Updated: Aug 19
Seemingly just a pretty grass, Palmarosa comes as a surprisingly healing grassy bush. The plant is valued both for its herb and oil. Palmarosa Cymbopogon martinii var. motia or martini is part of the plant family Poaceae (Gramineae).
The essential oil is distilled from the leaves of the plant. The key constituents (chemical components within the oil) are geraniol at typically 74.5-81.0%, geranyl acetate 0.5-10.7%, (EZ)-farnesol 0.5-6.1%, linalool at 2.6-4.5% and then various other components with lower percentages. The total makeup, even the minor constituents, play a part in the overall therapeutic action of the oil. There is a low risk of skin sensitization. In the 2nd Edition of Essential Oil Safety book by Robert Tisserand, based on a maximum of 81% content of the chemical component Geraniol, recommends the maximum adult recommendation of 6.5%. The components and percentages of oils can be found on the GC/MS analysis reports and are important in choosing an oil. This is especially important with Palmarosa since this may dictate the maximum safety zone to avoid irritation. That said, i you're unsure of the percentages of geraniol within the oil, Tisserand recommends the following maximum dilution rates to avoid irritation to the skin:
no use prior to 3 months old, for ages 3-24 months old, maximum of 0.5%; for 2-6 years old, 2%; 6-15 years old, maximum of 3%; 15 years old and over, maximum of 5% and those pregnant, no more than 2%. 9 drops of essential oil to 30 ml (one ounce) of carrier oil would be equivalent to 1%.
*For further resources, safety information, classes and more, you can visit Dr. Robert Tisserand’s website at https://tisserandinstitute.org/.*
Because of the effects of citral and geraniol in that they inhibit CYP2B6 drugs, there is a theoretical risk with Palmarosa for those that take these drugs if using this oil orally. We do not recommend this with any oil without consulting one trained in the ingestion of essential oils. (1)
Palmarosa is often adulterated with its close relative the Ginger grass plant. Salvatore Battaglia stated, “Turpentine and citronella oil are often used with synthetic geraniol to adulterate Palmarosa. Palmarosa oil itself is often used as a cheap substitute for rose and geranium oils.”(2)
This adulteration would be detected by the afore mentioned analysis report. My recommendation is to go with a company that has the GC/MS report from an outside testing lab upfront on their website readily available to the consumer prior to purchasing the oil.
Some of the more common uses for Palmarosa essential oil are as an anti-depressant, anti-fungal, anti-microbial, antiseptic, anti-viral, cicatrisant (skin healer), digestive aide, febrifuge (fever reducer), insect repellant and as a neurotonic. Let’s see how to put this remarkable oil to work.
Palmarosa, due to the high percentage of geraniol, has been shown through research to be powerful against most germs (bactericidal-large spectrum), including Escherichia (E.coli). It’s effective against E Coli by modulating or supporting the effectiveness of Penicillin. In referenced study under table 2 the compound geraniol can be found, which is the major component found within the oil and responsible for this action. And under table 3, you will find it effective against the common gut bacteria Klebsiella pneumoniae. This bacteria lives within the gut but once outside the gut, it can cause severe infections, especially those with a weakened immune system or have recently been sick. Geraniol supports Tetracycline in the treatment of these infections. (3)
Candida Yeast Infections
Candida is a type of fungal infection that normally lives in the mouth, throat, and the rest of the digestive tract without causing any problems. Occasionally Candida can multiply and cause an infection if the environment inside the mouth, throat, or esophagus changes in a way that prompts its growth. This can happen when a person’s immune system becomes weakened, if antibiotics affect the natural balance of microbes in the body, or for a variety of other reasons such as those with HIV, Diabetes or other health issue that effects the immune system. Palmarosa has been noted as an excellent oil for fungal infections. For vaginal use, vaginal pessaries can be made and allow a calibrated dose of carrier and essential oils to ease many symptoms including infections, dryness and irritation. However, my recommendation is to first speak to your physician to ensure that your infection has not developed from something more serious. Unless you are trained in calibrating and dosing for internal use, I suggest seeking out a Qualified Clinical Aromatherapist for internal treatment, including suppositories. You can check at https://naha.org/about/boards-committees/naha-directors/ for a Clinical Aromatherapist near you.
Easing Digestive Tract Infections
If you suspect you have a digestive infection, seek advice from your physician. Treating digestion is one thing but any suspected “infection” should be addressed. Although topical use is effective and moreso for isolated aches and pains, not enough components absorb through the layers of skin and in fact, only certain components do absorb through the skin. Theoretically, some components such as camphene and a-pinene do absorb through the skin making their way to the bloodstream. However, not enough is absorbed through the skin to ease internal issues. That said, as we use them topically, we are also inhaling them, which is the most effective way to use your oils for internal issues such as digestive upsets. This is most likely why people think the oil in whole is being absorbed through the skin, which is virtually impossible since, as stated, most molecules in essential oils are too large to absorb through the epidermis (outermost layer of skin) and dermis (innermost layer of the skin). Depending on where you apply, the epidermis can have up to 4-5 layers. To increase topical absorption, apply to clean, warm skin which is more receptive to absorption.
If you are experiencing heart palpitations, you may want to visit your physician to ensure it is not a serious health issue. If you find this is due to stress, anxiety or other emotional triggers, Palmarosa can help calm you. Inhalation is best in these situations because of its almost instant effect. You can also make a chest rub to help remain calm as needed. Try the following in your inhaler or add to 1 ounce of unscented lotion or carrier oil for a 2% blend. Use on chest, neck and wrists.
5 drops Palmarosa Cymbopogon martinii var. motia
4 drops Bergamot Citrus bergamia
2 drops Ylang Ylang Cananga odorata
3 drops Roman Chamomile Chamaemelum nobile
Immune System Support
Aromatics such as Palmarosa can help budge the immune system. The mind and immune system are connected and is referred to as Psychoneuroimmunology or PNI. When chronic stress, childhood trauma, grief occurs, it can weaken the immune system. Palmarosa has a calming yet uplifting effect on the central nervous system. It can calm nervous exhaustion, easing fatigue and irritability. The therapeutic properties of Palmarosa as an antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory contribute to its immune support. When dealing with an immune system issue, along with aromatic support, we recommend a healthy diet, exercise and plenty of hydration to support and maintain an overall healthier immune system. Adding fresh herbs to your diet is extra protection and support. You can do this by adding to your meals or adding herbs to fresh water, leaving it over night to infuse your water. This is a fresh and healthy change to plain water.
When you feel not quite right and need extra support for your immune system, try the following blend. Manuka has the power of Tea tree Melaleuca alternifolia without the medicinal smell. You’ll find it to be soft, somewhat honey aroma. Manuka nor Helichrysum has no known safety concerns.
5 drops Palmarosa Cymbopogon martinii var. motia
5 Manuka Leptospermum scoparium
5 drops Helichrysum Helichrysum italicum
Indigestion Symptom Relief
Palmarosa is a grassy herb that has been used for centuries as a tonic to ease digestive issues. It helps ease internal bacterial as well as viral infections. Palmarosa essential oil is gentle and can be used internally. Although gentle, any essential oil can irritate the mucous membranes if caution is not taken. I recommend consulting a Clinical Aromatherapist trained in dosage, duration of necessary time as well as the proper delivery system (capsules, honey or other safe appropriate method of internal use) to ensure safety. You can also make a blend to use topically and gently massage to ease symptoms. That said, one of my favorites ways is to add warm steamy water to a heat safe dish. Add no more than 3-5 drops of Palmarosa oil in the water. Close your eyes and cover your head and bowel with a small towel, allowing the steam to stay within your “steam tent” and then take deep breaths. Continue to breath in and let the coolness of Palmarosa ease your tummy discomfort. Once the water stops steaming, you can uncover and allow what steam is left to go into the air. This can be used in your diffuser as well.
Palmarosa not adds an extra protection against bugs, it’s cooling effect adds to comfort in the summer heat. Try the following to keep mosquitoes and more at bay during the heat of summer.
1-ounce carrier oil or unscented lotion
5 drops Palmarosa Cymbopogon martinii var. motia
5 drops Patchouli Pogostemom cablin
5 drops Vanilla Oleoresin Vanilla plantifolia
5 drops Cedarwood Juniperus virginiana
2 Drops Lemon Eucalyptus Citriodora (Lemon)
One of the clinical applications of Palmarosa is calming the central nervous system. It eases anxiety while at the same time being emotionally uplifting and calming to the mind. Palmarosa is a grassy herb. Herbs are either Adaptogens or Nervines. Nervines specifically help to support the nervous system where as Adaptogens help us to manage or “adapt” to stress as we’re faced with it.
Because of Palmarosa’s clinical actions of protecting and helping to support the nervous system, it is considered a nervine. Dilute and apply topically or use in in inhaler.
5 drops Palmarosa Cymbopogon martinii var. motia
5 drops Clary Sage Salvea sclarea
3 drops Rose Geranium Pelargonium roseum x asperum
2 drops Grapefruit Citrus Paradisi
Reducing Fevers (Febrifuge)
Palmarosa is amongst a few oils that help to reduce fevers (febrifuge). They are cooling to the body and help to reduce the body temperature. Dilute with an unscented lotion or carrier oil accordingly. Along with Palmarosa, if you want to use other oils that have febrifuge properties, you could try Bergamot, Black Pepper, Eucalyptus citriodora (lemon), Roman or German chamomile, Cypress, Lemon, Ginger, Patchouli or even Spearmint. Peppermint works well also, although I recommend blend very low to avoid injury. My favorite fever reducer includes the following.
1-ounce unscented lotion or carrier oil
7 drops Palmarosa Cymbopogon martinii var. motia
5 drops Patchouli Pogostemon cablin
5 drops Spearmint Mentha spicata
The two chemical components that dominate Palmarosa, linalool (linalol) and geraniol are both known for their anxiolytic (relieve anxiety) actions. Using the previous blend is perfect for anxiety as well. Use per instructions. (4)
Palmarosa therapeutic actions as an anti-spasmodic make it an excellent oil to relax the smooth muscles of the body. The smooth muscles are found in the walls of hollow organs like your intestines and stomach. Many times, I see the word "anti-spasmodic" being misinterpreted. This does not translate to all muscles within the body, only the involuntary muscles. The muscles that are under your conscious control are called voluntary muscles, while muscles that are not under your conscious control are called involuntary muscles. These muscles called the smooth muscles include but not limited to the muscles in the esophagus, stomach, intestines as well as the blood vessels. The three types of muscles in the body include skeletal muscle, smooth muscle, and cardiac muscle. (5)
Smooth muscles are involved in several other functions of the body including the muscular walls of your intestines that contract to “push” food through your body, the smooth muscles of the bladder wall that contract to expel urine from your body and the smooth muscles in a woman's uterus (or womb) that helps to “push” the baby out during birthing. But there are times these smooth muscles can over function, tense up and cause tummy cramps and tightness. While Palmarosa calms the smooth muscles, inhalation is occurring which also calms and relaxes our mental and emotional state. This helps to release tension and anxiety contributing to relaxing muscle spasms.
You could use the nervous tension blend for this as well. Blend at a 2-3% and gently massage your abdominal area to calm and relax your muscles and as you breathe in, you’ll relax your mind as well.
*No essential oil, including Palmarosa, should be added to bath water without proper dilution steps. To learn more, visit Tisserand Institute at https://tisserandinstitute.org/safety/bath-safety/.*
Psoriasis and Eczema
Palmarosa helps to balance the skin’s sebum production and works as a stimulant in cell regeneration. It’s been noted to ease dermatitis, eczema and smooth skin wrinkles. For a carrier oil, I would suggest Almond oil, known as Sweet Almond, a cold pressed, and then subsequently refined mixed with a soft Shea stearine. It helps to protect the moisture of the skin. (6)
Almond oil contains minerals and vitamins including A, B1, B2, B6 and Vitamin E. Sweet Almond is an emollient and has sclerosant properties. Based on research, it’s shown to ease itching from dry skin, smooth and rejuvenate the skin, as well as treat psoriasis and eczema. (7)
Almond is especially effective on dry, aging skin. Try in the following recipe:
Skin Healing Oil
One-Ounce Sweet Almond Oil
6 drops Carrot seed oil
3 drops Bergamot Citrus bergamia
6 drops Palmarosa Cymbopogon martini var. motia
6 drops Cedarwood Juniperus virginiana
3 drops Ho Wood Cinnamomun camphora ct linalol
Directions: Blend and apply as needed.
Acne Staphylococcus infection, or "staph," is caused by bacteria on the skin or in the nose. Staph severity can range from minor skin problems (in this case, the inflamed acne) to serious heart problems. Palmarosa is a strong anti-bacterial and antimicrobial that can help address the skin issues. Note: If you suspect a staph infection, always consult your physician prior to use. Palmarosa is safe to use along with anti-bacterial medications. (8)
Combined with a carrier oil with similar therapeutic actions, a healthy diet and plenty of hydration, you can assist in getting acne under control. I also like blending it with another superpower against acne and that is Manuka Leptospermum scoparium, a great replacement for another great bacterial fighter but is a bit too medicinal in aroma for me and that is Tea Tree Melaleuca alternifolia. Depending on your age and if you are pregnant, you can use both Palmarosa and Manuka at a 2-5% dilution rate with 5% for the isolated areas such as acne.
Urinary Tract Infections
Urinary tract infections are bacterial and can be painful and may be caused by a more serious issue. Once addressed accordingly, you can consider a Sitz bath to ease symptoms. A Sitz bath, from the German word ‘zitzen’, meaning to sit, is often referred to as a hip bath. In the mid 1850’s, a sitz tub was used. The tubs were made of tin and was lined in “linen damask, think bird’s eye diaper, or white huckaback” towels to protect the skin from the tin’s heat. The water was warmed by the tub. Bathing experts recommended vigorous toweling after the bath to promote blood circulation and to remove dry skin. Although created for medical purposes, people found that they really enjoyed it as well. Although to date there is no evidence that a warm bath will ease pain and discomfort, personal experience speaks otherwise. And along with healing essential oils, certainly the benefits of healing would increase. Despite this lack of evidence, physicians often recommend the use of a warm bath to ease discomfort. Essential oils are not water soluble which means “oil and water don’t mix”. To protect your skin and prior to adding to your bath, blend your choice of essential oils with a carrier oil. Choosing some simple on hand ingredients may be easier than you think. Organic Aloe Vera Jelly, which contains thickeners and preservatives as well as aloe Vera leaf extract, is a good choice. You can make this ahead and keep on hand for the duration of your recovery without concern for bacteria. Water based products without a preservative can be a breeding ground for bacteria. Note that Aloe Vera gel, juice and liquid are not Aloe Vera jelly and are water-based.
The second option is adding your oils to a vegetable or fruit oil. Add your carrier oil and eo’s to ¼ cup Epsom salts. Using directly in the tub may leave your tub slippery.
Combine 1-5 drops of your essential oil or blend into ½ ounce (1 tablespoon) of carrier of choice. For a regular size tub, you could use 5-20 drops per ½ ounce (1 tablespoon).
Including a daily Cranberry supplement and drinking plenty of water will help support your bladder and avoid urinary tract infections. Cranberry protects the bladder wall by keeping the bacteria from adhering to the bladder wall.
Sitz Bath for Urinary Tract Infection
5 drops Roman Chamomile Anthemis nobilis
2 drops Rosemary Rosmarinus officinalis ct. Verbenone
5 drops Thyme Thymus vulgaris ct. linalool
5 drops Palmarosa Cymbopogon martini var. martinii
Palmarosa stimulates the immune system which helps to fight off viral infections. The stronger our immune system is, the more resistance we have against unwanted viruses. Other essential oils that support the immune system can include oils such as Frankincense, German chamomile, Rosewood, Sandalwood, Thyme ct. linalool, and Manuka. In this instance, opting for an inhaler is the most effective way to use your oil(s).
Palmarosa essential oil smells wonderful and has so many great uses. It is also a rather inexpensive oil, plentiful and no concern of sustainability issues. We encourage anyone to use your oils with respect to nature and continuing availability. A 15 ml bottle usually costs around $8 to $15. Whatever company you go with, check for GC/MS analysis reports, and references on site. For example, do they refer to Robert Tisserand, Dr. Jean Valnet, or research sites such as PubMed, PubChem, ScienceDirect by Elsevier? Research is key.
Palmarosa, Tisserand and Young, 2nd Ed.; Pg. Ch. 13-Essential Oil Profiles; pg. 379
Salvatore Battaglia, The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, 3rd Ed. Vol. I-Foundations & Materia Medica; pg. 457
Chemical Components https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6539827/ Table I
Anti-bacterial Effects https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12809717