Last Updated on July 17, 2021 by Dr. Sanusi Umar, MD
Lemongrass (also known as citronella, lemon tea leaves, or Cymbopogon) is a perennial herb with tall blades up to 10 feet high. It is native to warm, subtropical, and tropical Southeast Asian climates and 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 may be supported by scientific publications on its extract’s general anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-anxiety effects.
Anti-Fungal and Anti-Bacterial Properties of Lemongrass for Hair
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 it also activates the body’s inflammatory processes, where white blood cells release chemicals such as antibodies against foreign pathogens. Additionally, they dispatch antitoxins that 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 contributing to hair loss.
The use of lemongrass for hair and scalp can offer immense benefits along these lines.
Here are three studies that shed more light on the antimicrobial ability of lemongrass.
Lemongrass for Hair Loss Treatment May Work By Killing Bacteria and Fungi
An 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, and geranium aegle.
According to the findings, only four of these oils were 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 can outperform many other essential oils in antimicrobial activity, therapeutic for the scalp and follicles in antimicrobial treatment applications.
Effects of Lemongrass Oil for Dandruff and Hair Follicles
A published study called Anti-Dandruff Hair Tonic Containing Lemongrass (Cymbopogon) Oil observed lemongrass oil’s effects 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.
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 responsible for activating inflammatory processes.
According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, citral and geranial are the two primary compounds found in lemongrass, responsible for the anti-inflammatory effects by modulating cell activities.
A study that supports this found that lemongrass can inhibit the release of an inflammation-inducing compound, myeloperoxidase, from white blood cells (3). In mice studies, it suppressed 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 is the Trolox Equivalent Antioxidant Capacity (TEAC) Assay Method.
This technique quantifies a particular antioxidant’s ability 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 that fades in its intensity due to antioxidants that either provide an electron or a hydrogen atom.
In a study called “Physicochemical and Antioxidant Properties of Cymbopogon Citratus Essential Oil,” lemongrass oil demonstrated a high antioxidant capability using the TEAC assay technique at 44.06 mg Trolox per 100mL of essential oil (4).
By protecting against oxidative stress, the essence of lemongrass may contribute to healthy hair growth processes.
Topical formulations (versus oral) can benefit from 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 to work as effectively as possible.
Can Aromatherapy Be Linked to Lemongrass for Hair Loss Prevention?
Lemongrass exudes a pleasant citrus-like scent which has earned its widespread use in aromatherapy.
However, its calming effects are not due to a person’s beliefs about whether it can work or not. Physiologic research findings may support the anti-anxiety healing abilities of lemongrass.
One experiment on lemongrass aroma’s effect on human anxiety was conducted on 40 male volunteers (5). The researchers induced anxiety in the subjects by subjecting them to a variety of Stroop Color-Word Tests. The subjects were then measured for different symptomatic parameters associated with anxiety. In the next phase, the participants were exposed to the essence of lemongrass, tea tree oil, and water. Of the three, those subjected to lemongrass’s essence experienced a measurable decrease in anxiety and tension than the other test subjects.
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 brain’s GABA-ergic structure (6).
Does Stress Cause Hair Loss?
While the primary cause of androgenic hair loss is genetics, environmental factors such as stress can aggravate it. 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 help activate a calming response in the brain, positively affecting the hair follicles. 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 handle stressful events effectively.
Side Effects of Lemongrass
The Environmental Working Group assigns lemongrass a lowest-possible health hazard rating of 1 (green score) with no risk of cancer, developmental/reproductive toxicity, or allergies/immunotoxicity. According to eMedicineHealth, lemongrass is “likely safe” when used in food.
Also, it is “possibly safe” when taken orally or topically for therapeutic uses. For pregnant or breastfeeding women, lemongrass is “likely unsafe” when ingested. The herb also facilitates menstrual flow, which heightens the risk of having a miscarriage.
DIY Uses of Lemon
The antimicrobial properties of lemongrass essential oil make it an excellent beauty and household DIY ingredient. Here are two projects you may be interested in trying out.
DIY Laundry and Linen Spray
Make a refreshing and oh-so-simple linen/laundry spray using the fresh herbal citrus scent of lemongrass oil. Combine a few water drops and add either witch hazel, vodka, or even rubbing alcohol (70-99%). If giving as a gift, choose a clear glass spray bottle and add a fresh green herbal or even a small crystal for visual appeal. Experiment with other essential oils to make your own favorite blend.
Commercial deodorant products often contain harsh, potentially toxic ingredients such as parabens, phthalates, aluminum, triclosan, and artificial fragrances. It is certainly possible to make your own safe, natural, chemical-free deodorant. Use mild heat to combine the following ingredients into a moderately soft, even mixture: shea butter, coconut oil, beeswax, natural plant-based flour (such as tapioca, potato, or arrowhead starch). As the final step, let your mixture cool and harden in a small, shallow glass jar. Use your fingers to apply.
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. Thus far, there is no research to support the use of lemongrass tea for improvements in 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 general physiology.
Will lemongrass for hair loss work for everyone?
Lemongrass should not be considered a primary treatment for hair loss despite its ability to fight general secondary contributors such as inflammation, free radicals, and stressful brain states.
When considering treatment approaches, we must evaluate hair loss conditions on an individual basis in the context 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