Friday, October 16, 2009

Lemongrass

Lemongrass is an amazing little herb that is native to India but widely used in South East Asian cuisine especially Thai. It has a mild citrus flavor (compared to lemons) and usually comes fresh in pale yellow stalks. It can also come in dried and powdered form. Fresh lemongrass though is not as commonly available here in North America as in Asia.

I have always loved the smell and taste of lemongrass when I was living in Thailand. It has a milder lemony flavor compared to the regular lemons. I never knew its medicinal power until I realized how it cured me of my sinus and read more about its anti-cancer properties after my experience with breast cancer.

As a child, I have always battled with sinus. It was something I thought I have to deal with every morning and every night for the rest of my life. Then I moved to Thailand 6 years ago because of work. Lemongrass is a very common ingredient in Thai cuisine and I eat it almost every day, in tom yum soups, stir-fries, fried rice etc. And after living in Thailand for about a year, my sinus is now gone for good. I have not had it for the last 6 years. Then after my encounter with cancer, I began reading up on herbs and natural medicine and I came across lemongrass again.

And I was pleasantly surprised to read that doctors in Israel are “prescribing” lemongrass tea to chemo patients to help them boost the effectiveness of their chemo sessions. In 2006, a research team in Ben Gurion University in Israel also found that a substance called citral, present in lemongrass, causes cancer cells to kill themselves. And while citral killed the cancer cells, it left the normal cells unharmed. This selective toxicity amazed the researchers. If you are interested to read more about this research, get your hands on the article at the end of this blog entry.

Buying and storing lemongrass
You can find fresh lemongrass in Asian supermarkets. For those of you in North America, try your local Chinatowns or specialty grocery stores. When purchasing lemongrass, look for firm stalks with outer leaves that are not crusty or brown. Soft or rubbery stalks mean that the lemongrass is too old.

Fresh lemongrass can keep in the fridge for about 10 to 14 days and in the freezer for about 4 to 6 months. If storing in fridge, wrap lemongrass in a damp paper towel and place in a plastic bag. If storing in the freezer, wash, trim and chop the lemongrass. Then allow the lemongrass to dry thoroughly before placing in heavy-duty freezer bags.

You can add lemongrass to soups, stir fries and fried rice to add extra flavor. You can also make a tea out of it or add it to your regular green tea to add a special kick to your beverage while enjoying its amazing health benefits. To use fresh lemongrass, always cut off the lower bulb and remove tough outer leaves. The main stalk (the yellow section) is the main part used in cooking.

Dudai N, Weinstein Y, Krup M, Rabinski T, Ofir R (May 2005). "Citral is a new inducer of caspase-3 in tumor cell lines". Planta Med. 71 (5): 484–8.

2 comments:

the ever lovable said...

I'm battling sinus and rhinitis right now and my allergies are wrecking a mini havoc to my life.

the lemongrass you took was just part of your daily food?

Kelly said...

Hi ever lovable,

Yes. I used to live in Thailand for about a year and they use a lemongrass in a lot of their dishes. It was inevitable in my daily diet back then. Now that I am not living there, I try as much as possible to inject it into my dishes. Use it in your cooking instead of lemon or cut it into smaller pieces and brew your own lemongrass tea. Before I went to Thailand, I was battling with Sinus every morning and night but I have not had any of it since then. :)

Cheers.......Kelly