PALMAROSA (Cymbopogon martini – Gramineae)

Palmarosa belongs to a family of tropical grasses rich in aromatic, volatile oils, formerly known mostly under the generic name of Andropogon, but now included in the genus Cymbopogon. Close relations are lemongrass and citronella. Palmrosa grass occurs in two varieties, Motia or Palmarosa, and Sofia or Rusa: according to Tropical Planting and Gardening by H F Macmillan (1935), the oil of the former commanded the highest price in London at that time, about 5 – 6 shillings per pound.

Originally from Central and North India, and now cultivated in Africa and Madagascar as well, the grass is slender, bearing panicles of a blue-white colour which mature to a dark red.


Description: Also known as Indian geranium or Turkish geranium oil, it is distilled from the leaves and flowers of the grass. It has been distilled since the eighteenth century, especially in Turkey, to simulate or adulterate Turkish rose oil (which is very expensive).

The principal constituents: Geraniol (between 75 and 95 per cent), with other alcohols like citronellol and farnesol, and esters like dipentene (but in small proportions).

Dangers: Palmarosa oil is not too expensive, but it is nevertheless often mixed with turpentine and cedarwood, so care needs to be taken when purchasing.


Palmarosa can relieve the discomforts of ‘flu and a high temperature.

In illness
The plant has long been used in India, taken internally as a remedy against infection and fever – easily understandable because of the very high proportion of geraniol, a natural antiseptic and bactericide. The oil is also stomachic.

A mixture of 5 ml (1 tsp) soya oil and 5 drops palmarosa massaged into the shoulders, temple, sinus area, and behind the ears, can induce an almost instant feeling of well-being. This oil can also be gently applied to cuts and wounds to help the healing process.

In beauty
Palmarosa is a wonderful remedy for skin conditions like acne because of its natural antiseptic constituents. Mix together 5 ml (1 tsp) almond or sunflower oil, a few drops of wheat germ oil and 3 drops of palmarosa, and massage in twice a day. This can also work wonders for old acne scars, for wrinkles (especially those occurring after long exposure to sun) and broken veins. Apply palmarosa oil neat to boils, using a cottonwool bud. Do this morning and night.

In cookery
The plant is used in curry and meat dishes in India and West Africa, where its properties kill bacteria and help the digestion of fatty food.

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