Synopsis: An ambitious discussion of the essential oil of the grass oil Palmarosa, uses, growth, description, organoleptic qualities and uses of the essential oil.
oils courtesy of Eden Botanicals & PrimaFleur Botanicals
PALMAROSA ~ E. O./PLANT PROFILE ~
By Jeanne Rose ~ May 2017
Essential Oil Profile ~ Name of Oil: Palmarosa. PALMAROSA GRASS is a genus of the Gramineae (Poaceae) family of grasses. The genus Cymbopogon contains many species of grass that yield aromatic essential oils that are used in scent, ‘herbal’ insecticides, medicine and for flavoring foods. The species martini has also been separated into the areas in which it lives, its terroir, with the variety motia or mota, commonly called >Palmarosa or Geranium Grass< and harvested in the highlands of India or Nepal and the variety sofia or sofiya commonly called >Gingergrass< harvested in the lowlands of India.
Latin Binomial/Botanical Family: Cymbopogon martini var. motia syn. Andropogon martini ~ also Cymbopogon martinii of the Family Gramineae (Poaceae).
Naming: Cymbopogon martinii was named by W. Roxburgh after the shape and look of the plant, while the species was named after General Martin who collected the seeds in the highlands of India as he described…a long grass…so strong an aromatic and pungent taste, that animals taste of it.” — from “375 Essential Oils & Hydrosols”.
Essential Oil Plants of the Grass Family ~ Gramineae (Poaceae).
Chrysopogon zizanioides is commonly known as Vetiver, a bunch grass whose roots are used.
Cymbopogon nardus is Citronella grass.
Cymbopogon citratus West Indian Lemongrass;
Cymbopogon flexuosus is East Indian Lemongrass
Cymbopogon martini var. motia is Palmarosa grass, syn. Andropogon martini or Cymbopogon martinii.
Cymbopogon martinii var. sofia is Gingergrass
Cymbopogon nardus is Citronella grass.
Countries of Origin: Palmarosa is native to India, now grown elsewhere. “Palmarosa is wildly grown in wetlands in provinces of India, including Nepal. The Palmarosa oil is extracted from the stem of the grass by distillation of dried leaves. Once the stems and leaves have been distilled for two to three hours, to separate the oil from the Palmarosa, then the leftover distilled grass is turned into organic matter and becomes manure or is composted.” —Wikipedia
Palmarosa grass in the field – photo unknown
General description of plant, habitat & growth: Palmarosa is a wild-growing or farmed plant, native to India but now grown elsewhere. A green and straw-colored grass with long stems ending in tufts and whose grassy leaves are very fragrant and produce small, yellow flowers.
GROWTH: Eden Botanicals declares a non-GMO status for Palmarosa, Nepal and Palmarosa, Sri Lanka – They are organically grown.
Portion of plant used in distillation, how distilled, extraction methods & yield: The essential oil is distilled from the leaves, stems and flower heads and the finest oils with the most effective components come from highland grown plants, var. motia. The plants yield up to 1.7% EO with the main components being citronellal, citral and geraniol being up to 85% of the total. Steam distillation is of fresh or dried grass before flowering.
Yield: 1.0-1.5% and up to 1.7% EO per weight
Color: Colorless to pale gold to yellow
Viscosity: Non-viscous, watery
Taste: Mild, smooth, bitter, slightly analgesic, hot,
Odor Intensity: 4-5
Solubility: Insoluble in water, soluble in alcohol and fixed oils
Odor Description: is woody, herbaceous, citrus and very occasionally fruity/floral. First, I want to say that Palmarosa highlands or Gingergrass lowlands do not smell like Rose or Rose Geranium or Ginger — not at all! I sampled four types.
The Prima Fleur Palmarosa from Nepal had a soft intensity of 4 and had a Citrus Predominant note, Herbal Subsidiary note and Green Back note with floral, fruity, wood and spice missing.
Eden Botanicals wild Palmarosa also from Nepal was slightly different with an intensity of 5 and Predominant Herbal note, subsidiary of Citrus and green Back note with floral, fruity, woody and spice missing.
Eden Botanicals Palmarosa from Sri Lanka had a soft intensity of 4 with a Predominant Herbal note, subsidiary note of Citrus and green Back note with floral, fruity, woody and spice missing.
CH Imports Gingergrass from India had an intensity of 5 and had a Predominant note of Spice, subsidiary note of Herbs and Back notes of Green and Citrus with no floral, fruity or wood notes.
In this selection of scents, I actually preferred the Gingergrass but all three Palmarosa were lovely.
Chemical Components: the main components being citronellal, citral and geraniol, Geranyl Acetate, Linaloöl, Alpha-Humulene, and Beta-Caryophyllene.
“Essential oils distilled from whole herb, leaf lamina, leaf sheath and inflorescence of Palmarosa plants cultivated in south India were analyzed by GC and GC/MS. Inflorescence (2.00%) and leaf lamina (1.40%) (flowers and leaf) produced significantly higher oil yield than whole herb (0.75%) and leaf sheath (0.33%). Palmarosa stem did not produce oil. Seventeen constituents accounting for 95.6–97.1% of the oils were identified. (E)-β-Ocimene (1.2–4.3%), linalool (0.8–2.0%), geraniol (70.1–85.3%), geranyl acetate (4.3–14.8%) and (E, Z)-farnesol (1.6–3.4%) were the major components. Whole herb oil was richer in linalool, β-caryophyllene and (E, Z)-farnesol. Leaf lamina and leaf sheath oils were richer in geraniol. Inflorescence oil was richer in (E)-β-Ocimene and geranyl acetate. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first report on the oil profiles of leaf lamina and leaf sheath of Palmarosa.” —JEOR
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HISTORY AND INTERESTING FACTS: Palmarosa has been used to adulterate Rose oil because the high geraniol content makes it smell ‘rose-like’ to some persons and in the past, it was called ‘Turkish geranium oil’. “It is shaken with gum Arabic solution and left in the sun—a process which makes it lighter in color, thus more like distilled Rose oil” Essential Aromatherapy, p. 156. According to Arctander, “Palmarosa oil is the best natural source of geraniol of all essential oils”.
PROPERTIES AND USAGE EO
Fine perfumes, candles, and herbal pillows with the pleasing smell of rose are often in fact scented with Palmarosa. It is also used to flavor tobacco. “Palmarosa oil has been shown to be an effective insect repellent when applied to stored grain and beans, an anthelmintic against nematodes, and an antifungal and mosquito repellent.”—Greenfield Agro Forestry
Application: When applied in creams, lotion, products Palmarosa can be cellular regenerative particularly in herbal products with the herb Comfrey leaf; it is antiseptic; with Rosemary verbenone, Frankincense and Spikenard it is antifungal; in products, it helps to increase the antibacterial, analgesic, anti-infectious effects.
Inhalation: In aromatherapy, the EO is used by inhalation as a tonic to the heart, antiviral, relaxing and soothing to the nervous system. Doulas and birth coaches have used Palmarosa as a relaxant in birthing.
Uses: You can use Palmarosa in all sorts of skin care products. It works well to reduce acne, scar tissue, relieve dry skin, and reduce the look of wrinkles in old skin. It aids in the regulation of oil production of the skin. With other oils (mentioned above) it relieves athlete’s foot fungus.
“Palmarosa oil is also known as an antifungal that fights against Aspergillus niger, commonly known as black mold, Chaetomium globosum also known as moldy soil and Penicillium funiculosum, which is a plant pathogen.” —Wikipedia
DIFFUSE/DIFFUSION: Because it is somewhat antiseptic and antifungal Palmarosa EO works very well in a diffuser to clear a sickroom. Diffuse no more than 5 minutes out of 30 and less if the scent is still strong after 15 minutes or if the ill person is a child (under 14) or an elderly or very sick person.
BLENDING: Samples of this oil can have a rich intensity or a very low intensity although the tenacity in a blend is quite pronounced. It works well with herbal scents like Geranium, Lavender and Rosemary, resinous oils such as Frankincense, citrus oils like Bergamot and Grapefruit and rooty oils such as Spikenard and Vetivert.
HYDROSOL: Adding Palmarosa hydrosol to food and for healing skin is a gentle way to add a rosy note to dessert or cosmetics. It is a very potent healer. It does “open doors” for people who are new to hydrosols. Palmarosa blends well with other hydrosols and it’s great for a deodorant or body perfume. We have read it is good for gut flora and has antiseptic qualities.
The sweet freshening effect of Palmarosa hydrosol, is slightly astringent and used as a facial toner, hair tonic, mood lifter. This hydrosol can refresh a mood, the linen, or the inside of your car. C. Durney personally take a pint and pour it on her forehead to soak all the follicles on her head. This may thicken hair and tighten the pores and provide a delicate deodorizing affect to the entire system. This grass is beautiful and aromatic.
[see towards the end of the article for more information on the hydrosol]
Energetics-Emotional Use: it is used as a nervous relaxant and for stress-related problems. It is also used for physical exhaustion.
Used in ritual/energetic work to attract love—The Aromatherapy Book
Eden Botanicals customer has stated the following, “This Palmarosa, a relative of lemongrass creates a feeling of security. It is used to reduce stress and tension, and promotes feelings of well-being. This oil reduces nervous tension. Excellent oil for home diffusion.”
Carmen Durney grows this grass and states that It is strong and has a gentle presence. Therefore, it really strengthens a soul, fortifies the source. Enjoy!
Internal Usage in humans: Not tested in humans, it is suggested that the EO not be taken internally. However, in 2014 after some testing Palmarosa herb/oil was considered safe for human consumption in low concentrations and in very small amounts; used occasionally it can assist in the removal of pathogenic intestinal flora. I would suggest adding a small amount of the hydrosol to water to drink and not drinking the EO. There are occasional recommendations that it can be used both as an inhalant and internally in anorexia.
KEY USAGE: Jeanne Rose states in the “Aromatherapy Course-Home & Family that Palmarosa oil is the “Oil of Antifungal”
Toxicity: If added directly to water the EO is moderately toxic-to-toxic to fish, fungi and mollusks. In other words, do not pour down the drain – dispose in a safe way.
SAFETY PRECAUTIONS: When used externally in moderation it is non-toxic and non-irritating. Moderation in use is recommended. Do not diffuse or use for children.
Precautions: General Precautions for Essential Oils.
As with all essential oils, do not use undiluted, do not use directly in eyes or on mucus membranes. Do not take internally unless advised by a qualified and expert practitioner. Keep away from children.
Patch Test: If applying a new essential oil to your skin always perform a patch test to the inner arm (after you have diluted the EO in a vegetable carrier oil). Wash an area of your forearm about the size of a quarter and dry carefully. Apply a diluted drop (1 drop EO + 1 drop carrier) to the area. Then apply a loose Band-Aid and wait 24 hours. If there is no reaction then go ahead and use the oil in your formulas.
Science Abstracts: Abstract from Food and Chemical Toxicology Volume 68, June 2014, Pages 71–77. . —, Evaluation of toxicity of essential oils Palmarosa, citronella, lemongrass and vetiver in human lymphocytes “The present investigation was undertaken to study the cytotoxic and genotoxic potential of the essential oils (Palmarosa, citronella, lemongrass and vetiver) and monoterpenoids (citral and geraniol) in human lymphocytes. Trypan blue dye exclusion and MTT test was used to evaluate cytotoxicity. The genotoxicity studies were carried out by comet and DNA diffusion assays. Apoptosis was confirmed by Annexin/PI double staining. In addition, generation of reactive oxygen species was evaluated by DCFH-DA staining using flow cytometry. The results demonstrated that the four essential oils and citral induced cytotoxicity and genotoxicity at higher concentrations. The essential oils were found to induce oxidative stress evidenced by the generation of reactive oxygen species. Except for geraniol, induction of apoptosis was confirmed at higher concentrations of the test substances. Based on the results, the four essential oils are considered safe for human consumption at low concentrations.”
Distilling Palmarosa – photo courtesy of Kailash Dixit of essencenepal.com
Guenther, Ernest. The Essential Oils. Published by Krieger.
Journal of Essential Oil Research, Volume 21, Issue 6, 2009. Essential Oil Profiles of Different Parts of —–Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martinii (Roxb.) Wats. var. motia Burk.)
Mabberley, D. J. Mabberley’s Plant-Book. 3rd edition 2008, reprinted with corrections 2014.
Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols.
Rose, Jeanne. The Aromatherapy Book, Applications & Inhalations.
Sonali Sinha, Manivannan Jothiramajayam, Manosij Ghosh, Anita Mukherjee Food and Chemical Toxicology Volume 68, June 2014, Pages 71–77 —, Evaluation of toxicity of essential oils Palmarosa, citronella, —————-lemongrass and vetiver in human lymphocytes
DISCLAIMER: This work is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for accurate diagnosis and treatment by a qualified health care professional. Dosages are often not given, as that is a matter between you and your health care provider. The author is neither a chemist nor a medical doctor. The content herein is the product of research and some personal and practical experience. Institute of Aromatic & Herbal Studies – Jeanne Rose©
This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
FORMULAS WITH PALMAROSA OIL
HERBAL PALMAROSA TEA RINSE HAIR to GROW LONG HAIR
Palmarosa grass, cut into lengths
Rosemary herb cut and sifted
Basil leaves, cut and sifted
Directions: Mix the herbs together, using any amounts you wish. Store the greater part of the product in an airtight container. When needed, shampoo hair, rinse, follow with this hair rinse using ½ oz. herbs simmered a few minutes in 2 cups of water. Strain. When cool enough to use, rinse through the hair repeatedly, catching the run-off and reusing.
Dosage: How much and when, how often
How much to take or do: ½ oz. by wt. of herbs per 2 cups by vol. water
When to take, or do: Use after each shampoo
How often to take or do: At least once per week
How long to take: Use at least for a month. Then try another formula and come back to this one every other month for 6 months.
EO HAIR GROWTH OIL ~
this is anti-fungal, pro-growth, anti-aging and healthy for the scalp and hair.
Palmarosa oil 25%
Rosemary oil 25% (verbenone type)
Jojoba oil 50%
Directions: Mix thoroughly. Shake, Use only 1-2 drops per application. Apply to brush and brush hair or apply by fingertips to the scalp and massage in at least twice/day.
Label: Put into 1-ounce bottle and label fully with full name of the product, ingredients, how to use and your contact information.
Frankincense, Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martini var. motia), Rosemary verbenone and Spikenard essential oils are used in equal amounts and at 10% of the total product. For instance, use 4 drops of each of the essential oils and add to 100 drops of a carrier, whether lotion or oil (40/20 Calophyllum/Sea Buckthorn + 40 Calendula Infused oil or Bruise Juice. Apply several times per day and before bed. Both Frankincense and the Rosemary chemotype verbenone contain verbenone an unusual ketone that is antifungal and Palmarosa is considered antifungal.
CUTICLE NAIL TREATMENT
Equal quantities of each of several of these carrier oils, especially Jojoba, Calendula, Gotu Kola, Calophyllum and Sea Buckthorn to equal 1 ounce of carrier oil.
Add to this EO
5 drops Blue Cypress
5 drops Helichrysum
10 drops Neroli
15 drops Palmarosa
10 drops Pelargonium RoseThis is a therapeutic 10% mixture of essential oils to carrier oil.
Dip your fingernails into the mixture and soak for a few minutes, then rub the excess into the nail bed carefully. Repeat daily for a week. Then weekly.
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Palmarosa Grass Hydrosol 10-15-15
Cymbopogon martini variety unknown
Carmen Durney of Wai’iti Soaps and Botanicals
Palmarosa plant has physical attributes that is like in growth and development to lemongrass. I am not a big fan of the lemongrass hydrosol that we have made. It is very harsh smelling. One time my partner asked me to do a co-distillation of lemongrass and Palmarosa grass together. After I harvested the Palmarosa grass, I began to harvest the lemongrass but my shears broke. SO, I only distilled about 7 oz. Lemongrass in 5 pounds Palmarosa grass and boy could you smell that lemongrass in there. I didn’t like the lemongrass but I do like the Palmarosa grass.
As we have seen many varieties of lemongrass are propagated and cultivated, but this is the first Palmarosa grass I have ever grown. When people purchase Palmarosa oil or the hydrosol it is commonly labelled a variety called sofia, of the highland terroir. The variety called motia is lowland terroir and termed Gingergrass. I’d like to get those seeds too to see the difference from a plant perspective. It’s on the to-do list: find more seeds!
From a terroir perspective, Hawaii’s low altitude and reddish vibration of light may not render the constituents valued from a high altitude native India terroir Palmarosa grass, however, due to its lovely aroma and heartiness, we are eager to have our Palmarosa hydrosol tested in the future. Palmarosa is very gently but is pungent with its own character. Not everyone is a fan at first, but the application in food and healing is promising. It is a very potent healer in any aromatherapist tool bag!
The grass is awesome for mulching weeds and putting into a stinky chicken coop. I believe everyone who lives in a subtropical climate would enjoy cultivating this herb.
Palmarosa has a great harvest to process to yield ratio. Most likely why it has always been quite an affordable essential oil. When I have distilled these cuttings of Palmarosa that I call “haircuts”, I have used fresh plant material, including the flowers & seeds. I have also distilled just the reedy leaves with no flowers or seed. I think I prefer the entire plant in the distillation. This requires very little processing. We can distill the Palmarosa anytime whenever it gets a ‘haircut’.
The essential oil acquired during distillation is a lovely golden hue and has a distinctive aroma, possible due to its geraniol content. The oil is easy to separate unlike the heavier or delicate oils. Immediately after distillation, I have seen the appearance in some of the fractions some long whitish, shiny crystals abut a millimeter long. This kind of float and are suspended off the bottom while the hydrosol adjusts and cools. This could be due to the still temperatures. It could be too low a temp? Not sure about this….
Unlike the very strong citral scent that is almost vulgar to the senses of Lemongrass, Palmarosa grass’s unique smell, gently grows on the person. It smells much the same as it does in the field.
The distillations with seeds and that were not meticulously separated yielded a hydrosol with a much HIGHER quantity of essential oil. Therefore, I have preferred to distill the top portions of the plant with the stems. The PH tests I have managed to attempt have delivered a 5.3 range approximately. It’s not extremely low though like the Hinano which had a pH about 4.3.
Since we have been able to successfully cultivate this lovely grass, the hydrosol is not one I have had to worry about storing like Hinano, Neroli, Pomelo or Ylang Ylang. These flowers come once or twice a year depending on our weather in Hawaii. Palmarosa can be distilled from the fresh perpetually flowering plant.
Use: I bathe my whole body with the Palmarosa hydrosol starting at the forehead and pouring on skin and hair. All hydrosols are lovely in hair, but this one particularly is a lovely hair tonic. I feel like it can redden the complexion however.
I need to get a market going so I can sell quarts and distill more.
How else do you suggest that we use the hydrosol ~ the application in food and healing is a gentle way to add a rosy note to cosmetics or dessert. It is a very potent healer in any aromatherapist tool bag! It does “open doors” for people who are new to hydrosols. Blends well with other hydrosols and it’s great for a deodorant or body perfume.
How do you use the Hydrosol ~ Sweet freshening effect. Slightly astringent. As a facial toner, hair tonic, mood lifter. “This hydrosol can refresh a mood, linen, or your car. I personally take a pint and pour it on my forehead and soak all the follicles on my head. This thickens my hair and tightens the pores and provides a delicate deodorizing effect to the entire system. This grass is beautiful and aromatic. It is strong and has a gentle presence. Therefore, it really strengthens a soul, fortifies the source.
Enjoy! ”C. Durney – Wai’iti Soaps and Botanicals ~ – 808.639.6956 ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
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Cymbopogon martinii var. motia (highland) and var. sofia (lowland)
Palmarosa oil limerick
I love rosy, grassy Palmarosa
It goes in Bruise Juice for the toes-a
As an antiviral
It isn’t chiral
But it pleases me from toes to nose-a…JeanneRose 2012
For classes and Seminars http://www.jeannerose.net/courses.html