FWD 2 Healthy Ingredients: Sweet-scented Geranium

Sweet-scented Geranium

Pelargonium graveolens
Family: Geraniaceae
CTFA Name: Pelargonium Graveolens Wax
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Photo © Steven Foster


Sweet-scented geranium, or Pelargonium graveolens, currently refers to a hybrid of the original P. graveolens with other Pelargonium species.1  P. graveolens is a perennial shrub that grows to three feet with jagged, pointed, scented leaves and small white or pink flowers.1,2,3  The entire plant has aromatic properties2  with more of a rosy scent while flowering and a minty scent at other times.1  Over 700 different varieties of geranium are cultivated, and many are grown only as ornamental plants.2  Sweet-scented geranium is the main variety cultivated for its oil,2  but geranium oil is often produced from a combination of many Pelargonium species.1  Geranium is native to South and tropical Africa and was introduced to Europe in 1690.2,4  Currently geranium is widely cultivated for its essential oil in Reunion Island, Egypt, Russia and China.2  

History and Cultural Significance

Sweet-scented geranium has been cultivated since the mid-19th century.4  Geranium essential oil is produced through steam distillation of the flowers, leaves and stalks.2  In folk medicine geranium oil has been used as a pain reliever, sedative, antimicrobial, antifungal and to relieve spasms.5  Geranium has also been used to help with nervous tension and symptoms of menopause. Other folk uses include treatment of wounds, fever reduction, hemorrhoids, gonorrhea,5  inflammation and diarrhea.2  It has also been used as an insect repellent.5  

Geranium oils have been shown to have pain-relieving properties when inhaled, taken orally, or applied topically.6  Externally geranium has been shown to calm skin conditions such as eczema, burns,3  acne, bruises and cuts.2  For skin care it is a refreshing cleanser and astringent3  that is good for oily complexions.2  

Geranium oils are also used commonly as a fragrance component in cosmetic products such as perfumes, creams, and soaps.2  It is also utilized as a flavoring agent in foods,4  alcoholic beverages and soft drinks.2  

Modern Research

In one small study, topical geranium oil was found to aid in temporary relief of pain from sores.7  

Future Outlook

Currently half of the total world production of geranium is found on the small island of Reunion, which is located in the Indian Ocean 500 miles east of Madagascar.8  In 1994 the production of geranium oils worldwide had been estimated at 200 metric tons with a value of approximately six to ten million U.S. dollars.5  In 2002 the U.S. imported 32,262 kilograms of geranium essential oil for approximately 1.6 million U.S. dollars.9  


1  Lis-Balchin M, ed. Geranium and Pelargonium: The genera Geranium and Pelargonium. London: Taylor & Francis Inc; 2002.

2  Lawless J. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: The Complete Guide to the Use of Oils in Aromatherapy and Herbalism. Dorset, UK: Element Books, Ltd; 1995.

3  Tisserand RB. The Art of Aromatherapy. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press; 1977.

4  Davidson A. The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford: Oxford University Press; 1999.

5  Lis-Balchin M. Geranium Oil. The International Journal of Aromatherapy. 1996;7(3):18-19.

6  Buckle J. Aromatherapy: What Is It? HerbalGram. 2003;57:50-56.

7  Greenway FL, Frome BM, Engels TM, McLellan A. Temporary relief of postherpetic neuralgia pain with topical geranium oil. Am J Med. November 2003;115(7):586-587.

8  Arctander S. Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin. Carol Stream , IL: Allured Publishing Corp.; 1994.

9  Brinckmann JA. International Trade Centre UNCTAD/WTO web site. The United States Market for Natural Ingredients Used in Dietary Supplements and Cosmetics: Highlights on Selected Andean Products. 2003. Available at: http://mgtclass.mgt.unm.edu/DiGregorio/Entry%20Strategies%20for%20International%20Markets/us%20natural%20ingredients%20supplements%20cosmetics%20un%202003.pdf. Accessed October 11, 2005.