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Palmarosa Essential Oil Uses and Benefits for Health

Palmarosa Essential Oil Uses and Benefits for Health

What is Palmarosa Essential Oil?

Palmarosa essential oil is a pale yellow and thin viscosity extract with a sweet, fresh, floral, geranium/rose like aroma.  It is obtained by distilling the flowering aerial parts of Cymbopogon martinii grass.

C. martinii is harvested before the flowers appear, and the highest yield is obtained when the grass is fully dried (about one week after it has been cut).

The essential oil of palmarosa blends well with: amyris, laurel, bergamot, cananga, cedarwood, Roman chamomile, clary sage, clove, coriander, frankincense, geranium, ginger, grapefruit, juniper, lemon, lemongrass, mandarin, oakmoss, orange, patchouli, lavender, helichrysum, petitgrain, rose, rosemary, rosewood, sandalwood, and ylang ylang essential oil.

As a curious fact, palmarosa was and still may be used as a relatively inexpensive substitute or adulterant for rose and geranium:

The essential oil of Palmarosa was historically referred to as “Indian” or “Turkish” Geranium oil when it was heavily imported to the west (i.e., Constantinople) to adulterate Turkish Rose oil.

Essential oils classified as “rosy” are mainly extracted from 3 plants; Rose (Rosa damascena), Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) and Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martinii var. motia).

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Palmarosa plant tolerates many types of soil and environmental conditions compared to rose and geranium, which are more delicate in this regard. Because of this, palmarosa is more reliable and profitable from an agronomy perspective.

About Cymbopogon martinii var. motia (Palmarosa)

Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martini (Roxb.) W. Watson is a grass that belongs to the Gramineae/Poaceae family.

Among Cymbopogon species, palmarosa is the most adapted to diverse climatic conditions and occurs widely in the tropics and subtropics.

Palmarosa is an evergreen, tufted, aromatic grass with numerous erect culms arising from a short, stout, woody rhizome. The stems are up to 3 meters tall.

The flowering tops and leaves yield essential oil which is rich in geraniol, geranylacetate and linalool.

This crop is native to India and Indochina, and it is also cultivated in Brazil, Paraguay, Madagascar, Guatemala and Indonesia.

Other common names for Palmarosa include Indian geranium, gingergrass, rosha, and rosha grass.

Chemical Composition of Palmarosa Essential Oil

Several published reports have revealed the presence of geraniol as the major constituent (70-85.5%) in palmarosa essential oil.

Other important components are citral (a mixture of geranial and neral), citronellol, citronellal, linalool, elemol, 1, 8- cineole, limonene, β-caryophyllene, methyl heptenone, geranyl acetate and geranyl.

However, as with many oils, the composition of palmarosa oil components is highly influenced by genetic, environmental and geographical conditions.

Properties of Palmarosa Essential Oil

Essential oils derived from palmarosa have exceptionally good antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, anticonvulsant, antiparasitic, antioxidant, anticancer and cytotoxic properties. In addition, it is also a great relaxing, sedative and antidepressant agent.

On the skin, it acts as an emollient, softening, regenerator and tissue healer, anti-aging, cooling, strong antifungal, effective insect repellent, sebum balancing and astringent.

Uses of Palmarosa Essential Oil

Therapeutically, palmarosa essential oil is a great ally for the skin, cardiovascular and immune systems, in addition, it supports and improves the functions of nervous system.

Among its mosts common uses are:

  • Relieves lumbago and stiff joints.
  • Soothes muscular aches and over-exercised muscles.
  • Fights skin diseases such as acne, eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis.
  • Enhances complexion and prevents its inflammation.
  • Balances sebum oil production in the skin and remedies acne.
  • Helps treat anorexia symptoms.
  • Soothes athlete’s foot and other fungal infections.
  • Alleviates bronchitis and sinusitis.
  • Reduces fever.
  • Eases pain related to arthritis and rheumatism.
  • Relieves general fatigue and restlessness.
  • Helps control stress, irritability and anxiety.
  • Alleviates insect bites and stings.
  • Promotes the expulsion of excessive mucus.
  • Treats dehydration.
  • Helps treat symptoms of cystitis and urinary tract infection.
  • Eases gastrointestinal and digestive tract disorders.
  • Heals wounds, pimples and boils.
  • Soothes and stimulates in states of depression, softening emotional stiffness.
  • Restores circulation and stress related heart disorders.

Also, C. martinii oil is used as a flavoring agent for food (ice cream, gelatin desserts, chewing gum, bakery products, etc.) and tobacco, and was determined to be safe at the current levels of intake by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO/World Health Organization) WHO.

Besides, this essential oil is a worldwide used ingredient in the manufacturing of soap, perfumery and cosmetics, due to its rose-like aroma.

On the other hand, palmarosa essential oil is used as fumigation to control beetles like Callosobruchus chenesis and Tribolium castaneum, which grow in stored grain.

Palmarosa Essential Oil Uses and Benefits for Health

Benefits of Palmarosa Essential Oil

Geraniol, the major constituent of palmarosa essential oil, is an acyclic monoterpenoid that is abundant in many plants. It may represent a new class of therapeutic agent against pancreatic, and colon cancers. Besides, it has several biological properties, including antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.

Below you will find a brief description of some health benefits of palmarosa essential oil:

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Anthelmintic effects

The essential oils of Cymbopogon martinii have been studied and found to display high anthelmintic activity (expel parasitic worms and other internal parasites from the body) against Caenorhabditis elegans. This is mainly due to geraniol, its major chemical constituent.

Palmarosa oil has also showed anthelmintic activity against the Indian earthworm Pheretima posthuma, which causes paralysis and death in a short time.

Repellent action

Palmarosa oil is a recommended protection against malaria due to its potent repellent action to mosquitoes. Besides, mosquito repellent activity, palmarosa essential oil also showed strong pesticidal activity against insect infestation, and is used to protect stored wheat and grain from the beetles Callosobruchus chenesis and Tribolium castaneum.

Effects on the central nervous system

A 2012 study, evaluated the neuroprotective effect of palmarosa essential oil against global cerebral ischemia/reperfusion-induced oxidative stress in rats.

The result showed that treatment with Palmarosa oil (50 mg/kg and 100 mg/kg, p.o. for 10 days) markedly reversed these changes and restored to normal levels as compared to ischemia/reperfusion groups. Moreover, brain coronal sections and histopathological studies revealed protection against ischemic brain damage in the Palmarosa oil-treated groups.

This study, for the first time, showed potent neuroprotective effect of palmarosa essential oil against global cerebral ischemia/reperfusion-induced oxidative stress in rats, suggesting its therapeutic potential in cerebrovascular diseases, including stroke.

On the other hand, different researches on palmarosa oil exhibited significant beneficial effects on several central nervous system pathologies, mainly neuralgia, epileptic, and anorexia.

Antimicrobial activity

Essential oils are strong antimicrobial agents with broad spectrum activity and with possible potential for the control of pathogens in plants, as of post harvest spoilage of many crops, and also, to human pathogenic diseases.

As an antimicrobial agent, essential oils are more economic and environmentally viable.

Lodhia et al. proved that essential oil extracted from flower petals of Palmarosa, showed good antimicrobial activity against both gram positive and gram negative bacteria. 

Thanks to its antimicrobial effects, palmarosa essential oil is used for gargles in throat infection and as a treatment for acne-prone skin, among others.

Anti-inflammatory activity

Palmarosa essential oil was given orally to study its effect on the exudative phase of the inflammatory reactions using the technique of Carrageenan-induced paw edema.

The results of this research published in The Indian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, showed dose-dependent anti-inflammatory activity, which is comparable to that of diclofenac sodium.

Palmarosa Essential Oil Uses and Benefits

Antioxidant effects

The In vitro antioxidant activity of palmarosa essential oil was done by Lawrence et al. by using DPPH assay, nitric oxide assay, reducing power assay, β-carotene bleaching assay and FRAP method.

As a result, was clearly indicated that palmarosa oil is effective in scavenging free radicals, and is a potent antioxidant.

In addition, Sinha et al. evaluated the potential antigenotoxic and antioxidant properties of palmarosa and citronella essential oils in human lymphocytic cells.

The antioxidant activity of the essential oils was revealed by two spectrophotometric methods: DPPH + free radical scavenging, and lipid peroxidation assays.

Palmarosa and citronella oils showed high antiradical effect, with palmarosa oil exhibiting higher activity.

Anticancer activity

Geraniol is a widespread unsaturated monoterpenic alcohol, and is a major constituent of rose and palmarosa essential oils (85%). It is also present in the essential oil of geranium species (25–50%) and lemongrass (30%).

As limonene, geraniol shows interesting anticancer properties. The efficacy of geraniol has been demonstrated by numerous studies in vitro and in vivo on many cancers, including:

  • prostate (Kim et al., 2011),
  • kidney (Ahmad et al., 2011),
  • liver (Cardozo et al., 2011; Ong et al., 2006; Polo et al., 2011),
  • colon (Carnesecchi et al., 2004; Carnesecchi et al., 2001; Carnesecchi et al., 2002; Vieira et al., 2011),
  • pancreas (Burke et al., 1997; Wiseman et al., 2007),
  • breast (Duncan et al., 2004),
  • mouth (Vinothkumar and Manoharan, 2011), and
  • skin (Yu et al., 1995).

Palmarosa Essential Oil Uses and Benefits

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Warnings and Precautions when using Palmarosa Essential Oil

Palmarosa is classified as non-toxic, non-irritating and non-sensitizing. However, it contains geraniol in abundance, a component classified by the EU as a potential sensitizer.

Although palmarosa essential oil has been rated as GRAS (Generally Regarded as Safe) for internal consumption by the US Food and Drug Administration, due to lack of research about its side effects, it should not be ingested before consulting an experienced aromatherapy practitioner or physician. Especially if you are under medication, pregnant or breastfeeding.

Also, palmarosa oil should be used with caution and with supervised dilutions in children under 6 years old.

It is recommended perform a patch test before topical application to avoid any adverse reactions.  Likewise, never use palmarose oil without dilution in a carrier oil, honey or water.

Keep palmarosa oil out of the reach of children and pets.

Where to Buy Palmarosa Essential Oil?

When buying, it is important not to confuse palmarosa oil with gingergrass oil, since it is also called Cymbopogon martinii, but var. Sofia instead of var. motia.

Palmarosa essential oil is usually inexpensive and easy to find.  However, good quality oils, that is, 100% pure and not blended with other substances, can be found in specialized natural herbal stores.

If you can not reach a trusted naturist or herbalist shop near you, here are some recommendations:

Palmarosa EO SWB

Palmarosa Essential Oil from SWB

We source only the finest quality essential oils from highly regarded suppliers and distillers from around the world, many with whom we’ve worked with for decades.
Our essential oils retain the essential odor, aroma, taste, medicinal, and therapeutic properties of the plant, resulting in a superior quality and highly concentrated essence.  Shop here.


The following are also good quality essential oils that you can find on Amazon:

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Tips for a better performance and duration of your oils:

  • Store them in a dark glass bottle, never plastic, not even when blended with a carrier oil.
  • Keep them in cool, dark places, away from sources of heat and light.
  • Maintain the container that holds it tightly closed, since they are very volatile and also, their properties would be lost or modified.

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