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"Libraries: The medicine chest of the soul."
Library at Thebes, inscription over the door
Palmarosa is a common adulterant of rose oil; however, palmarosa essential oil does have its own therapeutic properties that are used in aromatherapy.
Historical Use of Palmarosa
Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martinii) has historically been used to adulterate rose oil. 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 where it migrated for use in the West.
Botanical Description of Palmarosa
Palmarosa belongs to the Graminaceae plant family and is a native plant of Pakistan and India; today, palmarosa is also cultivated in Indonesia, Brazil, the Comoro Islands, Africa and Madagascar. It is a herbaceous plant that has long, slim stems with flowering tops; the leaves of palmarosa are the aromatic part of the plant. Palmarosa essential oil is extracted by steam distillation of the fresh or dried grass and leaves.
Association Between Palmarosa and Rose and Geranium
Palmarosa is sometimes confused with other essential oils because of a number of different English name synonyms by which it is also known; synonyms for palmarosa include Turkish geranium, Indian geranium and rose geranium. In addition, palmarosa has a scent reminiscent of rose and geranium, which means it is a natural choice to adulterate the more expensive rose oil.
Use of Palmarosa Essential Oil in Aromatherapy
Palmarosa essential oil possesses a number of therapeutic properties; these include 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 Gingergrass Essential Oils
Palmarosa belongs to the same botanical family as 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 take care, when choosing an essential oil, to ensure that it is pure palmarosa essential oil and not an essential oil blend of gingergrass and palmarosa.
Cautions for Using Palmarosa Essential Oil
Palmarosa is thought to be a safe essential oil when used correctly; it is not toxic, it is not an irritant and it is generally non-sensitizing. Palmarosa essential oil is high in alcohols that are gentle in nature. However, as is the case when using any essential oil, or if unfamiliar in the use of essential oils, take professional advice from a suitably qualified professional.
–Lawless, Julia 1995 The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils UK: Thorsons
This article was written by Sharon Falsetto and appeared in its original format on Suite101 as Palmarosa Essential Oil
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