Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martinii) has a number of English name synonyms which has led to its confusion with other essential oils; palmarosa has also been known by the names of Turkish geranium, Indian geranium and rose geranium. In addition, with a scent reminiscent of rose and geranium, palmarosa has naturally been used to adulterate the more expensive rose oil.
Characteristics of Palmarosa
Palmarosa belongs to the Graminaceae plant family and is a native of Pakistan and India; today, palmarosa is cultivated in Indonesia, Brazil, the Comoro Islands, Africa and Madagascar. It is a herbaceous plant which has long, slim stems with flowering tops; it is the leaves of palmarosa which are aromatic. Palmarosa essential oil is extracted by steam distillation of the fresh or dried grass and leaves.
Traditional Use of Palmarosa
Palmarosa has historically been used to adulterate rose oil; however, it has also been used in traditional Indian medicine to treat fevers, infectious diseases, rheumatism and nerve pain. Palmarosa was also used to make incense blends in India; palmarosa oil was traded through the trade routes of India and Persia and began to be used in the West.
The Use of Palmarosa Oil in Aromatherapy
Palmarosa essential oil possesses a number of properties in its own right; properties of palmarosa oil include being antiseptic, digestive, a stimulant, a cicatrisant and a febrifuge. It is used in aromatherapy to treat wrinkles, dry skin, aging skin, anorexia, infection, nervous exhaustion, stress, cystitis and thrush. Palmarosa is also used in the perfumery industry and is used to isolate the chemical component of geraniol.
Palmarosa and Interaction with Other Essential Oils
Palmarosa belongs to the same botanical family as that of citronella (Cymbopogon nardus) and lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus); it is a close relative of gingergrass (Cymbopogon martinii var. sofia) but, as an essential oil, palmarosa is superior in quality to gingergrass.
In India, gingergrass and palmarosa are sometimes distilled together, so care should be taken, when choosing an essential oil, that it is pure palmarosa essential oil and not an essential oil blend of gingergrass and palmarosa. Palmarosa essential oil is useful in synergistic blends with the essential oils of geranium, rose, sandalwood, orange and lavender.
Cautions for Using Palmarosa Essential Oil
Palmarosa is considered to be a safe essential oil to use when used correctly; it is not toxic, is not an irritant and is generally non-sensitizing. Palmarosa essential oil is high in alcohols, which are gentle in nature. However, as is the case when using any essential oil, or if unfamiliar in the use of essential oils, it is advisable to take professional advice from a suitably qualified professional.
Lawless, Julia 1995 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils UK: Thorsons