What about planting and processing Lemon Grass ?


I met a sales representative of a Singapore based company dealing in herbal medicine recently and was surprised to learn from him the many uses of the humble “ lemon grass “ ( Cymbopm Citragus )  or serai to use its local name .

This is lemon grass planted in a pot. I am not sure if this is the Malaysian variety .

I am  exposed to the “ serai “ which is used in my favourite “ assam fish “ soup . It is that stalk which gives discerning smell which gives character to the soup. This lemon grass is locally grown and you can find it grown in any kampong or long house. It is grown in a small scale.

A stalk of lemon grass . This is the one which goes into my soup .

I was told that this company has started planting Serai in West Malaysia and is setting up a factory to process the lemon grass into a variety of products, such as scented oil, powder, slices, candle,  moisturizer and even Insect repellent. Their products are used for cooking , for aroma therapy, cosmetics and even insect repellent . According to him, Lemon grass has other medical value as well.
This brings me to the point: why can’t lemon grass is planted in a scale sufficient to support a small viable processing factory? We have cheaper land and suitable climate .

There a few pointers though:
a. Planting practise.  Need to do some trial planting to determine the problem associated with large scale planting of lemon grass.
b. Processing technology. The picture I saw was of  a simple small and labour  factory. Not too complicated.
c. Marketing. Products are well known overseas. Use the web to look for market .
d. Capital. From what I understand, the project involving planting and simple processing plant  may cost about $500 000. Cost of land not included .

Talking of how versatile lemon grass is, I read that a lemon grass species which is now attracting attention is the “ Cymbopogon ambiguous “ to give its sceintifc name , which grows on rocky hillsides in the Northern Territory, Australia. It has been confirmed to have headache and migraine relieving properties.

The native grass used by indigenous Australians as a traditional remedy for headache has been found to have properties “as potent as aspirin”.

I will fill you with this detail later .

I was told that lemon grass has anti cancer properties as well . This information has been floating around the internet for sometime . I cannot authenticated its truth .

Quoting from http://www.absoluteastronomy.com/topics/Cymbopogon

“ In 2006 a research team from the Ben Gurion University in Israel . It is found that lemon grass (cymbopogon citratus) caused apoptosis (programmed cell death) in cancer cells. Through in vitro studies, the researchers examined the effect of citral, a molecule found in lemon grass, on both normal and cancerous cells. Using concentrations of citral equivalent to the quantity in a cup of tea (one gram of lemon grass in hot water), the researchers observed that citral induces programmed cell death in the cancerous cells, while the normal cells were left unharmed.”

Does this means drink a cup of lemon grass tea a day will help to cure the deadly cancer? It is not  so simple . Do your homework .

This is the article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald on Lemon Grass tea which might cure your migraine .

Details here :

March 3, 2010 – 12:04AM

” A native grass used by indigenous Australians as a traditional remedy for headache has been found to have properties “as potent as aspirin”.

The lemon grass Cymbopogon ambiguus, which grows on rocky hillsides in the Northern Territory, has been confirmed to have headache and migraine relieving properties.

Dr Darren Grice, from the Institute for Glycomics at Griffith University, was part of the research team that found the effect and isolated the particular chemical responsible.

“It was caused by the compound eugenol in the native lemon grass plant,” Dr Grice told AAP on Tuesday.

“It’s not the first time that it has been found but it is the first time it has been found in this plant.”

The research team devised a test which used the platelets from human blood to see whether compounds from the plant would have any bio-active effect.
People suffering a migraine are known to show abnormal blood activity, as their platelets become more closely clumped together along with altered serotonin levels.

“We looked at the extracts from these plants really to track down the molecules responsible for preventing the aggregation of the platelets and or the release or serotonin,” Dr Grice said.

“Out of that we tracked down one chemical that was particularly potent … this plant does have potential to act as an anti-inflammatory or an anti-headache agent.

“In all the studies we have done it indicates it is equally as potent as aspirin would be.”

Dr Grice said the discovery made sense because indigenous people were more likely to pass down knowledge about plants that had a real effect on the body.
Despite this, he said, many traditional medicines had not been studied in depth and many of Australia’s native plants could have unknown therapeutic qualities.

For modern-day Australians who may now seek to use the traditional headache cure, Dr Grice offered some encouragement and a warning.
“If people were to make (lemon grass) teas or infusions it would be a good thing, and quite therapeutic,” Dr Grice said.

“(But) just because it is natural doesn’t mean that everything is inherently safe and you could take as much as you want.”

The research, conducted by Dr Grice along with Professor Lyn Griffiths and Dr Kelly Rogers, is published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. “


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