An introduction to geranium essential oil and how it is used in the practice of aromatherapy. By Sharon Falsetto.
Geranium has to be one of my favorite essential oils. It has a number of different uses (some of which might be surprising to you!), it’s middle-of-the-road (as in middle note and a fairly innoxious essential oil to use), and it has an amazing, rosy aroma! What’s not to love! Here’s a quick introduction to geranium essential oil.
A Potted History on the Use of Geranium
Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) has been used as far back in history as ancient Egypt. It was brought to Europe in the late 17th century and became popular during the Victorian era; fresh leaves of geranium were placed at formal dining tables and used as finger bowls. In the Victorian parlor, the potted rose geranium plant was placed on tables, where a fresh sprig could be obtained. It quickly gained popularity and was elevated from the glasshouse to the windowsill of the traditional cottage, providing color and scent to many homes.
Botanical Profile of Geranium
Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) is a member of the Geraniaceae botanical family. Geranium was originally a native of South Africa but today it is widely cultivated in Europe, Central America, Egypt, Russia, Japan and the Congo. Geranium’s “official description” is that of a perennial shrub which grows up to three feet in height; it has small, pink flowers and pointy, serrated-edged leaves. However, today you will be hard pushed to find a “true” Pelargonium graveolens. It has been crossbred so many times over the years that there are a wide variety of colors and genus available. There are over 700 varieties of cultivated geranium and Pelargonium plants; many are grown for ornamental purposes in the garden. A lot of essential oil suppliers now source Pelargonium × asperum. The discussion on species makes for another article.
Geranium is often seen in pots of European balconies during the summer months. I too have geranium in pots on my porch here in Arizona. It is not a plant that likes the cold though and will die back in winter. It is a tender perennial that is best protected indoors if you live in a colder climate.
Geranium Essential Oil or Rose Essential Oil?
Due to its rose-like scent, geranium is often confused with rose (Rosa × damascena) essential oil; in fact, it is for that very reason that geranium essential oil is often used to adulterate the more expensive rose essential oil. You can also find a co-distillation called rose geranium which is a mix of both geranium and rose essential oils, a little like Petitigrain sur Fleurs (a mix of neroli (Citrus aurantium var. amara (flos)) and petitgrain (Citrus aurantium var. amara (fol)) essential oils).
Therapeutic Properties of Geranium Essential Oil
Geranium essential oil is obtained from the steam distillation of the leaves. If you rub the leaves of a geranium plant, you can smell the aroma. Geranium essential oil is anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, relaxing, decongestant, anti-bacterial, anti-depressant, balancing and uplifting. It is commonly used for childhood ailments such as chicken pox, measles and mumps.
Geranium essential oil is also a favorite with women as it is useful in treating many “women’s” problems; these include menstrual and menopausal problems, breast congestion, cellulite and fluid retention. It can also be used to treat shingles, herpes, eczema, dry skin and athletes foot and is both moisturizing and regenerative for skin conditions.
One of the lesser known therapeutic properties of geranium essential oil is that it can be used as an insect repellent. I have successfully used in a blend for mosquitoes here in Arizona.
To access an aromatherapy blend using geranium essential oil for eczema in children, subscribe to Georgie’s Secret Garden Club! Note that this recipe is only available for a limited time until the next update is sent out to members!
- Falsetto, Sharon, 2014, Authentic Aromatherapy, US: Skyhorse Publishing
- Davis, Patricia, 1999, Aromatherapy An A-Z UK: Vermilion
- Lawless, Julia, 1995, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils UK: Thorsons
About the Author:
The author of this article has a combined 24-year history in the health care and aromatherapy industry. She is UK-certified aromatherapist and a NAHA Certified Professional Aromatherapist®. She is both a published author and editor in aromatherapy, a consultant, custom blend formulator and herbal studies student. She is the author of Authentic Aromatherapy and the current chief editor of the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal. She has taken the online Master Gardener short course series with the University of Oregon. Sharon works from her garden studio in Sedona, Arizona, where she gardens and distills plants from her own aromatic gardens, surrounded by natural fauna and flora on an original pioneer homestead property.