Are you a fan of Thai dishes cooked with the minty-lemon, mildly sharp flavor of lemongrass? If so, you may not know some use lemongrass tea for weight loss (and other health benefits)….
Lemongrass is to Thai food what ketchup is to America: a nation’s favorite condiment. But there’s much more to “Cymbopogon citratus” than flavoring curry dishes.
Native to Sri Lanka and South India, lemongrass offers many health benefits, possibly even helping with weight loss. Just as with any other herbal tea, though, if you consume foods and drinks with lots of carbs and added sugars and don’t get much exercise, drinking a cup of lemongrass tea probably won’t do much for your waistline.
Other herbal teas such as green tea, ginger and Wu Long tea hog most of the weight loss spotlight. But there is some limited research as you’ll see below that suggests you should make room for it in your pantry. Or, learn how to make your own (see recipe below).
What is lemongrass?
It’s an herb that’s like a cousin to the citronella plant (which is arguably most well-known for repelling insects such as mosquitoes). In traditional Indian medicine, it’s used to cool excess heat in the body. Herbal healers also use it as a calming agent, for both physical and mental purposes.
As aromatherapy and the use of essential oils has become more popular, more people are now using lemongrass essential oil (LEO) as a natural treatment for stress and anxiety.
Here’s what else studies reveal about the herb….
According to the Journal of Advanced Pharmaceutical Technology & Research there are several therapeutic compounds identified. One of the main compounds in LEO is terpenes. If you search online for “terpenes” you’ll find quite a lot of info on cannabis (marijuana) and terpenes. It turns out that weed is rich in terpenes. Perhaps that’s why people feel so good after eating Thai or Vietnamese food?
Terpenes, organic compounds naturally found in not only cannabis sativa, but lots of other plants, too, influence the brain’s neurotransmitters. They directly affect the production of feel-good chemicals such as serotonin and dopamine. (Again, another reason why Southeast Asian food is pleasing.)
In addition to terpenes, there are dozens of other compounds in lemongrass. But you’re not reading this for a boring chemistry lesson, right? You’re here to read how and why it can help with weight loss.
We’ll get to those reasons in a bit. But first, let’s take a look at how else this herb can positively impact your health.
What are the health benefits of lemongrass?
Studies show that it can help fight or kill:
- infections (particularly ones caused by amoebas)
Specifically, for cancer, this research paper shows that LEO significantly suppresses the expression of a gene (HSP90) responsible for cancer. But that’s not all lemongrass might be able to do. Small research studies also show that it can prevent or improve:
- genetic mutations
- general immunity (because it contains antioxidants)
What is lemongrass used for?
All across the world, it’s used for different things:
- Argentina: taken with Yerba Mate as a tea for sore throats and indigestion. Also used in parts of South America to induce vomiting. (It goes without saying, that intentionally vomiting is not a safe, healthy way to lose weight.)
- Brazil: traditionally used to relieve spasms, fever and pain.
- Cuba: expel mucus from the nose or throat.
- India: repelling snakes (Looking for research to support this? No such luck.). Also used for gastric distress, cholera, headache, fever and as a herbal tea sedative.
- Indonesia and Malaysia: for increasing menstrual flow.
- Thailand: well, you already know what it’s used for in there… to flavor food. It’s also used to assist digestion. In addition, when added to hot water, an extract of the dried root of lemongrass is taken to help manage diabetes.
How Can Lemongrass Tea Help You Lose Weight?
The above laundry list of health benefits is impressive. But can lemongrass help you lose weight, as some health bloggers have suggested? And if so, how or why does it work? And is there any research that can back up this claim?
The short answer is (working in reverse), yes, small studies offer promising results for using lemongrass tea. Drinking it for weight loss might not be as effective as, say, reducing your daily calorie intake by 500 and doing high-intensity interval training. However, weight loss is a multi-headed approach. And any tool that you can use, including herbal tea, should be used.
Here’s what some of the research shows about lemongrass for losing weight….
The Society of Pharmaceutical Education & Research’s official publication references a study that shows that animals given lemongrass extract had significantly lowered cholesterol. And this study shows in rats that the herb lowers fasting blood glucose (blood sugar) levels, as well as triglycerides, LDLs (bad cholesterol), VDLs (very bad cholesterol) while raising HDL levels (good cholesterol).
Furthermore, lemongrass contains a substance (retinaldehyde) that inhibits the production of fat cells. It also increases metabolism. And this research from Libya shows it can also help kill candida fungi.
So start seeping a cup of it now. You might also want to include other herbal teas in your diet to help you slim down. Speaking of which….
What Other Teas Can Help You Lose Weight?
According to research in the European Journal of Nutrition, tea in general may help. The study concludes hot tea consumption is inversely associated with obesity. In other words, the more hot herbal tea you drink, the less likely you’ll be to develop diabetes. Considering that about 90% of people with type 2 diabetes (only about 10% of people with diabetes have type 1) are either overweight or obese, this is a compelling reason to start drinking tea.
The study reveals that tea consumers have lower waist circumference and BMI (body mass index) than non-consumers. If you’re an iced tea drinker, you better sit down for some bad news….
For iced tea consumption, the association was reversed. The more iced tea one drinks, the greater their waistlines and body mass index. Although it’s not mentioned as a factor in the study, perhaps one reason for the reverse association in iced-tea drinkers is sugar. Lots of commercial varieties of iced tea contain added sugars.
And there’s more benefit of drinking hot tea. You have a lower risk of developing heart disease and other diseases that are related to inflammation. In addition, hot tea drinkers have lower cholesterol levels.
What are the best teas for weight loss?
Surely, some herbal teas are better than others for promoting weight loss. There’s research backing lots of herbal teas for weight loss, including popular ones such as green tea and ginger tea. More obscure teas such as chickweed may also help.
Consumption of green and oolong teas are associated with lower waist to hip ratios (at least in Taiwanese adults), while a study in the Netherlands suggests drinking black tea is associated with a lower BMI.
The International Jounral of Obesity conducted a meta analysis of green tea’s weight loss effects. The findings conclude catechins, a class of antioxidants, significantly decreases body weight. Not only that, green tea helps maintain body weight after a period of weight loss, concludes the researchers.
How to make lemongrass tea for weight loss
Now that you’ve read some of the research, maybe you’re convinced that you should start drinking herbal tea? The easiest way to make lemongrass tea is just buy teabags of it from a store or order it online.
But if you want to use fresh leaves, here’s what to do….
When choosing lemongrass in the store, says a source at One Green Planet look for firm, not rubbery stalks, that transition from pale yellow at the base to bright green in the husks. Avoid brown leaves.
You can refrigerate the stalks for up to two weeks if you wrap them tight, in, say, a paper towel (or better yet, a reusable cloth bag). To use the leaves as a tea, cut them into small pieces and dry them.
Then, once the leaves are dry, place them in a mason jar. You can save the root pieces for those curry dishes and veggie stirfrys you love. It’s the tough end of the stalks you’ll want to use for tea. For the recipe, you’ll need:
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups roughly chopped lemongrass stalks
- 1/4 cup low-glycemic sweetener (stevia)
- Lime wheels for garnish (optional)
- Bring the water to a boil over high heat in a medium saucepan.
- Add the lemongrass and boil rapidly for 5 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer the tea for an additional 5 minutes.
- Strain the stalks from the liquid. Stir in the sugar until dissolved.
- Serve warm, or chill in the refrigerator and pour over ice.
There are other ways you can make your own lemongrass tea. But again, the easiest would be just buying teabags. Just make sure it’s organic.
Benefits of lemongrass and ginger tea
An effective 1-2 herbal tea combo for weight loss is drinking lemongrass-ginger tea. You’re now familiar with some of reasons lemongrass can help with weight control. Adding ginger is beneficial because of two primary reasons. First, it can help the liver in the detoxification process. And second, it reduces appetite.
Do you drink herbal tea? Does it help you control or even lose weight? Leave a comment.