PALMAROSA grass-eo


An ambitious discussion of the essential oil of the grass oil from Palmarosa,  
Its herbal uses, growth, description, organoleptic qualities, and essential oil uses oil.

photo of Palmarosa oil in a field of Palmrosa grass


By Jeanne Rose ~ June 2023

ESSENTIAL OIL PROFILE ~ Palmarosa. PALMAROSA GRASS is a genus of the Gramineae (Poaceae) family of grasses. The genus Cymbopogon contains many species of grass that yield aromatic essential oils that use in scent, ‘herbal’ insecticides, medicine, and for flavoring foods. The species martini has also been separated into the areas in which it lives, its terroir, with the variety motia or mota, commonly called >Palmarosa or Geranium Grass< and harvested in the highlands of India or Nepal and the variety sofia or sofiya, commonly called >Gingergrass< harvested in the lowlands of India.

LATIN BINOMIAL/BOTANICAL FAMILY ~ Cymbopogon martini var. motia syn. Andropogon martini ~ also Cymbopogon martinii of the Family Gramineae (Poaceae).

Naming: Cymbopogon martini was named by W. Roxburgh after the shape and look of the plant, while the species was named after General Martin, who collected the seeds in the highlands of India as he described…a long grass…so strong an aromatic and pungent taste, that animal’s taste of it.” — from “375 Essential Oils & Hydrosols”.

Essential Oil Plants of the Grass Family ~ Gramineae (Poaceae).
Chrysopogon zizanioides is commonly known as Vetiver, a bunch grass whose roots are used.
Cymbopogon nardus is Citronella grass.
Cymbopogon citratus West Indian Lemongrass;
Cymbopogon flexuosus is East Indian Lemongrass
Cymbopogon martini var. motia is Palmarosa grass, syn. Andropogon martini or Cymbopogon martinii.
Cymbopogon martinii var. sofia is Gingergrass
Cymbopogon nardus is Citronella grass.

COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN ~ Palmarosa is native to India, now grown elsewhere. “Palmarosa is wildly grown in wetlands in provinces of India, including Nepal. The Palmarosa oil is extracted from the stem of the grass by distillation of dried leaves. Once the stems and leaves have been distilled for two to three hours, to separate the oil from the Palmarosa, the leftover distilled grass is turned into organic matter and becomes manure or is composted.” —Wikipedia.

photo of Palmarosa grass in a field

Palmarosa grass in the field

GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF PLANT, HABITAT & GROWTH ~ Palmarosa is a wild-growing or farmed plant native to India but now grown elsewhere. It is a green and straw-colored grass with long stems ending in tufts and whose grassy leaves are very fragrant and produce small, yellow flowers.

GROWTH ~ Nepal and Palmarosa, Sri Lanka – They are organically grown.

PORTION OF PLANT USED IN DISTILLATION, HOW DISTILLED, EXTRACTION METHODS & YIELD ~ The essential oil is distilled from the leaves, stems, and flower heads, and the finest oils with the most effective components come from highland grown plants, var. motia. The plants yield up to 1.7% EO, with the main components being citronellal, citral, and geraniol up to 85% of the total. Steam distillation is of fresh or dried grass before flowering. 

        Yield:  1.0-1.5% and up to 1.7% EO per weight

SUSTAINABILITY ~ you must examine each of the plants you use for their ability to reproduce before you choose to harvest or wildcraft them. Many plants are in dire straits because of human incursion into their environment. Best to learn to grow what you want to gather.



Color:                          Colorless to pale gold to yellow
Clarity:                         Clear
Viscosity:                    Non-viscous, watery
Taste:                          Mild, smooth, bitter, slightly analgesic, hot,
Odor Intensity:           4-5
Odor Tenacity:             5
Solubility:                   Insoluble in water, soluble in alcohol, and fixed oils

ODOR DESCRIPTION ~ is woody, herbaceous, citrus, and very occasionally fruity/floral. First, I want to say that Palmarosa highlands or Gingergrass lowlands do not smell like Rose or Rose Geranium or Ginger — not at all! I have sampled many types, and they are usually a green and citrus scent, not Rose at all.

            The Prima Fleur Palmarosa from Nepal had a soft intensity of 4 and had a Green Predominant note, Herbal Subsidiary note, and Citrus, herbaceous, wood Back note with fruity, and spice missing.
Very pleasant odor.

photo of Palmarosa oil supplied by Prima Fleur Botanicals

This work is sponsored and supported
by Prima Fleur Botanicals

CHEMICAL COMPONENTS ~ the main components are citronellal, citral and geraniol, Geranyl Acetate, Linaloöl, Alpha-Humulene, and Beta-Caryophyllene.

            “Essential oils distilled from the whole herb, leaf lamina, leaf sheath, and inflorescence of Palmarosa plants cultivated in south India were analyzed by GC and GC/MS. Inflorescence (2.00%) and leaf lamina (1.40%) (flowers and leaf) produced significantly higher oil yield than whole herb (0.75%) and leaf sheath (0.33%). The Palmarosa stem did not produce oil. Seventeen constituents accounting for 95.6–97.1% of the oils were identified. (E)-β-Ocimene (1.2–4.3%), linalool (0.8–2.0%), geraniol (70.1–85.3%), geranyl acetate (4.3–14.8%) and (E, Z)-farnesol (1.6–3.4%) were the major components. Whole herb oil was richer in linalool, β-caryophyllene and (E, Z)-farnesol. Leaf lamina and leaf sheath oils were richer in geraniol. Inflorescence oil was richer in (E)-β-Ocimene and geranyl acetate. To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this is the first report on the oil profiles of leaf lamina and leaf sheath of Palmarosa.” —JEOR

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HISTORY AND INTERESTING FACTS: Palmarosa has been used to adulterate Rose oil because the high geraniol content makes it smell ‘rose-like’ to some persons. In the past, it was called ‘Turkish geranium oil.’ “It is shaken with gum Arabic solution and left in the sun—a process which makes it lighter in color, thus more like distilled Rose oil” Essential Aromatherapy, p. 156. According to Arctander, “Palmarosa oil is the best natural source of geraniol of all essential oils.”



Fine perfumes, candles, and herbal pillows with the pleasing smell of rose are often, in fact, scented with Palmarosa. It is also used to flavor tobacco. “Palmarosa oil has been shown to be an effective insect repellent when applied to stored grain and beans, an anthelmintic against nematodes, and an antifungal and mosquito repellent.”—Greenfield Agro Forestry

            Application: When applied in creams, lotion, and products, Palmarosa can be cellular regenerative, particularly in herbal products with the herb Comfrey leaf; it is antiseptic; and with Rosemary verbenone, Frankincense, and Spikenard, it is antifungal; in products, it helps to increase the antibacterial, analgesic, anti-infectious effects.

             Marguerite Maury (1961) and others, including current skincare product makers, know that this oil is regenerative, especially when used with Elemi and Galbanum. Palmarosa, (Cymbopogon martini var. motia), is a grass that releases a versatile essential oil, somewhat anti-infective. It soothes and regenerates the skin. It works exceptionally well for dry, lifeless, irritated, sensitive, or wrinkled skin.

(see formulas at the end of this article)

            Inhalation: In aromatherapy, the EO is used by inhalation as a tonic to the heart, antiviral, relaxing, and soothing to the nervous system. Doulas and birth coaches have used Palmarosa as a relaxant in birthing.

            Uses: You can use Palmarosa in all sorts of skincare products. It works well to reduce acne, scar tissue, relieve dry skin, and reduce the look of wrinkles in old skin. It aids in the regulation of oil production of the skin. With other oils (mentioned above), it relieves athlete’s foot fungus.

             “Palmarosa oil is also known as an antifungal that fights against Aspergillus niger, commonly known as black mold, Chaetomium globosum, also known as moldy soil, and Penicillium funiculosum, which is a plant pathogen.” —Wikipedia.

DIFFUSE/DIFFUSION ~ Because it is somewhat antiseptic and antifungal, Palmarosa EO works very well in a diffuser to clear a sickroom. Diffuse no more than 5 minutes out of 30 and less if the scent is still strong after 15 minutes or if the ill person is a child (under 14) or an elderly or very sick person.

An old photo of Palmarosa oil being distilled in India.

ENERGETICS-EMOTIONS USES ~ it is used as a nervous relaxant for stress-related problems. It is also used for physical exhaustion.

            Used in ritual/energetic work to attract love—The Aromatherapy Book

One customer stated the following, “This Palmarosa, a relative of Lemongrass, creates a feeling of security. It is used to reduce stress and tension and promotes feelings of well-being. This oil reduces nervous tension. Excellent oil for home diffusion.”

A grower I knew said this grass is strong and has a gentle presence. Therefore, it really

strengthens a soul, and fortifies the body.

INTERNAL USAGE IN HUMANS ~    Not tested in humans, it is suggested that the EO not be taken internally. However, in 2014 after some testing, Palmarosa herb/oil was considered safe for human consumption in low concentrations and in very small amounts; used occasionally, it can assist in removing pathogenic intestinal flora.

______I would suggest adding a small amount of the hydrosol to water to drink and not drinking the EO. If you have the opportunity, drink the tea. There are occasional recommendations that it can be used both as an inhalant and internally in anorexia.

BLENDING and Perfumery ~ Samples of this Palmarosa oil can have a rich intensity or a very low intensity, although the tenacity in a blend is quite pronounced. It works well with herbal scents like Geranium, Lavender, and Rosemary, resinous oils such as Frankincense, citrus oils like Bergamot and Grapefruit, and rooty oils such as Spikenard and Vetivert.

photo of one bunch of Palmarosa grass in flower in Nepal.

A plant from Nepal

HYDROSOL ~ This grass is beautiful and aromatic. Adding Palmarosa hydrosol to food and for healing skin is a gentle way to add a rosy note to dessert or cosmetics. It can be a very potent healer. It does “open doors” for people who are new to hydrosols. Palmarosa blends well with other hydrosols, and it’s excellent for a deodorant or body perfume. We have read it is suitable for the gut biome and has antiseptic qualities.
            There is a sweet freshening effect of Palmarosa hydrosol; it is slightly astringent and used as a facial toner, hair tonic, and mood lifter. This hydrosol can refresh your mood, your linen bedclothes, or the inside of your car. Ms. C. Durney personally takes a pint and pours it on her forehead to soak all the hair follicles, as this may thicken hair and tighten the pores and provide a delicate deodorizing effect to the entire system. I would use it with Rosemary infusion or hydrosol for the hair.

KEY USAGE ~ “Oil of Antifungal” as stated in the Jeanne Rose “Aromatherapy Course-Home & Family” course.

Toxicity: If added directly to water, the EO is moderately toxic-to-toxic to fish, fungi, and mollusks. In other words, do not pour it down the drain – dispose safely.

SAFETY PRECAUTIONS: When used externally in moderation, it is non-toxic and non-irritating.  Moderation in use is recommended. Do not diffuse oVetiveror children.

Safety Precautions


Science Abstracts ~ Abstract from Food and Chemical Toxicology Volume 68, June 2014, Pages 71–77. . —, Evaluation of toxicity of essential oils Palmarosa, Vetiverlla, lemongrass and vetiver in human lymphocytes “The present investigation was undertaken to study the cytotoxic and genotoxic potential of the essential oils (Palmarosa, citronella, lemongrass, and vetiver) and monoterpenoids (citral and geraniol) in human lymphocytes. Trypan blue dye exclusion and MTT test was used to evaluate cytotoxicity. The genotoxicity studies were carried out by comet and DNA diffusion assays. Apoptosis was confirmed by Annexin/PI double staining. In addition, the generation of reactive oxygen species was evaluated by DCFH-DA staining using flow cytometry. The results demonstrated that the four essential oils and citral induced cytotoxicity and genotoxicity at higher concentrations. The essential oils were found to induce oxidative stress, evidenced by the generation of reactive oxygen species. Except for geraniol, induction of apoptosis was confirmed at higher concentrations of the test substances. Based on the results, the four essential oils are considered safe for human consumption at low concentrations.”

Palmarosa grass being placed in the still in Nepal.

Palmarosa grass – Filling the still in Nepal

Bibliography ~

Guenther, Ernest. The Essential Oils. Krieger.

Journal of Essential Oil Research, Vol. 21, Issue 6, 2009. Essential oil Profiles of Different Parts of Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martini (Roxb.) Wats. var. motia Burk.)

Mabberley, D. J. Mabberley’s Plant-Book. 3rd edition 2008, reprinted with corrections 2014.

Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols.

Rose, Jeanne. The Aromatherapy Book, Applications & Inhalations.

Sonali Sinha, Manivannan Jothiramajayam, Manosij Ghosh, Anita Mukherjee Food and Chemical Toxicology Volume 68, June 2014, Pages 71–77, Evaluation of toxicity of essential oils Palmarosa, citronella, —————-lemongrass and vetiver in human lymphocytes

DISCLAIMER:  This work is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for accurate diagnosis and treatment by a qualified health care professional. Dosages are often not given, as that is a matter between you and your healthcare provider. The author is neither a chemist nor a medical doctor.  The content herein is the product of research and personal and practical experience. Institute of Aromatic & Herbal Studies – Jeanne Rose©

This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.



Palmarosa grass, cut into lengths
Rosemary herb cut and sifted
Basil leaves, cut and sifted

Directions: Mix the herbs together, using any amounts you wish. Store the greater part of the product in an airtight container. When needed, shampoo hair, rinse, and follow with this hair rinse using ½ oz. Herbs simmered for a few minutes in 2 cups of water. Strain. When cool enough, rinse through the hair repeatedly, catching the run-off and reusing.

Dosage: How much and, when, how often
How much to take or do: ½ oz. by wt. of herbs per 2 cups by vol. water
How much to take or do: ½ oz. by wt. of herbs per 2 cups by vol. water
When to take or do: Use after each shampoo
How often to take or do: At least once per week
How long to take: Use at least for a month. Then try another formula and return to this one every other month for 6 months.


EO HAIR GROWTH OIL ~ this is anti-fungal, pro-growth, anti-aging, and healthy for the scalp and hair.
Palmarosa oil 25% or Gingergrass 25%
Rosemary oil 25% (verbenone type)
Jojoba oil 50%

Directions: Mix thoroughly. Shake; use only 1-2 drops per application. Apply to brush and brush hair or apply by fingertips to the scalp and massage into the scalp at least twice/day.
Label: Put into 1-ounce bottle and label fully with the name of the product, ingredients, how to use, and your contact information.


Antifungal Treatment –  Frankincense, Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martini var. motia), Rosemary verbenone, and Spikenard essential oils are used in equal amounts and at 10% of the total product. For instance, use 4 drops of each essential oil and add to 100 drops of a carrier, whether lotion or oil (40/20 Calophyllum/Sea Buckthorn + 40 Calendula Infused oil or Bruise Juice. Apply several times per day and before bed. Both Frankincense and the Rosemary chemotype verbenone contain verbenone, an unusual ketone that is antifungal, and Palmarosa is considered antifungal as well.

CUTICLE NAIL TREATMENT –  Equal quantities of each of several of these carrier oils, especially Jojoba, Calendula, Gotu Kola, Calophyllum, and Sea Buckthorn, to equal 1 ounce of carrier oil.

Add to this
5 drops Blue Cypress
5 drops Helichrysum
10 drops Neroli
15 drops Palmarosa
10 drops Pelargonium Rose
This is a therapeutic 10% mixture of essential oils to carrier oil.

Dip your fingernails into the mixture, soak for a few minutes, then carefully rub the excess into the nail bed.  Repeat daily for a week.  Then weekly.

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photo of four different bottles of Cymbopogon; 3 of Palmarosa and 1 of Gingergrass

Cymbopogon martini var. motia (highland) and var. sofia (lowland)


Palmarosa oil limerick
I love rosy, grassy Palmarosa
It goes in Bruise Juice for the toes-a
As an antiviral
It isn’t chiral
But it pleases me from toes to nose-a…JeanneRose

Palmarosa grass up close

~ JR ~

5 thoughts on “PALMAROSA grass-eo

  1. I was fascinated to learn about the Geraniol connection between this grass and roses.
    People can be like plants…. Don’t judge by looks, you’ll be surprised at what you find.

Thank you for reading and your comments.