This highly aromatic plant, long adored for the delicious complexity of its bouquet, has been much used by the perfume industry for hundreds of years. Seventeenth-century Europeans loved it so much that they developed hundreds of hybrids. Geranium leaves make a soothing rose-flavored tea and are prized for their use in making a fragrant body wash, hydrosol, natural deodorant, and effective insect repellent. They can also be used to promote healing for a broad range of conditions, from dysentery and cholera to hemorrhoids and infections of the skin.
As a soothing astringent, geranium (Pelargonium graveolens; P. x asperum) essential oil tones and tightens the skin and astringes excess moisture, making it an excellent choice for weeping eczema, psoriasis, edema, hemorrhoids, and excessive perspiration of underarms and feet. Considered a “beautifying oil,” it benefits the health of both the skin and scalp by balancing sebum (oil) production in all skin types. With its parasiticidal properties, it is also useful in blends formulated to combat ringworm, lice, nail fungus, and athlete’s foot.
For those with impaired circulation or vascular disorders, such as Raynaud’s disease, couperose skin (skin exhibiting diffuse redness due to dilated capillaries), or varicose and spider veins, geranium essential oil, in addition to other oils such as cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) and ginger (Zingiber officinale), is a useful adjunct to assist with regulation of blood flow.
Sometimes called “the woman’s oil,” geranium essential oil is indeed a special gift for women because of its positive regulatory actions upon the hormones secreted by the adrenal cortex. This makes it a valuable remedy for problems caused by fluctuating hormone levels, including PMS, engorged and/or painful breasts, and menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness.
Photo by Stephanie Tourles
Geranium Oil or Rose Oil?
Geranium essential oil is sometimes confused with rose (Rosa damascena) essential oil, due to its rose-like scent and the fact that it’s occasionally labeled “rose geranium.” In fact, geranium oil is frequently used to adulterate and extend real rose oil, and it is the starting point in the manufacture of synthetic rose oil.
From Herb To Oil: A native of South Africa, this tender perennial fuzzy shrub has pointed leaves and clusters of small pink, violet, red, or white flowers. The entire plant is aromatic. The genus name Pelargonium derives from the Greek pelargos, “stork,” in reference to the herb’s long, bill-like seeds. Over 250 varieties of scented geraniums are cultivated all over the world. P. graveolens is the name most often found on commercial essential oil labels, though it is unlikely to be the true botanical source.
The leaves, green stems, and flowers are harvested at the start of the flowering period and steam-distilled to produce the clear, slightly greenish essential oil. As I mentioned earlier, the scent, though lovely, can be a bit heavy and likes to cling and linger, so follow any recipes to the letter and use a light hand if adding to your diffuser – perhaps starting with just 1 drop.
When purchasing geranium essential oil, you may have a choice between Egyptian, Chinese, and Bourbon varieties. The Egyptian, which tends to be the least expensive, has a less-sweet, grassy-rose aroma. The Chinese smells like typical geranium, being rosy-earthy-green. The Bourbon is the cream of the crop, with an exquisitely clean and sweet scent, but it is also the most expensive. They all work equally well in my recipes; it’s just a matter of taste and budget.
Psychological Benefits: “Balancing” is the best way to describe this oil. It seems to bestow upon you what you need. It is gently refreshing, uplifting, calming, grounding, and centering, yet not sedating. The aroma encourages feelings of peace and harmony, while uncluttering a chaotic mind. It is useful for treating depression, nervous tension, anxiety, and restlessness, and it’s a wonderful choice for those moving through a stressful, symptomatic menopause.
Essential Properties In A Nutshell: Gentle astringent and diuretic, good for water retention/edema; antibacterial and antifungal; mild anti-inflammatory and moderate circulatory stimulant; deodorizing; promotes wound healing; cooling; emotionally and physically balancing; valuable insect repellent and parasiticide.
Safety Data & Usage Information: Generally considered nontoxic, nonirritating, and nonsensitizing, but it may cause contact dermatitis in hypersensitive individuals.
Always dilute essential oils properly – according to age, health, medication intake, and skin condition – prior to application. My book, Stephanie Tourles’s Essential Oils: A Beginner’s Guide (Storey Publishing, c2018), is a good reference, complete with safety guidelines and dilution charts.
The following recipe highlights the therapeutic nature of geranium essential oil with regard to its deodorizing properties. Works like a charm!
Photo by Mars Vilaubi courtesy Storey Publishing
Herbal Fresh Deodorant Spray Recipe
The most important action of any deodorant is to minimize the proliferation of odor-causing bacteria, and this formula, with its delightful aroma, does it amazingly well, sans synthetic fragrance and questionable ingredients. Keep a small bottle with a few cotton pads handy for when you need to freshen up a bit. It’s wonderful as a foot deodorizer, too! Note: This recipe is safe for folks 6 years of age and older.
- 16 drops geranium (Pelargonium graveolens; P. x asperum) essential oil
- 12 drops rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis chemotype verbenon) essential oil
- 12 drops tea tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) essential oil
- 8 drops lemon (Citrus limon) essential oil
- 1 cup unflavored vodka (80-proof) or commercially prepared witch hazel
- 1/2 teaspoon vegetable glycerin
- 8-ounce plastic or dark glass spritzer bottle
To Make The Spray: Pour the vodka (or witch hazel) into the bottle. Add the glycerin, then the geranium, rosemary, tea tree, and lemon essential oils. Screw the top on the bottle and shake vigorously to blend – expect essential oils to separate out and float to the top in about 5 minutes – that’s normal. Label the bottle and allow the spray to synergize for at least 1 hour. Store at room temperature, away from heat and light; use within 1 year.
To Use: Shake well and use immediately. Spray onto clean, dry underarms and/or feet or apply with a cotton pad or cloth and rub in. Let dry before getting dressed. Follow with a natural deodorizing body powder, if desired.
Bonus Uses: This formula doubles as an astringent and mild antiseptic liquid cleanser for your hands, face, or entire body, for that matter (avoid the eyes, nose, and mouth). Use for impromptu cleansing when a bath or shower is not convenient. It also makes a good mosquito repellent!
Yield: 8-ounces (240 ml)
Recipe excerpted from Stephanie Tourles’s Essential Oils: A Beginner’s Guide, (c2018 by Stephanie Tourles). Used with permission from Storey Publishing.