Rose and rose geranium are not the same flower; subsequently, rose and rose geranium essential oil are not the same oil. Although they share many of the same traits and therapeutic properties, it is important to know the difference between the two. In addition, you also need to be aware that there is distilled mix essential oil called rose geranium – a mix of both rose and (rose) geranium oil. Confused? Read on to learn more!
(An original version of this article appeared on the Natural Health Ezine but I have amended and updated the text here to apply more precisely to aromatherapy).
Botanical Profile of Rose
There are many species of rose but the main species of rose which is used in aromatherapy as an essential oil is either Damask rose (Rosa damascena) or cabbage rose (Rosa centifolia). Despite popular belief, not all roses are fragrant.
Both Damask rose and cabbage rose belong to the Rosaceae plant family. Roses vary in size, shape and color, depending on their species or cultivar, but in general, roses have five petals, five sepals, pinnate leaves and prickles (thorns). A rose might be a small bush, a climber, a miniature or a tree.
Therapeutic Benefits of Roses
The rose has a long history of therapeutic and cosmetic use; the ancient Egyptians were known to use rose in skincare. The ancient Romans had an arduous love affair with roses and used roses lavishly at banquets, parties and for cosmetic purposes. Several French queens adored roses, including Napoleon’s wife, Josephine de Beauharnais (1763 – 1814) and Queen Marie Antoinette of France (1755 – 1793); Marie Antoinette had natural perfumes and oils made for her by her personal perfumer, Jean-Louis Fargeon.
It is probably fair to say that roses are the choice of lovers – sales of roses soar for Valentine’s day, so it probably comes as no surprise that roses possess aphrodisiac properties!
According to historical literature, the rose has been used for digestive complaints, menstrual disorders, fever, skin problems, headaches and tension.
Today, rose is used as an essential oil in aromatherapy (skincare, PMS, poor circulation, insomnia, stress), in salad dishes and as a tea (rose hips).
Botanical Profile of Rose Geranium
Rose geranium is known botanically as Pelargonium graveolens. It belongs to the Geraniaceae plant family. Rose geranium is a perennial shrub with pointy, serrated leaves and small, pink, aromatic flowers. Like rose, there are many species and cultivars of geranium (in a variety of colors) but Pelargonium graveolens is generally the species used for aromatherapy purposes.
Rose geranium has a rose-like aroma and, as an essential oil in aromatherapy, it is often used to either adulterate rose oil or as a substitute for rose oil. However, both plants are botanically different.
Therapeutic Benefits of Rose Geranium
To further add to the confusion, it is herb Robert (Geranium robertium) that has historically been used for medicinal purposes; herb Robert can also be referred to as geranium. Both herb Robert and rose geranium have similar medicinal uses such as for inflammation, menstrual difficulties and hemorrhoids. As always, be aware that the use of the plant is different to the use of the essential oil extracted from the plant because of the different chemical composition of the oil.
Rose geranium essential oil is used for skin care, poor circulation, PMS and stress.
Distilled Mix of Rose Geranium Essential Oil
Rose is a high priced essential oil because of the minute quantity of essential oil which is extracted in one distillate. Rose Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) essential oil is not as highly priced as pure rose essential oil and therefore, as mentioned above, can be used to adulterate rose oil.
However, some essential oil suppliers are now producing a distilled mix of rose and rose geranium essential oil. This counteracts the high price of rose oil – but with the combined therapeutic properties of both rose and rose geranium essential oil. Note, this is a pure essential oil mix – unlike the adulterated version of rose oil (with rose geranium oil) that is passed off as pure rose oil.
Rose or Rose Geranium?
Both rose and rose geranium have similar therapeutic uses. However, the plant species are different in appearance and botanical name. In aromatherapy, rose oil is a lot more expensive than rose geranium, so make sure you know which oil you are actually purchasing before you use it.
Many plant species are confused because of the common use of English names in preference to the use of their botanical name. It is more important than ever when using plants therapeutically to know which plant you are actually using, the plant family to which they belong and their therapeutic uses to avoid any potential dangers in use.
Learn more about the botany of plants and essential oils by taking one of the Sedona Aromatherapie courses!
Lawless, Julia, 1995, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils UK:Thorsons
Lawless, Julia, 2001, The Aromatherapy Garden UK:Kyle Cathie Ltd