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West Indian Lemongrass Extract Boosts Red Blood Cell Production and Could Help Treat Anemia

Reviewed: Ekpenyong CE, Daniel NE, Antai AB. Bioactive natural constituents from lemongrass tea and erythropoiesis boosting effects: potential use in prevention and treatment of anemia. J Med Food. 2015;18(1):118-127.

Bioactive natural constituents from food sources are being used to prevent and manage hematologic disorders associated with deficiencies of hemoglobin (Hb) and red blood cells (RBCs), partly because of significant drawbacks associated with synthetic drugs used to increase Hb concentrations in the blood. West Indian lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus, Poaceae) possesses antibacterial, antifungal, antihelminthic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and other properties, which are mediated by its phytochemical and essential oil constituents — tannins, saponins, flavonoids, and citral. Studies suggest that lemongrass may help treat the secondary causes of anemia. The authors of this study conducted a randomized trial to examine the effects of lemongrass leaf infusions on hematologic indices in humans and to evaluate the plant's phytochemical and nutritional constituents.

Fresh lemongrass leaves were obtained from a farm in Uyo, Akwa Ibom State, Nigeria, in May 2012. The leaves were rinsed, sun-dried, and pulverized, providing 200 g of powder. The powder was soaked in 2 L of hot water for about eight hours. After filtering, the filtrate was evaporated using a hot water bath to obtain the solid extract, which was weighed to obtain a yield of 70 g (35% by weight). Similar procedures were repeated using 2, 4, and 8 g of lemongrass powder to produce 410, 810, and 1,570 mg extracts, respectively. The qualitative phytochemical analysis of the lemongrass extract revealed relatively high concentrations of saponins; moderate levels of tannins, flavonoids, and phenols; and relatively low concentrations of anthraquinones, alkaloids, and deoxy sugars. Among the micronutrients of the lemongrass were high concentrations of potassium, calcium, and magnesium.

All 105 participants (55 men and 50 women) underwent a thorough pre-survey medical screening performed by a physician to ensure their medical fitness. The subjects were between the ages of 18 and 35. Each participant was randomly assigned to one of three groups (n = 35 for each): Groups 1, 2, and 3, received infusions prepared from 2, 4, and 8 g of lemongrass leaf powder, respectively, in 150 mL of hot water once daily for 30 days. A pilot survey conducted by the authors, which used the same dosages of lemongrass leaf powder for one week, showed no evidence of adverse side effects.1

Venous blood samples were obtained to measure hematologic and biochemical parameters. The authors reported that at day 10, packed cell volume (PCV), which is the percentage of red blood cells found in the blood, and Hb concentration significantly increased in both male (P < 0.05) and female (P < 0.01) subjects treated in group 3. At day 30, both PCV (P < 0.05) and Hb (P < 0.01) were significantly increased in male subjects in all groups; similar increases were found in female subjects in groups 2 and 3 (P < 0.01). Significant increases in RBCs were found in male subjects in groups 2 and 3 at day 10 and day 30 (P < 0.01). In female subjects, significant increases in RBCs were seen at day 30 in group 2 (P < 0.05) and in group 3 (P < 0.01). Total white blood cell (WBC) counts in both males and females in all groups did not differ significantly from baseline.

Significant decreases in some WBC lineages, including platelets, were observed compared with baseline values. Lymphocytes, however, increased significantly in groups 1 and 2 (P < 0.05 for both), and neutrophils increased in groups 2 and 3 (P < 0.05 for both) at day 10. Evidently, say the authors, the infusions prepared from lemongrass enhanced the body’s ability to produce RBCs (erythropoiesis), possibly due to the actions of the antioxidants present in the extract. Studies suggest that infusions prepared from lemongrass boost hematopoiesis (the formation of blood cells) and exhibit anti-anemic effects, likely mediated through enhanced renal erythropoietin synthesis (erythropoietin is a hormone secreted by the kidneys that causes bone marrow to make red blood cells), however more studies are needed to confirm these effects.1-3

—Shari Henson


  1. Leite JR, Seabra Mde LV, Maluf E, et al. Pharmacology of lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus Stapf). III. Assessment of eventual toxic; hypnotic and anxiolytic effects on humans. J Ethnopharmacol. 1986;17:75-83.
  2. Omer HA, Elallawy HH, AbdEl-Samee LD, Maghraby N. Productive performance of rabbits fed diets containing lemongrass or active dried yeast. Am Eur J Agric Environ Sci. 2010;7:179-187.
  3. Hanisa H, Hadijah H, Rasedee A, Tarmizi AS. Sub-acute oral administration of Cymbopogon citratus stem infusion and its effect on blood biochemical parameters, body and organ weight in rats. J Trop Agric Food Sci. 2011;39:1-7.