Lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus), a native of India, is widely used in Thai and Vietnamese cooking. This is a very pungent herb and is normally used in small amounts. The entire stalk of the grass can be used. The grass blade can be sliced very fine and added to soups. The bulb can be bruised and minced for use in a variety of recipes. The light lemon flavor of this grass blends well with garlic, chilies, and cilantro. The herb is frequently used in curries as well as in seafood soups. It is also used to make tea.
This grass is rich in a substance called citral, the active ingredient in lemon peel. This substance is said to aid in digestion as well as relieve spasms, muscle cramps, rheumatism and headaches. Lemon grass is also used commercially as the lemon scent in many products including soaps, perfumes and candles. A related plant, (Cymbopogon nardus) is the ingredient in citronella candles sold to ward off mosquitoes and other insects.