Cymbopogon martinii belonging to the Family Gramineae, is a fragrant grass which grows wild in India and occurs in two varieties. Cymbopogon martinii var.martini (Palmarosa) and Cymbopogon martini var. sofia(Gingergrass) which is not used in Aromatherapy. Palmarosa is also grown commercially in India , however Gingergrass is not. The oil producers usually do not experience any difficulty in distinguishing between the two varieties as they seldom grow side by side and usually found at different altitudes and in different environments. Palmarosa is also grown commercially in Java, Madagascar and the Seychelles.
Palmarosa can be either steam or hydro distilled from both fresh and dried plant material. A pale yellow to olive essential oil is produced and the oil yield is between 12 – 24 kg/ha. The essential oil has a sweet floral odour and its chemical composition can vary quite a bit depending on where it was grown, how it was distilled and the age of the oil. Palmarosa oil is used extensively in perfumery, especially in soaps. The oil contains a large amount of geraniol (60% – 85%) and it is a major source of natural geraniol. Palmarosa blends well with woods like cedarwood, sandalwood and rosewood as well as citruses like lemon, orange, mandarin, and florals like jasmine, rose and geranium as well as chamomile (roman), lavender, patchouli and petitgrain
Palmarosa is listed in Indian Material Medica as both a carminative and an analgesic useful for neuralgia and rheumatic pains. It is also reported to be a preventative for hair-loss after acute fevers. In Ayurvedic medicine it has been used for coughs and bronchitis.
Psychologically, Palmarosa has calming, cheering and tonic properties and can be thought of for all stress related conditions, as well as irritability.
On the physiological level Palmarosa has strong antiviral and antibacterial properties and can be considered whenever these properties are called for. It would be useful added to a blend to boost the immune system as well as help fight infections, bacteria and fungi.
Contraindications:. Generally considered non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing.
E.A. Weiss, Essential Oil Crops, CAB International, Oxon, UK & New York, NY, 1997
Beverley Hawkins, Aromatherapy 201 Course 1999 revised 2000, 2001