Lemon Grass Yields Essential Oil

Lemon grass or “Tanglad” as it is locally called in the Philippines, a backyard plant, is going mainstream as its oil is now being extracted for industrial use.

What is abundant in the country is the West Indian lemon grass or Cymbopogon Citratus variety.

It contains active ingredients such as the mycrene, effective as antibacterial or pain reliever. Its other active components are citronella, citronellol and geranilol.

The lemon grass is sixty five to eighty five percent citral. The combination of higher mycrene and citral makes the lemon grass oil less irritating to the skin and thus a good ingredient for cosmetics maker. Its antibacterial ingredient on the other hand, can be used for pharmaceutical purposes.

A non-governmental group called the Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation Inc. (Adfi) set up in 1990, is a proponent of sustainable agriculture through organic, diversified and integrated farming systems.

The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) that introduce the Adfi to lemon grass oil essence and there, they saw the prospects of lemon grass oil production as a good project. After years of research, the Adfi was able to establish the viability of lemon grass for essential oil.

To extract oil from lemon grass, Adfi has fabricated a distiller that can process 400 kgs. of lemon grass per load. On a rainy day, this can yield an average of 1.5 liters of oil but higher at 1.9 to 2 liters during dry months. It takes 2 to 3 hours to produce the oil doing a very simple process: Hydrosteam distillation, condensation and cooling to separate the oil from the water.

The water required from this distillation process is called Hydrosol or Hydrolat. As a byproduct, it is a pure natural water or plant water essence that contains the same components but in lower concentrations.

This makes the water very suitable in the production of skin care products such as lotions and creams or even as pure natural water toner in its pure form.

To ensure the steady supply of leaves, farmers have scheduled harvesting. It takes six months to grow the lemon grass but once the leaves mature for oil extraction, farmers cut the leaves, but retain about 15 to 20 cm. of the plant rooted on the ground so it can grow the leaves again. Second cropping can be done after two months. A liter of essential oil derived from lemon grass will give a farmer about 1,200 pesos ($25) in revenue.

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