Lemongrass during Pregnancy – How Safe Is It?

Lemongrass during Pregnancy

When you are pregnant, you are “Eating for two”. This means that your food is your child’s as well. That poses the question: Is everything that is good for me, good for my baby as well? The answer is mostly, yes. Here we shall explore the benefits of lemongrass and if its good for your baby as well.

What is Lemongrass?

Lemongrass is a species of grass that can grow up to 2 meters tall. It is naturally found in Africa, Asia and Australia. It is used as a herb in cooking.

Most of us associate the word ‘lemongrass’ with ‘tea.’ However, it is used as an ingredient in many foods, for its antibacterial and preservative properties, as well as for its distinct taste.

Lemongrass is also an astringent, and it is widely used in skincare products.

Is Having Lemongrass Safe for Pregnant Women?

Two compounds found in lemongrass, citral and mycrene can have adverse effects on pregnancy. The studies on the impact of lemongrass on fertility in humans are limited. However, studies on rats have shown that mycrene, in high doses can cause abnormalities in the skeletal development of a foetus or even miscarriage.

If this information makes you think: can I drink lemongrass tea while pregnant? Though safe in small amounts, such as in Thai dishes, where it is used as a seasoning, it is best to avoid it altogether.

Health Benefits of Lemongrass

The health benefits of lemongrass are many and varied! It truly is a wonder-herb!

1. Helps Detox

Lemongrass tea is well-known for its detoxifying effects. It is a diuretic because it promotes kidney function and production of urine. This helps eliminate toxins from the liver and keep the kidneys clean.

2. Fights Anaemia

Lemongrass is rich in iron and folates, both of which are essential in the creation of new red blood cells and haemoglobin. Boosting blood cell count prevents anaemia. The high iron content also prevents other illnesses caused by iron deficiency. Some use the ability to prevent anaemia as a reason to consume more lemongrass during pregnancy; however, the possible ill-effects outweigh the benefits.

3. Fights Stress

Lemongrass tea helps to calm the nerves and induce sleep. Its oil is commonly used in aromatherapy. You can put some of it in the diffuser to ensure a good night’s sleep.

4. Pain Relief

Lemongrass acts as an analgesic to alleviate migraines and stomach-aches. It also contains phytonutrients that treat muscle spasms and cramps.

5. Boosts Immunity

Lemongrass Tea

Lemongrass is an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. In addition to this, it helps prevent inflammation and is beneficial for the functioning of the heart and respiratory system.

6. Good for Skin

The antiseptic action of lemongrass and its astringent properties make it suitable for skin. An astringent causes contraction of cells and is used to prevent oiliness of the skin.

7. Healthy Cells

Lemongrass possesses antioxidant properties. Anti-oxidants prevent wear-and-tear damage in cells caused as a side effect of a healthy metabolism.

8. Aids Digestion

Lemongrass works as an antimicrobial agent, killing harmful parasites in your gut and alleviating digestive problems like constipation, gastroenteritis, bloating, etc.

9. Fights Cancer

Studies show that specific compounds found in lemongrass, especially the compound linalool, is useful in inhibiting tumour growth and killing cancer cells. Though no human trials have been conducted, it could replace chemo-therapy without the side-effects of chemo, in the future.

Possible Side Effects of Lemongrass in Pregnancy

The effects of lemongrass during pregnancy have not been empirically studied on humans. The advice to avoid lemongrass in high doses is based on logical conjecture and also on studies done on rats.

Effect on Foetus

  • Lemongrass extracts can fasten cell-death and hamper cell multiplication causing poor growth.
  • Lemongrass can cause skeletal abnormalities.
  • It could cause stillbirth.

Effect on Mother

  • Lemongrass has long been used in herbal medicine to bring on menstruation. In large quantities, it could induce the rupture of the foetal membrane, causing a miscarriage.
  • Lemongrass affects blood sugar regulation. If the mother has type 2 diabetes or gestational diabetes, ingesting too much lemongrass could cause blood sugar to fall rapidly causing tiredness, blurry vision and even loss of consciousness.
  • Lemongrass could trigger mild allergic effects including throat-swelling, rashes and chest pain.

Is Lemongrass Oil Safe to Use While Pregnant?

Unlike eating lemongrass during pregnancy, using its oil for massaging your skin or as incense for aromatherapy needn’t be strictly prohibited. Essential oils work by being absorbed into the skin while massaging or being breathed in if it is being diffused or vaporised. Since essential oil molecules are quite small, the fear is that it may cross the placenta and enter your baby’s circulation system.

Essential oils are powerful as they come in high concentrations, so when using lemongrass oil, it is best to dilute the same with a carrier oil or water before use.

Lemongrass Oil

How can Lemongrass Essential Oil be Used During Pregnancy?

Lemongrass oil can be used in the following ways:
  • For Foot Bath: To relieve foot pain, add a few drops of lemongrass oil to lukewarm water. After this, proceed to soak your feet for 15-20 minutes. For instant pain relief, add Epsom salt to the bath.
  • For joint-pain, headache, etc.: Dilute lemongrass oil with almond or jojoba oil to create an aromatic massage oil. The ratio should be two drops of lemongrass oil to 1 teaspoon of carrier oil.
  • For Keeping Insects at bay: Dilute lemongrass oil in water and spray around the house or apply directly to points of entry for pests and insects.
  • It is also safe to add a few drops of lemongrass oil in your bathwater to enjoy its beneficial effects.

Risk of Using Lemongrass Oil

If you are allergic to lemongrass oil, you risk being vulnerable to the following symptoms:

  • Skin irritation
  • Burning sensation
  • Development of rashes (hives)

Things to Remember

Here are points to remember when dealing with lemongrass and pregnancy.

  • Before the use of lemongrass oil for pain relief, do a skin-patch test to determine if you are allergic to it.
  • Always dilute lemongrass oil sufficiently, whether with water or other carrier oils. If not, it will burn your skin.
  • If you suffer from diabetes or low-blood-sugar, do not drink lemongrass tea as it will cause a drastic fall in glucose levels.
  • Since the effects of lemongrass are the strongest on the liver and kidneys, please consult your doctor before consuming any lemongrass products, if you suffer from liver or kidney related illnesses or have suffered from it in the past.

Alternatives to Lemongrass Tea

If you are pregnant and routinely consume lemongrass tea, it would be wise to substitute it for other kinds of tea. We suggest the following two alternatives:

  • Raspberry Tea: It is made from the leaves of the red raspberry bush. This herb used to be known as “the woman’s herb”. It is traditionally recommended during pregnancy. However, scientific research on the subject is limited. It supposedly helps uterus health and prevents both premature and overdue births and other complications during pregnancy and childbirth.

To substitute the taste of lemongrass, these are the best additions to your herbal tea:

  • Lemon Zest: The easiest, and possibly a suitable replacement for lemongrass’ flavour, is zest or lemon. For a closer replication of the taste, mix one teaspoon lemon zest with a paste of one arugula leaf and use in your tea.
  • Kaffir Lime Leaves: It has a similar aroma to lemongrass. Crush to paste and mix it with lime zest and lime juice.

Lemongrass is a potentially harmful agent during pregnancy, and the easiest rule to follow might be to avoid it altogether. However, the truth is that you can enjoy its benefits as a massage oil or incense or even as a minor ingredient in foods. There are several accounts of women who have used lemongrass tea during their pregnancy without facing any side-effects. However, the risk is not worth the reward in this case.

Also Read: Herbal Teas When Pregnant