be supported through scientific publications on the general anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-anxiety effects of its extract.
The Anti- Fungal and Anti-Bacterial Properties of Lemongrass for Hair – Why This Matters for Our Scalp and Follicles
Scientists are learning that lemongrass possesses anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. These capabilities may be important in the fight against hair loss resulting from inflammation, a secondary cause next to genetics. Here is the reason why.
The sebaceous glands in the scalp produce oil which provides a moist environment that attracts bacterial and fungal growth. Not only does this lead to itchiness, but also activates the body’s inflammatory processes where white blood cells which release chemicals such as antibodies against foreign pathogens. Additionally, they dispatch antitoxins which neutralize toxins.
White blood cells which are macrophagic can also engulf foreign bodies and matter.
Excessive inflammation can also be a destructive force by damaging our follicles, leading to unwanted hair loss.
Eliminating microbes like bacteria and fungi is a viable way to prevent or mitigate the inflammation that contributes to hair loss.
The use of lemongrass for hair and scalp can offer immense benefits along these lines.
Here are three studies which shed more light on the antimicrobial ability of lemongrass.
Lemongrass for Hair Loss Treatment May Work By Killing Bacteria and Fungi
One in-vitro study, entitled, Antibacterial and Antifungal Activity of Ten Essential Oils in Vitro. sought to observe the effects of 10 different essential oils against 22 strains of bacteria (1).
The researchers examined the following different plant extracts: eucalyptus, ageratum, aegle, peppermint, orange, patchouli, palmarosa, citronella, geranium, and aegle.
According to the findings, only four of these oils were shown to be effective against all 22 strains. These include lemongrass, eucalyptus, orange, and peppermint.
The six other essential oils were only effective against a portion of the total bacteria types used in this study.
The experimenters also tested the effects of the oils against 12 different types of fungi. Again, lemongrass (along with citronella, aegle, geranium, orange, palmarosa, and patchouli) the other oils in killing the 12/12 types.
The remaining essential oils were only effective against a fraction of the different fungal variations used in this study. Other studies on essential oils for hair health have found eugenol to be effective in antifungal activity.
This study shows that lemongrass extract is able to outperform many other types of essential oils when it comes to the antimicrobial activity which can be therapeutic for the scalp and follicles in antimicrobial treatment applications.
Lemongrass Oil for Dandruff and What This Means for Hair Follicles
A published study called Anti-Dandruff Hair Tonic Containing Lemongrass (Cymbopogon) Oil observed the effects of lemongrass oil on dandruff (2). Researchers prepared different concentrations of a tonic mixture whose main ingredient was lemongrass.
30 volunteer subjects participated in this experiment, scoring at level three on the Desquame scale which quantifies dandruff severity. Three groups of the participants each received either the 5%, 10% or 15% concentrations of the lemongrass tonic.
The participants showed immense improvement at 14 days with 10 % being the most effective.
The Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Lemongrass for Hair Loss Prevention
Besides targeting microbes, another approach to treating inflammation is to prevent the release of chemicals from the white blood cells which are responsible for activating inflammatory processes.
According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, citral and geranial are the two primary compounds found in lemongrass which are responsible for the anti-inflammatory effects by modulating cell activities.
A study which supports this found that lemongrass can inhibit the release of an inflammation inducing compound, myeloperoxidase, from white blood cells (3). In mice, it was found to suppress the production of two compounds in white blood cells macrophages that contribute to inflammatory reactions.
Anti-Oxidant Properties of Lemongrass for Hair
Aside from being an exotic, flavorful herb, lemongrass is also an abundant source of anti-oxidants. These include swertiajaponin, isoorientin, and chlorogenic acid.
Anti-oxidants, in general, neutralize free radical molecules which promote the aging processes of cells, including those of the hair follicles.
One method to measure the anti-oxidant capabilities of a substance is the Trolox Equivalent Antioxidant Capacity (TEAC) Assay Method.
This technique quantifies the ability of a particular antioxidant to scavenge, bind to and neutralize an unstable free radical molecule known as ABTS+.
Within the assay system, the free radical medium appears as a blue-green substance which fades in its intensity due to the presence of antioxidants which either provide an electron or a hydrogen atom.
In a study called Physicochemical and Antioxidant Properties of Cymbopogon Citratus Essential Oil, lemongrass oil was found to demonstrate high antioxidant capabilities using the TEAC assay technique at 44.06 mg Trolox per 100mL of essential oil (4).
Essences of lemongrass for hair follicles can help protect against oxidative stress to maintain the healthy functioning of hair growth processes.
Topical formulations (versus oral) can offer the benefit of providing a more direct supply of the antioxidants found in lemongrass to the hair follicles. However, such carefully formulated hair products containing lemongrass would need to include safe and effective skin penetrating ingredients in order to work as effectively as possible.
Aromatherapy and Anxiety – Can This Be Linked to Lemongrass for Hair Loss Prevention?
Lemongrass exudes a pleasant citrus-like scent which has earned its wide-spread use in aromatherapy.
However, its calming effects are not due to a person’s beliefs about whether it can work or not. The anti-anxiety healing abilities of lemongrass can be supported through research studies on the physiology.
The emotional state of anxiety was induced by submitting them to a variation of the Stroop Color Word Test. The subjects were then measured for different symptomatic parameters associated with anxiety.
In the next phase, the participants were presented with lemongrass essence, tea tree oil, and water. Of the three, they experienced measurable decreases in anxiety and tension due to the scent of lemongrass.
Another study on the anti-anxiolytic effects of lemongrass was performed in mice to observe changes in brain centers. The researchers found that the decreased anxiety was due to the activation of activity in the GABA-ergic structure of the brain (6).
Does Stress Cause Hair Loss?
While the primary cause of hair loss is due to genetics, it can also be made worse by environmental factors such as stress. A publication called Stress and the Hair Follicle discusses how it is possible that neurochemicals like neurotransmitters, neuropeptides, and neurohormones released during stressful situations can actually affect the hair follicle (7).
Is it Possible to Use Aromatherapy with Lemongrass for Hair Growth?
Though scientific evidence does support the anxiolytic effects of lemongrass, using lemongrass oil alone is not the answer to improving stress-related hair loss conditions.
An herbal essence can indeed help activate a calming response in the brain which may exert a positive effect on the hair follicles as well. However, aromatherapy should ultimately be regarded as a complementary treatment.
Minimizing stress will involve learning how to manage one’s emotional responses to adverse, anxiety-provoking situations and mastering problem-solving life skills to effectively handle stressful events.
Frequently Asked Questions – Lemongrass for Hair Care
Is it possible to benefit from a tea made from lemongrass for hair purposes?
No. Drinking lemongrass tea will not exert any direct benefits on the hair. There is no research which supports the use of lemongrass tea for improvements in terms of hair growth, sheen or texture. Also, the concentration of therapeutic compounds may not be sufficient to produce any desired effects on the hair follicles.
What are the side effects of using lemongrass for hair purposes?
There are no known adverse effects on the hair follicles from using lemongrass. The herb is considered safe when used in food. At this time there is insufficient evidence for the side effects of lemongrass on the general physiology.
Will lemongrass for hair loss work for everyone?
Lemongrass should not be considered as a primary treatment for hair loss despite the studies which its ability to fight general secondary contributors such as inflammation, free radicals, and stressful brain states.
When considering treatment approaches, hair loss conditions should be evaluated on an individual basis in terms of diagnosis, severity levels, and environmental contributors.
(1) Pattnaik, S, et al. “Antibacterial and Antifungal Activity of Ten Essential Oils in Vitro.” Microbios., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 31 Dec. 1995
(2) Chaisripipat · Lourith · Kanlayavattanakul, Anti-dandruff Hair Tonic Containing Lemongrass (Cymbopogon flexuosus) Oil, Forsch Komplementmed 2015;22:226-229
(3) Sforcin JM, et al. Lemongrass effects on IL-1beta and IL-6 production by macrophages.Nat Prod Res 2009;23(12):1151-9
(4) Maria Vazquez-Briones, Physicochemical and Antioxidant Properties of Cymbopogon Citratus Essential Oil, Journal of Food Research, 10.5539/jfr.v4n3p36
(5) Campos J, Schmeda-Hirschmann G, Leiva E, et al. Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus (D.C) Stapf polyphenols protect human umbilical vein endothelial cell (HUVECs) from oxidative damage induced by high glucose, hydrogen peroxide and oxidized low-density lipoprotein. Food Chem. May 15 2014;151:175-181
(6) Costa, CA, et al. “The GABAergic System Contributes to the Anxiolytic-like Effect of Essential Oil from Cymbopogon Citratus (Lemongrass).” Journal of Ethnopharmacology., U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1 Sept. 2011,
(7)Vladimir A. Botchkarev, Stress and the Hair Follicle Exploring the Connections, Am J Pathol. 2003 Mar; 162(3): 709–712.doi: 10.1016/S0002-9440(10)63866-7