Splendor in the Grass


Lemongrass is perhaps best known as a staple in Thai cooking, often paired with coconut or ginger in curries, soups, and salads. But when used as a key ingredient in spa treatments, the results are equally delicious.

Kamalaya Wellness Sanctuary & Holistic Spa (Koh Samui, Thailand) offers lemongrass tea to all of its guests and serves lemongrass in many of its dishes. Lemongrass also plays a starring role in the spa’s treatments, including its signature Oriental  Herbal Detoxifying Body Scrub & Wrap ($67, 60 minutes), which tightens the skin and protects it against external elements, and the Traditional Thai Massage with Hot Herbal Compress ($117, 2 hours), which is ideal for stimulating circulation. “Lemongrass is deeply calming to the nervous system and as such can help treat stress, tension, anxiety, insomnia, and even depression, all of which are common reasons why people go to spas,” says Karina Stewart, co-founder of Kamalaya.

The light citrus flavor and scent of lemongrass are pleasing to the palate, which also makes it a widely used aromatic herb. Also known as citronella, lemongrass is frequently used as a natural pesticide and insect repellant. In fact, 80 percent of local Thai people plant lemongrass trees in their houses to act as mosquito repellent and also to use for cooking, says Wanna Homsanoe, spa manager of Chiva-Som (Hua Hin, Thailand).

But its health benefits extend beyond keeping mosquitoes at bay and making a tasty chicken soup. “Lemongrass is believed to help with stress-related disorders due to its action as a sedative for the central nervous system,” says Stewart. “It is known for its calming effect, which relieves insomnia and stress.”

In addition to being a centuries-old treatment in traditional Chinese medicine, lemongrass is also used in Ayurvedic medicine to relieve cough and nasal congestion. In modern times, scientists are studying its potential as a cancer treatment. “Researchers have found that lemongrass causes programmed cell death in cancer cells,” says Stewart. “The active molecule is citral, which gives it its fresh lemon scent and repels insects, and as little as 1,000 mg—the amount of citral found in one cup of tea—represses cancer cells and helps battle depression.”

Lemongrass also acts as a site-specific pain reliever, which makes it an effective treatment for sore muscles and joints and an ideal ingredient in body scrubs, wraps, and massages. “We use lemongrass for spa treatments to soothe and calm the skin,” says Homsanoe, adding that Chiva-Som serves lemongrass tea in the spa and throughout the resort. “It’s good for bone pain, back pain, and shin pain, and it prevents kidney disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol.”

Lemongrass works well with benzoin, geranium, lavender, tangerine, and ylang ylang, Homsanoe says, because these ingredients help relieve tension, headaches, insomnia, and stress-related conditions. Éminence Organic Skin Care pairs lemongrass with mild coconut oils in its lemongrass cleanser. As an antiseptic, lemongrass gently cleanses the skin. Meanwhile the essential oil tones and firms sagging skin, making it ideal for facial treatments. Spa-goers can see the results themselves at BeeHive Day Spa (Snohomish, WA), which features Éminence’s cleanser in its Gingko Lemon Grass Facial ($105, 70 minutes).

With its Nettle Exfoliating Wash, ilike Organic Skin Care combines lemongrass with organic nettle, which is rich in rejuvenating phytoestrogens. “Our customers use our lemongrass products to remove the toxins that contribute to cellulite and open blocked pores to fight acne,” says Szilvia Hickman, senior vice president of Szép Elét, distributor of ilike Organic Skin Care. It also has useful après-sport sensibilities. It fights fungal infections—like athlete’s foot—and alleviates excessive perspiration.

While skincare experts say there’s no particular ingredient that doesn’t work well in a lemongrass-themed treatment, there are some contraindications to keep in mind. Pregnant women may want to avoid lemongrass, as it may induce miscarriage. It can also cause irritation in those with hyper-sensitive skin. Additionally, lemongrass oil must be properly diluted when used on the skin and should not be used on sunburns or open wounds. “It is a good idea to ask about a history of allergic reactions to essential oils like lemongrass,” says Stewart. “Inform clients to avoid sun exposure for three to four hours after use of the essential oil to prevent irritation if they are hypersensitive.” However, lemongrass is generally regarded as safe, and spa clients will welcome its addition as a holistic ingredient in treatments, benefiting the body (alleviating sore muscles and cellulite) and mind (calming and soothing anxiety).


Reveal the sweet benefits of lemongrass with these products that nurture the mind and body.


Botanical Science Technologies Peptide Treatment Lotion: This lotion is made with antioxidant-rich Japanese tea, vitamins C and E to protect and repair skin, and essential lemongrass oil for a refreshing scent. (800) 668-7546; www.botanicalscience.net


GlyMed Plus Cell Science Ultra-Hydrating Enzyme Masque: Combining barley, calendula flower, lemongrass, and olive leaf extracts, this mask leaves the skin hydrated and silky smooth. (800) 676-9667; www.glymedplus.com


ilike Organic Skin Care Magnetic Skin Therapy: This gel contains a blend of castor oil, elderflower, lavender, lemongrass, locust flower, yarrow, and walnut leaf to detoxify, soften, and tighten the skin while helping circulation. (888) 290-6238; www.szepelet.com


Jessica Cosmetics Body Treats Lemongrass Hand & Body Bath: Blending comfrey, elderflower, ginseng, honey, lemongrass, and sage, this bath gel leaves skin feeling fresh and invigorated. (800) 582-4000; www.jessicacosmetics.com


KENMEN-BC/ONE Bamboo-Chocó Antibacterial Foot Scrub: This foot scrub contains bamboo and lemongrass extracts to wash away impurities and stimulate new cell production. (866) KEN-6969; www.kenmen.com


Kneipp Lemongrass & Olive Body Lotion: This aromatic body lotion is made with lemongrass essential oil and olive oil to rejuvenate the mind and body while nourishing the skin. (800) 937-4372; www.kneippus.com


L’Aquila Cosmetics Body Oil Scultore di Corpo: With a combination
of essential oils, including lemongrass, this oil naturally fights against
excess body fat and helps to reduce the accumulation of fluid and toxic waste. (866) 806-6111; www.laquilacosmetics.com


Monica Hall Spa Phyto-Firming Masque: This mask contains a blend of sea algae and phytonutrients to provide fortifying and detoxifying benefits, while citrus, guava, and lemongrass revitalize skin. (877) 853-5775; www.monicahallspa.com


Pevonia Botanica Ligne Fondamentale Balancing Skin Cream: Formulated with arnica, cucumber, and lemongrass, this cream minimizes pores and balances, nourishes, and heals the skin while protecting it from damaging UV rays. (800) PEVONIA; www.pevonia.com


Pino Natural Spa Therapy Orange Lemongrass Body Wash: This body wash contains a combination of aromatic orange and invigorating lemongrass oil to cleanse the skin and leave it feeling soft and smooth. (310) 437-4480; www.pinospa.com


Prana SpaCeuticals Shikoma Salty Sea Scrub: This scrub moisturizes and soothes skin and stimulates muscle tone. It also contains lemongrass, which works as an antibacterial agent. (866) 589-2949;



Prima Fleur Original Bamboo Lemongrass Foaming Body Scrub: Infused with almond protein and lemongrass extracts, this body scrub removes impurities, awakens the senses, and hydrates the skin. (415) 455-0957; www.primafleur.com


Primavera Organic Lemongrass Extract: Ideal for oily skin and blemishes, the antibacterial properties of this lemongrass extract purify and tone the skin. www.primaveralife.com


Shea Terra Organics Lemongrass African Black Soap Elixir: Blending African black soap and lemongrass essential oil, this elixir clears blemishes and thoroughly cleanses to reveal healthier skin. (877) 427-6627; www.sheaterraorganics.com


VB Cosmetics Be Silky Callus Spray with Lemongrass: This formula rapidly softens rough, dry callus buildup while delivering deep hydration.

(866) 398-9357; www.vbcosmetics.com


Yum Gourmet Skincare Lemongrass Tonic: This toner contains coneflower, lemongrass, licorice root, and organic green tea leaf to refresh and tone the skin without drying. (877) YUM-LINE; www.yumskincare.com