Sugandha Kokila Oil
Sugandha Kokila Oil. The evergreen, Cinnamomum glaucescens (syn. Cinnamomum cecidodaphne), part of the Lauraceae family, is native to Nepal and grows wild in the districts of Dang, Rolpa and Sallyan in the Rapti Zone. This species is a diploid and can grow to an altitude of 1300 meters. Cinnamomum glaucescens is recognized as an aromatic plant, meaning it has an elevated level of essential oil. Using steam distillation, the dried berries of Cinnamomum glaucescens produce the essential oil commonly known as sugandha kokila oil, which is yellow in colour and has a camphoraceous, spicy aroma. This product can be used as a fragrance in soaps, detergents, cosmetics, perfumes and industrial fragrances. Sugandha kokila oil is also used in indigenous medicine as a demulcent and stimulant. The Nepal Trade Integration Strategy 2010, identified Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAPs) as one of Nepal’s top twenty goods and services with export potential.
Citizens of Nepal have been collecting wild herbs and berries from the natural environment for centuries, where both women and men traditionally carry out the harvesting practice. Today, the harvesting of MAPs is regulated by The Department of Forests, under the Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation. While wild aromatic and medicinal plants are the property of the government, any citizen is free to harvest them after applying to the department of forests and paying government royalty fees. However, Non-timber forest products, such as Cinnamomum glaucescens, are over harvested, and if the current rate of collection occurs, may disappear from Nepalese forests.
Cinnamomum glaucescens has been successfully cultivated, and promotes species conservation. A ranking scale was established, assessing mode of domestication, cultivation and social beliefs from farmer or forest users perspective, to rank the suitability of MAPs for farming. With the highest ranking being five, and lowest zero, sugandha kokila ranked four out of five. This demonstrate that Cinnamomum glaucescens is not only physiologically appropriate for cultivation but also has a high chance to be adopted by farmers, when compared with other MAPs. Furthermore, the GEF Small Grants Programme ran a successful project mobilizing two indigenous Nepalese communities, promoting the knowledge and tools to cultivate sugandha kokila. The project amended the two involved communities’ local forestry operation plan to include the conservation of Cinnamomum glaucescens. The two communities involved planted Cinnamomum glaucescens 13ha of community forests, in addition to 6ha planted on private land. Increasing the market demand of sugandha kokila oil will not only benefit the farmers and producers in Nepal but also encourage the conservation of Cinnamomum glaucescens. As the market grows, the plant will increase in value, encouraging more cultivation of the plant and therefore increase conservation efforts. Also, three women-run forest nurseries established, responsible for growing 30,000 seedlings of sugandha kokila, sapindus, cinnamon, zanthoxylum, lemon and asparagus. Creating women run nurseries empowered women to learn new skills and play an important role in the cultivation of sugandha kokila and other products. Additionally, 86 households were supported in developing suitable infrastructure for the processing of sugandha kokila. This project is an example of how the cultivation of sugandha kokila using a community approach can empower women and conserve this endemic plant.
The majority of MAPs grown in Nepal, are exported to India to be processed. However, as Cinnamomum glaucescens is considered an at-risk species due to over-harvesting for monetary gains, this species can only be exported after processing occurs within Nepal. Therefore, sugandha kokila is processed within the country, using distillation units operated by local people. MAPs have been processed in Nepal since 1981 with the government establishment of Herbs Production and Processing Co. Ltd., which today supports 600 families that are involved in the cultivation and processing of MAPs. Currently, there are an estimated 112 distillation units operating across Nepal, the majority of which are located in the Terai regions. Distilling the product in Nepal will result in a unique product and provide steady revenue for the rural, low-income population.
Sugandha kokila oil is a product of steam distillation from the dried berries of Cinnamomum glaucescens. Steam distillation reduces wasted material and lowers productions costs. This process enables the sugandha kokila oil to be distilled at a temperature significantly lower than its boiling point. The steam breaks through the plant material and releases the essential oils, along with the steam, after which they rise upward into a connecting pipe leading them to the condenser. In the condenser the steam and essential oils are cooled and liquefied. Due to differences in density, the essential oil will float on the surface of the water and be siphoned off. The essential oil is then filtered to remove any impurities. Finally, the quality of the oil needs to be verified and is stored in container made of glass, stainless steel, aluminum, epoxy coated drums or food grade high-density polyethylene containers.
Similar to most essential oils, sugandha kokila oil, is a diverse product due to the array of uses for manufactures. Companies that sell essential oils, describe sugandha kokila oil as “A gift to perfumers from the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal”. Sugandha kokila oil’s uniquely spicy scent is ideal for beauty products and toiletries, including soaps, detergents, cosmetics, massage oils, lotions, hair treatments and perfumes.
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