Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) is a bushy shrub with hairy, serrated, heart-shaped leaves and many flowers. There are over 700 varieties of cultivated geranium, however, most are grown for ornamental purposes only. The oil producing species are Pelargonium x asperum, Pelargonium capitatum, Pelargonium radens and Pelargonium graveolens. Pelargoniums originate mainly in South Africa, while a few species are found in places such as Australia and St. Helena Island. However today the major production of essential oil takes place in China, Egypt, Morocco, Russia and the former French Colony – Bourbon now called Reunion, an island in the South West Indian Ocean.
The well-known geranium oil “Bourbon” – which comes from Reunion has been shown to be produced from the cultivar Rose which is a hybrid of Pelargonium radens and Pelargonium capitatum. The geranium oil produced in other parts of the world may originate from different species. The oil from China is very similar to the oil from Reunion. while that from Egypt is very different. A pale green essential oil is steam distilled from the fragrant green parts of the plant, especially the leaves. The plant should be cut just before the flowers open and between 675 to 1,125 lbs. of plant material is required in order to obtain about 2 lbs. of essential oil. It has a sweet roselike aroma with a hint of mint.
Psychologically geranium has sedative, uplifting and anti-depressant properties, which is why its use is often considered in times of depression, confusion, panic and anxiety. It can also be useful in promoting concentration.
While on the physiological level geranium has anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and haemostatic properties and its use could be considered for: sluggish, oily complexions and combination skin; menstrual problems, menopause and PMS; and hemorrhoids.
Traditionally geranium was used to stanch bleeding, heal wounds, ulcers and skin disorders, as well as treat diarrhea, dysentery and colic. Antibacterial properties and insecticidal actions were found when geranium was screened for medicinal usage in a joint project of the laboratories of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Society of Applied Science, in Britain. Geranium can be used diluted as a first aid remedy on minor cuts and burns. It also acts as an effective insect repellant.
Geranium is used as a fragrance component in all kinds of cosmetic products; soaps, creams, perfumes etc and is employed as a flavoring agent in many major food categories, alcoholic and soft drinks. Geranium blends well with bergamot and other citrus oils, black peper, chamomile, clary sage, jasmine, juniper berry, lavender, neroli, patchouli, petitgrain, rose, rosemary, sandalwood and vetiver.
Maria Lis-Balchin, International Journal of Aromatherapy, Vol.7 No.3, 1996
Beverley Hawkins, Aromatherapy 101 Course Notes & Aromatherapy 201 Course Notes, 1999 (2021).
Robert Tisserand and Tony Balacs, Essential Oil Safety, Churchill Livingstone, London, 1995.
Martin Watt, Plant Aromatics Set 4
Geranium is covered in the Aromatherapy 101 Course
Confusion over Geranium’s Name
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