Herbs & Plants

Cymbopogon martini

Botanical Name: Cymbopogon martini
Family: Poaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Poales
Genus: Cymbopogon
Species: C. martinii

*Cymbopogon martini (Roxb.) Wats., spelling preferred under ICN
*Andropogon martini Roxb.
*Cymbopogon martinianus Schult.
*Gymnanthelia martini (Roxb.) Andersson
*Andropogon schoenanthus var. martini (Roxb.) Hook.f.
*Andropogon pachnodes Trin.
*Andropogon calamus-aromaticus Royle
*Cymbopogon pachnodes (Trin.) W.Watson
*Cymbopogon martini var. sofia B.K.Gupta
*Cymbopogon motia B.K.Gupta

Common Names: Indian geranium, Gingergrass, Rosha, and Rosha grass.
Vern.: Khere (Toto); Gandhi-ghas (Sa).

Habitat :Cymbopogon martini is native to India and Indochina, but widely cultivated in many places in the world.

Perennial, tufted, aromatic grass with numerous erect culms arising from a short, stout, woody rhizome. Culm (stem) terete, up to 2(-3) m tall, smooth, glabrous, lower nodes often swollen. Leaves sheathing; sheath shorter than internode, tightly embracing the culm, striate, auriculate, glabrous, basal ones looser and breaking up into fibres; ligule oblong, 1.5-4 mm long, membrano-chartaceous; blade linear-lanceolate with long filiform tip, up to about 50 cm × 3 cm, cordate at base, often amplexicaul, margins often scabrid, glabrous, lower surface glaucous or pruinose, both surfaces smooth. Inflorescence an erect, narrow, loose to dense, repeatedly branched panicle, up to 30 cm × 5 cm, the primary axis carrying 2-3 branches at each node, each of these ending in a spatheole which carries a peduncle crowned with a pair of racemes; spatheole elliptical-acute when flattened, up to 4 cm long, orange-red, smooth or rough; peduncle filiform, 1-6 mm long; raceme 1.5-2 cm long, consisting of 4-7 pairs of spikelets, 1 of each pair sessile, the other pedicellate, terminated by 1 sessile and 2 pedicellate spikelets; rachis, internodes and pedicels slender, flattened on 1 side, pilose along the margins; sessile spikelet cylindrical-acute, 3.5-4.5 mm long, glabrous; lower glume shape and size of the spikelet, 2-keeled in upper half, winged on the keels, apex emarginate; upper glume boat-shaped, as long as the spikelet, with a broad wing on the keel; lower floret reduced to empty lemma; upper floret hermaphrodite, with 3 mm long, narrow lemma bearing a 12-18 mm long awn, palea absent, 3 stamens, 2 styles with plumose stigma; pedicellate spikelet elliptical-acute, 3.5-4 mm long, male, lower glume many-veined, upper glume 3-veined, florets reduced to a hyaline oblong scale wrapped round 3 stamens. Fruit a cylindrical to subglobose caryopsis, with basal hilum; the fruiting panicle often turns bright red at maturity.


Edible Uses:
The essential oil is used to flavour ice cream, gelatin desserts, chewing gum and bakery products.

Medicinal Uses:
In traditional medicine both the plant and its oils are used to treat rheumatism, hair loss, arthritis, lumbago and spasms.

The essential oil is a strong fungicide. In laboratory tests it was more effective than several synthetic fungicides against 9 pathogenic fungi and yeasts, including Aspergillus spp., Candida albicans, Monilia sitophila and Trichophyton tonsurae.
Agroforestry Uses:

The plant is grown extensively to control erosion on erodible hillsides and to stabilize edges of terraces and gullies.

Leaf oil is taken internally to cure biliousness by the Totos. The medicine-men had advised not to take pork and country liquor
during uses of this drug. Leaf extract is used as nasal drops to cure head-ache by the Santals. The whole plant is used for thatching.

Other Uses:
An essential oil, called palmarosa oil, is obtained from the flowering tops. It is used in perfumes, for soaps and cosmetics, and for flavouring tobacco and liqueurs.
It is also an important source of natural geraniol, which is an excellent extender in many floral, rose-like perfume compounds and a starting material for the production of aroma chemicals, notably geranyl esters that have a lasting rose-like aroma.

All aboveground parts of the plant contain essential oil, the oil content of the flowers being higher than that of the stems and leaves. The oil content in high-yielding selections grown under optimum conditions can reach 0.5 – 1.5%; the average yield from traditional stills, however, is only 0.2 – 0.3% (both on a fresh weight basis).

Palmarosa oil is a pale yellow or pale olive liquid with a sweet, floral-rosy odour with variable top notes and undertones 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 smaller amounts of linalool, farnesol, nerol, ‘ALFA’-humulene and terpineols. In soap perfumes palmarosa oil shows great tenacity, much greater than commercial geraniol obtained from other sources, e.g. citronella oil. It blends well with most soap perfume 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. In the United States, palmarosa oil is ‘generally recognized as safe’.

The essential oil is an active component of mosquito repellents.

Cultivation & Propagation:
The most efficient way to grow palmarosa is in a nursery with lots of irrigation and soil pH of 7-8. Two or three days before planting, it is best to overwhelm the soil with water to increase soil moisture above 60% when planting the seeds. This moisture increases the germination of the seed and increases weed control in the nursery beds as well. It is also recommended to flood the soil once a month to maintain a high moisture level in the soil. Irrigation in a nursery is most important for the first 40 days. Palmarosa grass grows well in sandy texture soil with low nitrogen, sufficient phosphorus and potassium. Weeds are a problem and keeping them out of the nursery beds will increase the yield. Manual weeding must be done often and involves a well-trained eye to uncover the weeds. Also, palmarosa is often intercropped to help suppress the weeds, thus increasing yields and the land efficiency. Mostly farmers intercrop with pigeon pea, also millet and sorghum work well with row or strip intercropping because palmarosa can be harvested three to four times a year.

A nursery is needed or there will be poor growth yields, that may not bring any profit to the farmer and potentially the farmer could have an economical loss. This requirement increases the startup cost for farmers which some farmers are unable to pay. If not grown in a nursery this will increase the weeding labour inputs by over 70% and decrease the yield. Farmers will be spending more time weeding the plots and will receive a smaller return then if they had a nursery.

Seed – on a small scale the seed is sown in trays, on a larger scale it can be sown in nursery beds. Only just cover the seeds and make sure it does not dry out. The tiny seeds are often mixed with fine sand to obtain even distribution, and the mixture is then beaten to detach the glumes and improve germination rates. Healthy seed germinates 10 – 20 days after sowing and seedlings are ready for transplanting in 6 – 8 weeks when 15 – 20 cm tall. The plant grows vigorously, so seedlings should be planted singly.

Care should be taken to use pure seed of var. martini, in particular in India and Pakistan where natural stands often are mixtures of var. martini and var. sofia.

Propagation by offshoots and cuttings is also possible, but there are indications that seedlings yield more herbage and oil.

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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