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Geranium Oil

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Family: Geraniaceae

Scientific name: Pelargonium graveolens

Authority: L’Her.

Synonyms: Geranium terebinthinaceum Cav., Pelargonium terebinthinaceum (Cav.) Desf.

Common names: geranium, old fashion rose geranium, rose geranium, rose scented geranium, sweet scented geranium

Trade name: geranium oil

Geranium oil is pure essential oil that is made from the scented leaves of the different species in the Pelargonium genus. Pelargonium graveolens is the most popular species in the genus and it has different varieties that vary according to the shape and scent of the leaves, with some leaves being more scented than others. Additionally, P.  graveolens species that grow in the wild differ from those that are cultivated.

Plant description

P. graveolens is an aromatic, branched, erect, and evergreen shrub that is indigenous to Southern Africa. It has large, soft, and deeply incised rose scented leaves, pubescence, pinkish-white flowers, and stork’s bill fruits. 

How is the oil made?

The commercial and traditional method for extracting essential oils is by using steam distillation, which works by passing dry steam through the plant material (leaves). Steam distillation is a separation process that isolates the volatile and non-volatile compounds. When heated the volatile compounds evaporate and are collected in the receiver.   

This method is considered inefficient due to the high temperatures required and the fact that the essential oil components undergo thermal degradation. Addedly, the low recovery rate means that a large number of plants must be harvested to meet the global demand for the oil. 

Oil properties

The chemical richness of the geranium oil makes it complex and this complexity translates to variability in its chemical and aroma profile. The plant reportedly has anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, and antiseptic properties: 


Historically, the oil has been used to treat cancer, dysentery, heavy menstrual flow, haemorrhoids, and inflammation. The French use it to treat diabetes, diarrhoea, gallbladder complaints, gastric ulcers, jaundice, liver complaints, sterility, and urinary stones. The Chinese use it to expel toxins from the body. China is the major producer of geranium oil followed by Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, and Reunion Island. The following lists the general uses of the oil:

  • The oil is used as a substitute for the more expensive rose oil. 
  • The oil is used to make perfumes.  
  • The oil is used to make cosmetics. 
  • The oil is used to make soaps. 
  • The oil is used in aroma and massage therapy.
  • The oil is used to flavour food, teas, and tobacco.  
  • The oil is used as a diuretic.
  • The oil is used as a deodorant. 
  • The oil is used to alleviate headaches. 
  • The oil is used as an analgesic, to reduce pain.
  • The oil is used to treat skin infection, such as acne and itchy skin.
  • The oil is used as an anti-anxiety, anti-depressant, and anti-stress.
  • The oil is used as an insecticide. It is a tick repellent. 


  • The oil is mixed with a carrier oil, such as coconut oil, that is applied topically on the skin to treat acne, spots, and itching.
  • The oil is added to a diffuser.
  • The oil is added to bathwater to treat inflammation.
  • The oil is used in aromatherapy to calm the nerves.  

Reference and further reading:

  • Babu, K.G. and Kaul, V.K., 2005. Variation in essential oil composition of rose‐scented geranium (Pelargonium sp.) distilled by different distillation techniques. Flavour and fragrance journal, 20(2), pp.222-231.
  • Boukhatem, M.N., Kameli, A., Ferhat, M.A., Saidi, F. and Mekarnia, M., 2013. Rose geranium essential oil as a source of new and safe anti-inflammatory drugs. Libyan Journal of Medicine, 8(1).
  • Gallardo, A., Picollo, M.I., González-Audino, P. and Mougabure-Cueto, G., 2012. Insecticidal activity of individual and mixed monoterpenoids of geranium essential oil against Pediculus humanus capitis (Phthiraptera: Pediculidae). Journal of Medical Entomology, 49(2), pp.332-335.
  • Juliani, H.R., Koroch, A., Simon, J.E., Hitimana, N., Daka, A., Ranarivelo, L. and Langenhoven, P., 2006. Quality of geranium oils (Pelargonium species): case studies in Southern and Eastern Africa. Journal of essential oil research, 18(sup1), pp.116-121.
  • Lis-Balchin, M., 2002. History of nomenclature, usage and cultivation of Geranium and Pelargonium species. In Geranium and pelargonium (pp. 17-22). CRC Press.
  • Peterson, A., Machmudah, S., Roy, B.C., Goto, M., Sasaki, M. and Hirose, T., 2006. Extraction of essential oil from geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) with supercritical carbon dioxide. Journal of Chemical Technology & Biotechnology: International Research in Process, Environmental & Clean Technology, 81(2), pp.167-172.
  • Sharopov, F.S., Zhang, H. and Setzer, W.N., 2014. Composition of geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) essential oil from Tajikistan. Am J Essent Oils Nat Prod, 2(2), pp.13-16.
  • Tabanca, N., Wang, M., Avonto, C., Chittiboyina, A.G., Parcher, J.F., Carroll, J.F., Kramer, M. and Khan, I.A., 2013. Bioactivity-guided investigation of geranium essential oils as natural tick repellents. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 61(17), pp.4101-4107.

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