The aromatic grasses which at the present time yield a number of valuable volatile oils, such as palmarosa oil, ginger-grass oil, citronella oil, lemongrass oil and vetiver oil, have been used on account of their fragrance during antiquity: for the aromatization of wine; also of earthenware wine cups, the so-called Rhodian cups;3) in the preparation of fragrant ointments4) and oils; as incense in religious rites; and as couches during festivities. In Sanskrit writings, in the Old Testament,5) and in other documents of antiquity, these grasses are referred to under various names. The names used in the translations of the Bible and other ancient writings for spices and annointing oils1) such as narde, stakte, schonos, etc., apparently have also been used synonomously for the fragrant andropogon grasses and their roots. Of these, it may be supposed that Andropogon laniger, Desf. was the best known and most used during antiquity, inasmuch as it was more widely distributed throughout northern India, Thibet, Persia and Arabia as far as Egypt, Nubia and Ethiopia than the other species. Originally,2) however, and again in more modern times, the term narde was applied only to the aromatic root of the valerianaceous Nardostachys /ata-mans/, D. C, indigenous to the Himalayas of northern India, perhaps also to Valeriana celtica, L. indigenous to the European Alps.
1) Herodotus II. 85. - Diodor, lib. I, 91. According to R. Sigismund, Die Aromata. Leipzig 1884. p. 5.
2) In the books of the Old Testament coniferous woods are frequently referred to. The names used in the translations presumably do not always indicate the proper source of these words. Wherever the words cedar and pine are used, Lebanon cedar probably is meant. Such references are: - Leviticus, 14:4. - 1. Kings, 4: 33; 5 : 6, 8 and 10; 6 :9, 15, 18, 20 and 26; 7 : 2, 3, 7, 12 and 14; 10:27. - 2. Chronicles, 2:8; 3:5 and 9. - Isaiah, 14:8; 37 :24, 60 and 61. - Hesekiah, 27 :2. - 2. Samuel, 6:5.- Zechariah, 11:1 and 2. - Revelations, 18:12.
3) Athensei Naucratitae Deipnosophistarum. Lib. XV, p. 472. - Plinii Naturalis historiae libri. Lib. V, pp. 64, 65 and lib. XIV, p. 15. Horatii
Carmina. XII, 16-17:
"Nardo vina merebere
Nardi parvus onyx eliciet cadum."
4) Dioscorides, De materia medica libri quinque. Lib. 1, p. 52. - Plinii Naturalis historiae libri. Lib. XIII, p. 2.
5) Exodus, 30:34. - Song of Solomon, 4: 13 and 14.
The Greek and Roman writers possibly referred to the same aromatic andropogon species when they used the words or also /uncus.3) In the Occident they appar- ently have never been cultivated nor introduced in the dried condition.
The first mention of andropogon grasses4) by European travelers is to be found in the works of Garcia da Orta,5) van Rheede tot Draakenstein,6) - who was governor of the Dutch East-India company on the Malabar coast about the middle of the seventeenth century, - and of G. E. Rumpf7) (Rumphius, also Plinius indicus), Dutch governor in Amboyna during the second half of the seventeenth century. The first sample of a distilled andropogon oil, a lemon-grass oil, is said to have been brought to Europe from the Moluccas in 1717.1) However, the distillation of these oils on a large scale and their introduction into the commerce of the world and into industry apparently first began in 1820. In this year the botanist William Roxburgh, who was Director of the Botanical Garden at Calcutta for a long time, mentions lemon-grass oil as coming from the Moluccas.2) In 1832 the first large assignment was received in London. Since then, it, as well as the palmarosa oil and somewhat later citronella oil, have been finding increased application in perfumery and especially in the soap industry. As a result of the ever increasing demand, the cultivation of these aromatic grasses, has increased considerably especially that of the citronella grasses in Ceylon, and during the last decade of the 19. century also in Java, so that these oils are now exported in large quantities.
1) Wilhelm Nowack, Lehrbuch der hebraischen Archaologie. Freiburg 1894. Vol. 1, p. 133.
2) Dioscorides, De materia medica libri quinque. Lib. I, 6 and 77.
3) Dioscorides, De materia medica libri quinque. Lib. I, pp.2, 16, 17. Editio Kuhn-Sprengel 1829. Vol. 1, p. 30. - Plinii Naturalis historiae libri. Lib. XII, pp. 26, 59, 62 and lib. XIII, p. 2.
4) A detailed account of the individual grasses is given by Otto Stapf. The Oil-Grasses of India and Ceylon. Bulletin of Miscellaneous Information Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 1906. No. 8, p. 297.
5) Garcias ab Horto, Colloquios dos simples e drogas be cousas medicinais da Intia, e assi da/guas frutas achadas nella ande se tratam. 1563.
6) Van Rheede, Hortus indicus malabaricus. Amstelodami 1678-1703. 7) Rumphius, Herbarium amboinense. Amstelodami 1741 - 1755.