Name: Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martinii)
Otherwise known as: Turkish Geranium, Indian Rosha
Habitat: A perennial member of the Graminaceae family resembling Lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus) and native to southern India, which grows to about 1.5m with delicate flowering tops. The leaves are very aromatic and have the distinctive fold found in Citronella. After drying, they are distilled to produce the essential oil.
What does it do: The synonyms refer to routes taken by the Indian spice traders who would sell the distilled oil which has a sweet, rosy geranium aroma to the rose oil dealers in Constantinople, where it was used to adulterate the very expensive Rose Attar.
Palmarosa has a long association with Ayurvedic medicine, it is given as a treatment for skin ailments, nervous exhaustion, and is considered an aphrodisiac.
The plant contains geraniol, farnesol, methyl hepatone and citronellol among many others.
It is antiseptic, anti-bacterial, antifungal, cicatrisant, stimulant, immune enhancing, cell generating and a cardiac tonic.
Palmarosa oil is used by aromatherapists to treat a wide range of conditions including nervous exhaustion and stress related illnesses, acne, eczema, psoriasis, athlete’s foot, dermatitis, wrinkles, ageing skin and numerous intestinal problems. It is an oil that has proved effective in combating anorexia. M. Maury, in his standard work Guide to Aromatherapy states: This is an essence which acts on the pathogenic intestinal flora, in particular on the collibacillus, the Eberth bacillus and the bacillus of dysentery. Therefore, an essential oil that could prove essential.
Recent research into repairing surgical scar tissue indicates that claims made for the plant’s ability to generate new skin cells are correct; in addition, it is proving of value in enhancing the body’s immune system. Another programme has discovered that Palmarosa is able to regulate the flow of sebum production, which will no doubt be of interest to those armies of teenagers ablaze with acne.
Because the plant contains citronellol it will prove to be an effective mosquito repellent.
Palmarosa is a fixative which is found in soaps, perfumes and cosmetics. It will grow very easily in Cyprus and as well as upsetting mosquitoes it is disliked by cats.
The earlier reference to rose oil adulteration still applies.
Quite an interesting clump of grass.
Alexander McCowan is author of The World’s most Dangerous Plants