For fragrant, exotic winter meals, and soothing, stress-busting teas, pick up a few stalks of lemongrass today. Lemongrass, also known as cymbopogon, is a fibrous, razor-like grass which is best known for adding flavor to Thai dishes.
However, lemongrass has many more uses than flavoring a green curry. This herb, while lesser known in the West, has been used throughout Southeast Asia for centuries for both culinary and medicinal benefits.
Lemongrass stalks infuse meals and teas with a warm flavor of – you guessed it – lemon. This flavor comes from citral, a compound that is also found in lemon zest, hence the similarity in taste. In Ayurvedic and Chinese medicines, lemongrass is used in cure-all medicinal tonics, as it offers aid to so many of the body’s systems.
It is full of antioxidants and beneficial essential oils, as well as vitamins A and C, B-vitamins, and minerals including calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium and zinc. These nutrients and antioxidants combine to combat oxidative stress and free radical damage in the body, helping to prevent a wide range of chronic ailments.
The citral found in lemongrass has been found to have potent antibacterial and antifungal properties. Some research has found that citral has been effective at killing E. coli bacteria, and it may also have potential in fighting cancer cells.
Traditional medicinal uses of lemongrass are vast. In Ayurvedic medicine, it was used to treat coughs and colds. It has also been used to benefit the digestive system, liver, pancreas, bladder and kidneys, and as a tonic for upset stomachs, headaches, fevers and muscle cramps. Lemongrass has also traditionally been used as a treatment for anxiety, due to its natural sedative characteristics.
When preparing lemongrass for use, cut off the tops and peel the outer layers of the stalk at the bottom. Then, cut into thin slices. You can steep the slices in boiling water to make a tea (which tastes great on its own, or with a dab of raw honey), or add to soups, stews, stir fries and curries. Sliced lemongrass can also add some great lemony flavor to fish dishes. Discard the lemongrass slices after you’ve gotten all of the flavor and goodness from them.
While you may have to look up some new recipes in order to get the most of your lemongrass, that’s half the fun!
-The Alternative Daily