Cymbopogon martini

Cymbopogon martini

Palmarosa (Cymbopogon martini (Roxb.) Wats.) Is a herbaceous species belonging to the Poaceae family.

Systematics –
From the systematic point of view it belongs to the Eukaryota Domain, Kingdom Plantae, Magnoliophyta Division, Liliopsida Class, Poales Order, Poaceae Family, Panicoideae Subfamily, and therefore to the Cymbopogon Genus and to the C. martinii Species.
The terms are synonymous:
– Cymbopogon martinii (Roxb.) Wats .;
– Andropogon martini Roxb .;
– Cymbopogon martinianus Schult .;
– Gymnanthelia martini (Roxb.) Andersson;
– Andropogon schoenanthus var. martini (Roxb.) Hook. f .;
– Cymbopogon pachnodes (Trin.) W. Watson;
– Andropogon calamus-aromaticus Royle;
– Cymbopogon pachnodes (Trin.) W. Watson;
– Cymbopogon martini var. sofia B.K.Gupta;
– Cymbopogon motia B.K.Gupta.

Etymology –
The term Cymbopogon comes from the Greek κύμβη cýmbe cup, cup, boat and πώγων pógon barba: reference to the arrangement of the hairy-looking cobs.
The specific martini epithet, probably, is in honor of the French botanist and naturalist Bernardin Antoine Martin (1813-1897) who collected plants mainly in the Gard area (France).

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
Palmarosa is a plant native to India and Indochina, but widely cultivated in many places for its aromatic oil.
Its habitat is that of the wetlands of the Indian subcontinent.

Description –
Cymbopogon martini is a perennial, evergreen and aromatic herbaceous plant.
The leaves derive from a short, robust and woody rhizomatous system; culms up to 3 m high, with lower nodes that often swell.
The plant has a tufts appearance due to the leaves, linear-lanceolate or lanceolate, up to 50 cm long and 10-30 mm wide, glaucous or pruinose below, generally dark green above, corded at the base, tapered with a filiform tip.
The inflorescence is a linear-oblong false panicle, up to 30 cm long, erect; with leaf sheaths from strictly elliptical to strictly lanceolate, 2-4 cm long, green in color, which become orange or reddish when ripe.
The racemes are 15-20 mm long, the lowest peduncle is swollen and barrel-shaped; internodes and peduncles are densely ciliated along the margins, sparsely hairy on the back. The spikelet is sessile and elliptical-oblong or oblong in shape, 4-4.5 mm long; the lower glumes are flat on the back in the upper half and with a deep V-groove in the lower part, the keels are winged above; the upper lemma is deeply bifid.

Cultivation –
Cymbopogon martini grows slowly, taking three months to flower; once it has flowered it can be harvested. It is grown in the wetlands of the provinces of India, including Nepal.
The most efficient way to propagate this plant is in a nursery with plenty of irrigation and a soil pH of 7-8. Two to three days before planting, it is best to submerge the soil with water to increase soil moisture over 60%.
This humidity increases seed germination and increases weed control even in flower beds. It is also recommended to flood the soil once a month to maintain a high level of moisture in the soil. Watering in a nursery is most important for the first 40 days.
Cymbopogon martini grows well in sandy-textured soils with low enough nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium content. Weeds are often a problem and must be kept away to increase the yield.
Weeding is done manually and must be done with eyes trained to detect weeds. Additionally, this plant is often bred to help suppress weeds, thereby increasing yields and soil efficiency. Mostly farmers intersperse it with pigeon pea, millet and sorghum which are well suited to intercropping in rows or strips, as palmarosa can be harvested three or four times a year.

Customs and Traditions –
Cymbopogon martini is best known by the common name pink palm, as it has a sweet, rose-like odor. Other common names are: Indian geranium, gingergrass, rosha and rosha grass.
The plant has been harvested in its natural state since ancient times, and this method still contributes to an important part of essential oil production. However, the plant has also been cultivated since the beginning of the 20th century and is now grown in different areas of the tropics.
Palmarosa oil has gradually lost importance in the world market, being replaced by low-cost synthetic or natural geraniol.
However natural oil is still preferred in high quality perfumes, especially in the Middle East.
All the aboveground parts of the plant contain essential oil; the oil content of the flowers is higher than that of the stems and leaves. The oil content in high yield selections, grown in optimal conditions, can reach 0.5 – 1.5%; the average yield of traditional stills, however, is only 0.2 – 0.3% (referred to fresh weight).
Palmarosa oil is a straw yellow or pale olive liquid with a sweet, floral-rosy smell with variable notes and nuances depending on the quality and age of the oil; notes of rye bread, tea and clary sage have also been reported. Chemically, palmarosa oil consists mainly of geraniol and geranyl acetate and minor amounts of linalool, farnesol, nerol, -umulene and terpineols.
In soap perfumes, palmarosa oil shows great tenacity, much greater than commercial geraniol obtained from other sources, such as lemongrass oil. It blends well with most soap-based fragrance compounds and forms an excellent perfume base with geranium oil and oakmoss absolute.
Palmarosa oil from Indonesia has a significantly higher geranyl acetate content than Indian oil. This is due not only to differences in growing conditions but also to the use of more modern distilleries.
This essential oil is widely used in rose-smelling perfumes and cosmetics all over the world. It is also known to help repel mosquitoes and flavor tobacco products. It has also been used in medicinal solutions and for aromatherapy.
Palmarosa oil is extracted by distillation of the dried leaves. After the stems and leaves have been distilled for two to three hours, to separate the oil from the palm, the remaining distilled herb is transformed into organic matter and becomes manure or is composted.
In addition to the perfumery industry, this plant is also cultivated as a source of high quality geraniol.
The level of geraniol obtained from palmarosa oil is not always the same – it depends on three factors:
– the way in which the diphosphate is removed from geranyl diphosphate (GPP);
– the process of converting geraniol into the form of geranyl acetate;
– the process of converting geranyl acetate into geraniums.
If these steps are performed incorrectly, the geraniol level will be low along with the profits.
In addition to the uses for the perfume and cosmetics industry, there are edible and medicinal uses.
The essential oil is used to flavor ice creams, jellies, chewing gum and baked goods.
As for its medicinal use, the plant is used in traditional medicine: both the plant and its oils are used to treat rheumatism, hair loss, arthritis, back pain and spasms.
Furthermore, the essential oil is a powerful fungicide. In laboratory tests it was found to be more effective than several synthetic fungicides against 9 pathogenic fungi and yeasts, including Aspergillus spp., Candida albicans, Monilia sitophila and Trichophyton tonsurae.
Palmarosa oil has also been shown to be an effective insect repellent when applied to stored grain and beans, an anthelmintic against nematodes and repellent for mosquitoes.
Other uses include agroforestry ones. The plant is grown extensively to control erosion on eroding slopes and to stabilize the edges of terraces and gullies.

Preparation Method –
Palmarosa oil is obtained by distillation of the dried leaves. The essential oil is used to flavor ice cream, jellies, chewing gum and baked goods.
In medicinal uses, both the plant and its oils are used to treat rheumatism, hair loss, arthritis, low back pain and spasms.
Furthermore, the essential oil is used as a fungicide and insecticide.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Acta Plantarum – Flora of the Italian Regions.
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Useful Tropical Plants Database.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Lord’s Pharmacy, Advice and experiences with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Editore.

Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only, they do not represent in any way a medical prescription; therefore no responsibility is taken for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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