- By: Sarah Wu

Pelargonium graveolens, Geranium, sometimes referred to as Rose Geranium along with a multitude of other Geranium hybrids, is in the Geraniaceae family. Greek (géranos or geranós) meaning ‘crane’, Geraniaceae is in the cranesbill family of plants, named for the appearance in some species, of the fruit capsule shaped like an open crane’s bill that effectively dispersing seeds a far distance.

P. graveolens is native to the northern part of South Africa, along with two other native species yielding different minty aromas. More common in the wild are P. culallatum and P. tomentosum. These aromatic cousins have extensive culinary and medicinal history, used much like P. graveolens. Graveolens is Latin for foul or strong smelling. The abundant oil producing aroma is why P. graveolens has become one of the most widely used, commercially produced, and studied of the Geraniums.

In the 19th century, the French began hybridizing P. graveolens for perfumery because of its resemblance to Rose and high yielding oil content, making it easier to mass produce perfumes. Easily hybridized outdoors by bees, hundreds of varieties of Geranium can be found around the world.

Preferring warm climates, P. graveolens is commercially cultivated on Reunion Island (French territory in the Indian Ocean, east of Madagascar), in Morocco, Algerian, Tunisian, Egypt, Russia, China, India, and Central America. Growing conditions effect quality with rockier soils producing more oils. This is probably due to the stressful and low nutrient conditions making the plant respond by generating more secondary metabolites for protection, in the case of Geranium, mono-terpene alcohols.

Subtropical polyculture production crops of Rice, Pigeon Pea, Potato, and Geranium are showing promise for successful large economic gains per hectare. Specifically using Geranium as an Integrated Pest Management strategy to deter insects instead of killing them, while also producing a high-priced commodity. The entire plant can be steam-distilled, including leaves, stalks, and flowers, with 24 ounces of essential oil obtained from 550 pounds of fresh leaves!

Not to be confused with relatives G.robertianum or maculatum, the extolled Geranium of Culpeper's Herbal, P. graveolens are not hardy plants and do not grow wild in the cooler regions of Europe.

Geranium is analgesic, antibiotic, antifungal, antispasmodic, sedative, and an all-around balancing agent to a variety of ailments and distresses. Ethnobotanically, Geranium infused oil and water extracts are used in the folk medicine traditions of the South African Sothu, Xhosa, Hottentots, and Zulu people for the treatment of wounds, abscesses, fevers, colic, frequent urination, colds, sore throats, hemorrhoids, gonorrhea, and worms. Geranium may also be used to treat urinary tract infections, gall stones, kidney stones, and is a mild diuretic. It is quite commonly used as an insecticide and insect repellent.

In aromatherapy, the Geranium essential oil has many uses as an inhalation, and topically in a base oil. Some aromatherapists use it as a sedative and some to uplift and awaken the mind, often depending on the needs of the individual. It has a superb balancing quality, reducing anxiety for most people, but specifically for the benefit of nervousness with first pregnancies and in Alzheimer’s patients. It regulates blood pressure, balances the adrenal glands, and moderates passive-aggressive behavior. Used also for hormonal irregularities, such as PMS and menopausal mood swings, and is completely safe for use during pregnancy. Atomized in a spritzer and as an inhalation, Geranium is effective at killing MRSA Staph infections and treating bacterial bronchitis. Always refer to your physician before utilizing Geranium, or any essential oil, for medicinal uses.

Relaxing in a hot bath before bed is a nourishing way to ease into deep sleep, while caring for the skin at the same time. Check out this beautiful relaxation Before Bed Bath Blend:

Blend Oils with two teaspoons of organic Honey and/or Jojoba Oil and add to warm bathwater. Soak for 20 minutes and follow with our skin soothing Pyrenees Lavender & Cardamom Body Oil before jumping under the covers.

Cosmetically, Geranium is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and balancing to all skin types. For vaginal yeast (Candida) infections, use Geranium essential oil along with Thyme, Chamomile, Lavender, and Palmarosa in Yarrow tea with Apple Cider Vinegar as an effective douche. Balancing sebum production, Geranium is shown to have anti-aging properties and is beneficial for dry and mature skins. It can be applied in creams, salves, or massage oils for stretch marks, scars, enlarged veins, bruises, broken capillaries, burns, skin congestion, wounds, and eczema. Geranium increases circulation, may help with edema, cellulitis, and viral infections like shingles and herpes. As a massage oil, it is effective for anxiety relief and neuropathic pain, as a foot bath for Tinea pedis, and topically for MRSA Staph infections. The essential oil is safe for minimal internal ingestion, diluted into a culinary oil or fat.

Geranium is found in a variety of facial and bodycare products. Pangea Organics loves Geranium, being an ingredient in the Egyptian Geranium, Adzuki Bean, & Cranberry Facial ScrubHimalayan Geranium & Pomegranate Balancing OilItalian Red Mandarin & Rose Lip Balm, Italian White Sage, Geranium, & Yarrow Hand SoapBody Wash, and Body OilBrazilian Brown Sugar & Cocoa Butter Body PolishChilean Rosehip, Tamanu, & Red Clover Hand CreamLip Tints, and in our 100% organic Geranium Essential Oil sustainably harvested from Egypt.

Commonly used in perfumery and mixology, Geranium is a Middle Note, with a complex bouquet, smelling of rose, citrus, and pine. It blends well with a wood or camphor as the Base Note, and a Citrus for the Top. One of the active constituents, Geraniol is found in Rose, Citronella, and Palmarosa. Geraniol is mono-terpene alcohol, which is tonifying, stimulating, antibacterial, antiviral, and non-toxic. Geraniol is used by perfume manufacturers as the base to produce synthetic Rose scent.

Psycho-spiritually, Geranium is associated with the Water element and Spring types. Those who are in touch with their varying emotions and to the awakening potential of each new day. In Ayurvedic medicine, it is associated with the Fifth Chakra, the center of expression, internal and external dialog, belief systems, and storytelling. Used as an anointing oil for communicating clearly emotional needs and desires, it can be dabbed on the throat, heart, and sacrum. It is used to help heal poor relationships, allowing those involved to communicate effectively, in a balanced manner.

I have many early associations with Geranium. My grandmother always had the Lemon and Rose scented varieties growing in her house year-round. For me, it was a gateway plant into the world of herbalism and holistic medicine. As a child, pinching and sniffing the sticky leaves, always brought me a sense of joy and wonder about how something that looked so benign, could yield such a powerful fragrance and sense of euphoria. My other grandmother also grew Geraniums, though hers were the gorgeous ornamental varieties with flowers of bright red, magenta, orange, and white. I still associate them with her house. I would try to scratch and sniff those beauties to no avail, they weren’t the same. It made me question how something could have the same name, the same look even, yet be so potently different from each other. A deep understanding of individuality came from my experience with Geranium. That understanding of the uniqueness of each person, as well as each plant species, is the heart of integrated and holistic medicine. There is no universal panacea, even with a plant so diverse in its medicinal application as Geranium. Each individual should always be treated for what they are, individuals, with varying perspectives, microbiomes, personalities, genetics, and physical distinctions.

Herbalism is a sensuous practice where touching, smelling, tasting, looking, and feeling is integral to embodied understanding. Do not be afraid to touch plants, gaze at and inhale their aroma and possibly taste (do this with caution and proper identification). Reach out, with reverence, experience them as living beings, and let your world be expanded and enriched with their lives.