Palmarosa Oil Extraction Methods, Process, Steps

Palmarosa oil extraction process, techniques, tips

Today, we discuss the topic of palmarosa oil extraction methods and techniques.

The palmarosa tree belongs to the lemongrass family. It is also called palm rose because of its sweet smell of roses. It is mostly cultivated for its oil. The palmarosa oil is used in the preparation of essential oils in aromatherapy. The cultivation of palmarosa tree needs careful preparation and techniques. This is because the plant needs to be developed properly.

The botanical name of palmarosa grass is Cymbopogon martini. It has two varieties, called chemotypes, Motia and Sofia, which differ slightly in their aroma. Different producers provide a preference for different chemotypes depending on the demand of the market.

The extraction of this palmarosa essential oil is made by steam distillation of dried grass which is harvested before flowering. The chief constituents of this palmarosa oil are geraniol, geranyl acetate, linalool, limonene, and myrcene. This palmarosa oil smells like rose oil, which is how it got the name, palmarosa. This is why it is sometimes used in place of rose oil and is often adulterated with rose oil since it is cheaper. What is palmarosa used for? The use of essential oils for skin health is popular with aromatherapy practitioners and alternative medicine supporters. One of the more popular oils is palmarosa, also called Cymbopogon martini, which helps treat dry skin, eczema, and psoriasis.

Top countries in the production of palmarosa:

The palmarosa is a native plant in the wetland areas of the India and Nepal regions. Apart from that, it develops as a wild plant in Africa, Latin America, Middle East, and Australia. In the Indian subcontinent, the palmarosa tree is cultivated for oil extraction. Apart from India, it is also cultivated for oil in Guatemala, Colombia, and Brazil, etc.

Palmarosa oil properties:

For farmers who are cultivating palmarosa for the first, the initial investment has to be done properly. It is improved if nursery cultivation is used. For that, the growth and the palmarosa crop become improved. The palmarosa oil is very much in demand in the market. Whether it is the local market or the international market, the oil of palmarosa can provide higher profits.

Palmarosa oil has several benefits. It is used as a household remedy in many situations. For its scent and smell, it is used in the preparation of soaps and different other cosmetic items. It mostly belongs to the grass family. The palmarosa plant grows tall. A lot of irrigation is a prerequisite for the cultivation of palmarosa tree. The palmarosa oil is extracted from the grass using the distillation process.

Palmarosa or palm rose oil has a sweet floral, with a rose smell and is a pale yellow color with a nearly watery viscosity.

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Cultivation and harvesting of palmarosa:

The cultivation of palmarosa should be done properly. To obtain a better quality oil yield, care must be taken for is nutrition. If the nutrition is not provided accurately, the oil quality will not be very good; there are several high yielding varieties of palmarosa available in the market. A good variety should be selected for the cultivation.

Palmarosa tree can be cultivated in almost any type of soil. It grows well in any soil if it has excellent fertility. Loamy soils are best for the cultivation of palmarosa tree. The ideal pH level for the cultivation of palmarosa is 6-7.

The palmarosa can be best cultivated in areas with very high heat and humidity. Plenty of sunshine is required for the cultivation of palmarosa plants. The cultivation can be completed in areas which are higher than the sea level by 300m. Average annual rainfall of 90 to 150cm is desirable for the cultivation. The ideal temperature to grow the palmarosa plants is 15 to 35 degree Celsius.

The propagation process for the cultivation of palmarosa includes both slips and seeds. For seed cultivation, always fresh seeds should be used. The seeds should be disease free and healthy. It should be bought from a reliable source. Before sowing, the seeds must be soaked in sufficient water. It helps in the process of germination. It is always best to use those seeds which are harvested from the cultivation.

The best time to harvest is in between the flowering period to the seed production stage. The harvesting of the palmarosa is done during sickles. The herb must be cut 15 to 20cm above the ground surface. The crop should be harvested on a sunny time of the day.

The palmarosa essential oil is distributed in all parts of the grass, flower heads, leaves and stems, the flower heads containing the major portion. It is recommended to harvest the crop 7 to 10 days after the opening of flowers. The number of harvests depends upon the climatic condition of the place of cultivation and process of crop management. During the first year, regularly one crop is obtained in October-November, whereas 2-3 crops are obtained in the subsequent years in subtropical areas in the North Indian plains.

Four harvests are taken in tropical regions of South and North-East. Usually, the grass is cut at a height of 5 to 8 cm from the ground level and the whole plant is used for distillation. The maximum yield of oil is obtained when the whole plant is at a full flowering stage. The harvested herbage is spread in the field for 4 to 6 hours to reduce its moisture by 50% and such semi-dry make can be stacked in shady cool space for a few days without loss of its oil.

  • The first harvest takes 4 to 5 months after planting.
  • The crop is harvested 15 to 20 cm above ground at the time of flowering to the early seed formation stage. Sun sequent harvests are obtained at 2 ½ to 3 months intervals for 3 to 4 years. Irrigated palmarosa yields 175 to 250 kg oil and a profit of Rs. 43,000 – 62,000 per hectare per year.
  • Rain-fed palmarosa gives 40 to 80 kg oil and a profit of Rs. 10,000 – 20,000 per hectare per year.

Extraction palmarosa oil

Palmarosa oil is extracted from the dried grass harvested before it flowers by the process steam distillation.

Steam distillation:

Steam distillation is a separation method which is used for separating a mixture of components which are heat sensitive by using steam. The principle is based on variation in the boiling point of reducing the partial pressure of volatile components. Steam distillation has important application in petroleum refineries, extraction of volatile compounds of plants which were used in perfumery and flavoring industries. Palmarosa is a sweet smelling grass develops in tropical climates and its origin lies in India. Palmarosa grass is extracted using steam distillation. The steam distillate content has two parts, essential oil, and distillation water. The steam distillate is subjected to solvent extraction where the secondary essential oil is extracted. The components of Palmarosa oil are classified based on Chromatograms of Gas that is Chromatography.

The oil is extracted from the entire plant using a distillation element consisting of a distillation tank, a condenser, and a separator. Freshly harvested grass as such or after cutting into little pieces is loaded into the distillation tank. After closing the lid tightly, steam is entering into the tank. Steam and the oil vapor condense into liquid in condenser & are collected in the separator.

The oil is taken out, cleaned and stored in aluminum containers or amber colored bottles. The recovery of oil from grass ranges from 0.3 to 0.6 percent. It takes about four hours for the complete recovery of the oil.

The steam distillation process for palmarosa:

The palmarosa grass is either distilled afresh or is allowed to wilt for 24 hours. Wilting reduces the moisture content and allows a better quantity of grass to be packed into the still, thus economizing the fuel use. For excellent quality oil, it is advisable to adopt steam-distillation. The equipment for distillation consists of a boiler to generate steam, a distillation tub, a condenser and one to three separators.

The distillation tub is made of mild steel and has a perforated bottom over which the palmarosa grass rests. The distillation tub has a steam inlet pipe at the bottom. A detachable lid is fitted on to the top. Charging and discharging can be completed in perforated cages with iron chains, which can be lowered into the tub with the help of a chain- pulley block. Different types of condensers are obtainable, but tubular condensers are better than others. The condenser is present with an inlet and outlet by means of which cold water is made to flow during the chamber to cool the pipes when the distillate flows through them.

To obtain the maximum yield of oil and to facilitate the discharge of oil, the grass is chopped into shorter lengths. Chopping the grass has further advantages that more grass can be charged into the still and still packing is facilitated. The grass must be packed firmly as this prevents the formation of stream channels. The steam is allowed to pass into the still with a steam pressure from 18 – 32 kg in the boiler.

The mixture of vapors of water and oil passes into the condenser. As the distillation takings, the distillate collects in the separator. The palmarosa oil being lighter than water and insoluble floats on the top of the separator and is continuously drawn off. The oil is decanted and then filtered. Small cultivators can use direct-fire stills, but in such cases, accurately resigned stills should be used. These stills are provided with a boiler at the bottom of the tub. This is separated by a false bottom from the rest of the distillation tub. Water is poured at the bottom of the distillation tub and grass is charged in the top portion. In the still, the water does not approach in contact with the grass.

The resulting oil is stored in containers, preferably of glass or well-tinned iron. Containers must completely be filled to exclude any air and protect from sunlight as they affect the oil content.

Extraction of essential oil:

Extraction of oil from palmarosa was carried out by a steam-distillation using autoclave equipment. The Distillation apparatus consists of two vessels, inner vessel (diameter 13 inches, height 21 inches) and outer vessel (diameter 14 inches, height 27 inches). An outer vessel contains a heating coil, the inner vessel contains holes at the bottom to pass steam during it. Pressure gauge and safety valve are provided at the top to control the pressure inside the apparatus. Autoclave and condensing segment are connected by a steel tube. Water is used as a coolant in the condensing segment. The separation segment consists of burette as the separator. Based on the density difference between oil and water will be separated. Fresh Palmarosa grass was then collected and shade dried. The inner vessel was loaded with a calculated quantity of palmarosa and the outer vessel was filled with ten liters of dematerialized water. The autoclave was operated at a pressure of 0.35 to 0.4 kgf/cm2 resulting in rupture of the cell walls of leaves appropriate to generate steam. The vapors were passed into the condenser and the distillate is assembling in the burette. Distillation was continued until no further rise in the volume of oil.

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Chemical composition

The major chemical components of palmarosa oil are myrcene, linalool, geraniol, geranyl acetate, dipentene and limonene.

Equipment used in the palmarosa oil extraction process:

List of machinery used in the extraction of palmarosa oil is;

The steam distillation process for the extraction of palmarosa essential oils from plant materials consists of basic parts;

  • Steam Generator or Boiler
  • Extraction Chamber
  • Heat Exchanger
  • Separator
  • Distillation tank
  • Gas chromatography-Mass spectroscopy
  • UV visible spectroscopy
  • Electric heater
  • Centrifugal separator
  • Vibro-viscometer,
  • pH meter, Oven, sieve, density separator, density bottle (pycnometer) Obscured

Cost of distillation unit and palmarosa oil:

Steam distillation unit cost approximately – Rs 8 Lakh/ Piece

Palmarosa oil costs approximately Rs 2,000/ Kilogram

Benefits of palmarosa oil

  • Palmarosa oil is used to counter physical and nervous exhaustion, stress-related problems and nervousness.
  • It is helpful during convalescence and cools the body of fever while aiding the digestive system, helping to clear intestinal disease, digestive atonia, and anorexia nervosa. Palmarosa oil is effective in relieving sore, stiff muscles.
  • Palmarosa oil moisturizes the skin while balancing the hydration stage and stimulating cell regeneration.
  • Palmarosa oil is well-identified for its hydrating properties and can assist in preventing inflammation and quelling dehydration. It balances the sebum or oil production of your skin, aids in the healing of cuts and bruises, and helps remedy acne breakouts.
  • Palmarosa oil’s health advantages are often attributed to its antiseptic and antimicrobial properties.
  • Palmarosa oil can serve as an antiviral agent, especially when blended with other virus-fighting oils like anise star oil or ravensara oil. The oil can protect wounds from infection with its function as an antiseptic.

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