Synopsis: A fascinating, informative portrayal of the well-loved and often-used flower oil of the Rose Geranium. Includes the essential oil profile and factual science as well as favorite recipes and perfumes of this refreshing plant by Jeanne Rose.
Rose Geranium Profile
By Jeanne Rose
Common Name/Latin Binomial: Rose Geranium is the common name of the essential oil called Pelargonium graveolens syn. P. asperum or P. roseum L’Hérit.
Family: Pelargoniums belong to the geranium family (Geraniaceae), as does the genus Geranium, which includes cranesbills and herb Robert. ?
Other Common Name/Naming Information: Popularly known as scented geraniums, these plants are actually scented Pelargoniums. Like the common garden geraniums, they belong to the genus Pelargonium. The generic name, from the Greek pelargos, “stork”, comes from the notion that the long, narrow seed capsule and flower parts resembled a stork’s bill. Storksbill is also an old common name. The word graveolens means ‘heavily scented’.
Countries of Origins: Indigenous to South Africa and grows in Morocco, Madagascar, Egypt, China and California. Unfortunately, at this time only the hydrosol is available from the USA.
History and Growing Conditions: The great part of the world’s supply of Pelargonium oil comes from the island of Reunion (Bourbon), a very fertile island about 400 miles east of Madagascar. The plant was introduced to the island in about 1880. The original plant grown for essential oil production was different from that cultivated today. In about 1900 P. graveolens was introduced from Grasse in France and was a plant that grew larger and bushier, and therefore produced more oil—and the oil was of a sweeter, more rose-like odor. Since Pelargonium changes and develops according to the climate and soil type in which they are grown, the essential oil of Reunion also changed and altered. Reunion oil contains more citronellol than that grown in France and less than that grown in Egypt and China. Pelargonium plants like a soil that is neither moist nor dry, a temperate climate with sea moisture (such as occurs in San Francisco) and do not like periods of heavy rain or torrid heat. Cuttings of this plant have been taken throughout the world and various plantings have been started.
Eden Botanicals Harvest Location: The hydrosol is obtained organically grown from the West coast of the U.S. and the essential oil is cultivated but unsprayed and obtained from South Africa and Egypt.
Endangered or Not: Rose Geranium is an odd plant that changes and develops differently according to climate and soil type where grown. Réunion type oil contains more citronellol that that grown in France and less than that grown in Egypt and China. It is generally not considered to be endangered although the original South African type has changed its chemistry somewhat over the last 200 years.
General description of Plant habitat and growth: True Pelargonium oil comes from P. graveolens or P. asperum or a cross of these two. Pelargonium plants readily cross and they change their oil components, quality, and quantity, depending on where grown. Rose geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) oil does not come from the garden plants called P. odoratissimum, which is a small trailing plant whose leaves have the odor of nutmeg or green apples, nor does it come from the garden plant called P. fragrans, which is also not suitable for cultivation nor does it come from the genus called Geranium.
a field in Malawi 2014
Description of the Plant: A perennial hairy shrub up to 3-4 feet in height. It is shrubby, erect, branching, hairy, densely leafy; the leaves are triangular, cordate at the base, deeply five-lobed, hairy, grey-green, rose-scented; peduncle, 5-10 flowered; petals, small, pink; upper veined and spotted purple. P. asperum is often considered to be unpleasantly scented with few flowers of pale lilac. The scent is contained in small beads of oil produced in glands at the base of tiny leaf hairs. Bruising or crushing a leaf breaks the beads and releases their fragrance. There are about 200-280 species of Pelargonium and only a few are distilled. The EO is dependent on where it is grown, on the distiller, on terroir as well as season of the year when distilled. This is one of the most diverse plants for producing an essential oil. I have a box at home of 25 different Rose Geranium distillations with 25 different odors. I have my preferences.
Portion of plant used in distillation, how distilled, extraction methods and yields: The top third of the plant is cut when it is in flower, up to four times per year, and is steam-distilled to yield the oil and hydrosol. Generally, the heavier stalks are removed prior to distillation. The wood absolutely must be excluded from the distillation process. The yield of oil varies from 0.1 – 0.2% or up to 0.05 kg per 250 kg of freshly picked material. The amount is higher in the summer cut (August) than the winter cut (late spring). In California where we mostly try to get great quality hydrosol, 200 lbs. of leaf material cut and distilled in August, produced 1 ounce of emerald green essential oil and 50 gallons of hydrosol.
Organoleptic Characteristics of the Essential oil:
||Pale green to yellow depending upon source
||Non-viscous to semi-viscous depending upon source
||Bitter, aromatic, umami Remove
||Intensity of Odor:
Scale is 1-10 with 1= lowest
Scale is 1-10 with 1= lowest;
An example of scale: Bergamot=2; Rose Geranium (Malawil) = 4; and Peppermint = 8
Properties and Uses: Skin care: Used externally on acne, bruises, as a tonic astringent application for broken capillaries, burns, couperose or reddened skin, cuts, all types of skin conditions, externally for hemorrhoids, in products for oily or mature skin. It is used externally in massage for cellulite, breast engorgement, edema, or poor circulation. It is used by inhalation for menopausal symptoms or PMS, nervous tension, or stress. Used extensively in the skin-care industry for all types of cosmetic problems. As an inhalant, the EO is considered to balance the adrenocortical glands. This oil has properties that are considered to be anti-infectious, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal (Spikenard is better), anti-inflammatory, relaxing, and anti-spasmodic. We will reword this as to not make any medical claims.
Application/ Skincare: Used externally on acne, bruises, as a tonic astringent application for broken capillaries, burns, couperose or reddened skin, cuts, all types of skin conditions where its gentle therapeutics will work. Externally in facial steams, lotions, massage oils, baths to treat face and body especially dry to normal and normal to oily skin. Balances all functions of the oil glands. In massage to ease PMS or cramps. A healing and antiseptic EO. Excellent all-purpose essential oils for skin of young to old women, also children. My personal favorite use of this essential oil is simply as an inhalant. It has supported my emotional life for over 75 years from the time my father grew it as a plant until now when I grow it, and distill it for the hydrosol
My Personal Hair Care
I am quite fond of this essential oil and hydrosol in my hair care. I will take my favorite shampoo of the moment (I usually make my own shampoo) and add 8 drops Rose Geranium and 8 drops of Rosemary verbenone to 8 oz. of shampoo. Mix thoroughly and use. When I use these types of therapeutic shampoos, I will wet the hair thoroughly, put on the shampoo, build a lather and let it sit for 3 minutes to soak into the scalp. Now at 80 years, my hair is still naturally black with only 5% white hair framing my face. I attribute my still dark hair to a lifetime (since 1967) of the above treatment.
Diffuse/Diffusion: Works well by itself or in a blend for emotional issues, or to cleanse the air, and to scent and calm the atmosphere.
I have grown the plants for years, I have harvested and distilled them as well. I have found the correct cultivar and delivered them to dozens of growers in California where they have been particularly well-received and was especially taken with the hydrosol and all of its many uses.
Emotional Use: Geranium: Inhaled it is thought to stimulate the adrenal cortex to reduce symptoms of asthma and menopause and as an aid to stimulate the thyroid for weight loss. Rose Geranium oil is good to treats depression, dejection, fatigue, inertia, confusion and bewilderment, all anxiety states, balances adrenals, balances hormones, has a harmonious effect and calms and refreshes and uplifts the body and psyche.
Hydrosol Use: The hydrosol is excellent as a spray tonic for the skin, to reduce stress, relieve all sorts of menstrual or menopausal symptoms. Used internally by ingestion for the liver and pancreas (with the assistance of a health care provider).
A Hydrosol Story ~ Drinking Rose Geranium oil
By Jeanne Rose
Several years ago I was being televised and interviewed live, in my home, regarding aromatherapy and hydrosols. I had a number of show-and-tell items in front of me and our interview was going along quite nicely. I had a glass full of water and an identical glass full of Rose geranium hydrosol to show that the hydrosol is colorless and clear just like water. I had not as yet mentioned to the interviewer that when I distill I do not remove the small amount of essential oil that is present, so that the glass of hydrosol I was discussing actually had a thin layer of essential oil on it. During the interview, I reached for the glass of water and took a drink and immediately knew I had made a mistake. With my mouth quite full of the very strong floral hydrosol and essential oil, I could only swallow, inwardly trying not to gag and hoping that Rose Geranium was truly the ‘oil of beauty’ and would not kill me and I continued with the interview all the while exhaling the scent of Rose Geranium. It was a shocking and not planned experience. Later on, I kept an account of my symptoms which were that I got slightly sleepy, my hot flashes diminished and my body and secretions all took on the odor of Rose Geranium and I had a mild stomach ache.
However, please know that I do not recommend drinking essential oils or undiluted hydrosol. These are very powerful products, that will collect in the liver to be metabolized and may cause serious side effects to the organs and the mucous membranes of the body. If ingested, they can also cause extreme harm as they are so concentrated. —JeanneRose 2000
Key Use: Oil of Beauty™
Chemical Components: Our Geranium EO are from South Africa and Egypt, the hydrosol is USA organic.
Comparison of Main Components that I have tested:
Compound California Bourbon Egyptian Chinese
Citronellyl formate 21.78%
citronellol 34.82 % 22-40 % 30-38 % 45-51%
geraniol 6.86 % 14-18 % 16-17% 5-7 %
Physiochemical Properties — According to Guenther. The Réunion geranium oil possesses a very strong, heavy rose-like odor, occasionally slightly harsh and minty. The oil is valued particularly on account of its high citronellol content, which makes the Réunion type of geranium oil the best starting material for the extraction of commercial “rhodinol.”. According to Gildemeister and Hoffman*, the physiochemical properties of the Réunion geranium oils vary within these limits:
Specific Gravity at 15˚ . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0.888 to 0.896
Optical Rotation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. .-7˚ 40’ to -13˚50’
Refractive Index at 20˚. . . . . . . . . . . . . .1.461 to 1.468
Acid Number. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1.5 to 12
Ester Number. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 50-78
Ester Content, Calculated as Geranyl Tiglate . . . .21 to 33%
Ester Number after Acetylation. . . . . . . . . .206 to 233
Total Alcohol Content, Calculated as Geraniol.67 to 77.6%
Solubility. Usually clearly soluble in 2 to 3 vol. of 70% alcohol; often separation of paraffin crystals on addition of more alcohol.
Comparison of Main Components: Citronellol, Geraniol, Citronellyl formate, Linaloöl, Terpineol and others yes
Blends Best with: This is one of those chameleon odors that can be used in most blends and work to do its magic. I am particularly fond of this is blends and perfumes where I wish a ‘rosy’ odor but without the true ‘rose’ scent. A fabulous scent. blends well with Lavender, Patchouli, Clove, Rose, Neroli/Orange blossom, Sandalwood, Jasmine, Juniper, Bergamot and other citrus oils perfect
Rose Geranium SILK Perfume:
Your top note will be 30 drops of Tangerine or Yellow Mandarin;
Heart = 10 drops of May Chang
+ 20 drops of Ylang Xtra
+ 25 drops of Rose Geranium is the Heart note;
and the Base note is 7 drops Rose absolute
+ 5 drops Ginger
and 5 drops Oakmoss.
Mix each note separately and succuss, then add together and success; let it sit and age for several weeks before you add your carrier or alcohol. A 25% scent blend and 75% neutral spirits is good. Then let it age again before you use.
Aroma Assessment: This EO is most interesting in that the scent is indicative of the source of the oil. If you purchase EO Rose Geranium from Malawi it will be fresh, green, herbaceous and somewhat floral and vegetative; from Madagascar it is very floral, herbaceous and even a little spicy. Knowing your source country is often preferred for perfumery. Personally, I have samples from all countries and choose the scent specifically for the project at hand.
Advanced Odor Profile of Pelargonium graveolens of leaves & tops EO~JeanneRose
Advanced Odor Profile of Pelargonium graveolens of leaves & tops of Malawi grown~JeanneRose
Historical Uses: The great part of the world’s supply of Pelargonium oil comes from the island of Reunion (Bourbon), a very fertile island about 400 miles east of Madagascar. The plant was introduced to the island in about 1880. The original plant grown for essential oil production was different from that cultivated today. In about 1900 P. graveolens was introduced from Grasse in France and was a plant that grew larger and more bushy, and therefore produced more oil—and the oil was of a sweeter, more rose-like odor. Since Pelargoniums change and develop according to the climate and soil type in which they are grown, the essential oil of Reunion also changed and altered. Reunion oil contains more citronellol than that grown in France and less than that grown in Egypt and China. Pelargonium plants like a soil that is neither moist nor dry, a temperate climate with sea moisture (such as occurs in San Francisco) and do not like periods of heavy rain or torrid heat. Cuttings of this plant have been taken throughout the world and various plantings have been started. How would this compare to Egyptian and South African? This is the explanation. You get different things from different terroir.
Interesting Information/ Abstract: This plant produces quite different oils depending on the environment, climate, soil, elevation. Take several cuttings of a mother plant and plant each cutting in different parts of the world; within three years, depending on the environmental and ecological conditions you will have as many different oils with varying components as you have different environments.
Contradictions: None (as always do not use to excess)
Safety Precautions: None known. Moderation is always a precaution to use.
Patch Test Link: Patch Test: If applying a new essential oil to your skin always perform a patch test to the inner arm (after you have diluted the EO in a vegetable carrier oil). —Wash an area of your forearm about the size of a quarter and dry carefully. Apply a diluted drop (1 drop EO + 1 drop carrier) to the area. Then apply a loose Band-Aid and wait 24 hours. If there is no reaction, then go ahead and use the oil in your formulas. —The Aromatherapy Book, Applications & Inhalations, p. 64
Mabberley, D. J. Mabberley’s Plant-Book, 3rd edition, 2014 printing, Cambridge University Press.
Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols. Berkeley, California: Frog, Ltd., 1999
Rose, Jeanne. The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations. San Francisco, California:
Herbal Studies Course/ Jeanne Rose & Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 1992
Clifford, Derek. Pelargoniums. Blandford Press: Great Britain, 1958
Franchomme, P. l’aromatherapie exactement. R. Jollois: France, 1990
Guenther, Ernest. The Essential Oils. Krieger Publishing: Florida, 1950
Lawless, Julia. The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils. Element: Massachusetts, 1992
Rose Jeanne. The Aromatic Plant Project. World of Aromatherapy Conference Proceedings: California, 1996
Rose, Jeanne. The Herbal Body Book. Grosset & Dunlap: New York, 1992
Vincent, G. [Effect of limiting overall growth potential on the architecture of rose geranium (Pelargonium sp.).] Effet de la limitation du potentiel de croissance global sur l’architecture danium Rosat (Pelargonium sp.). Acta Botanica Gallica (1995) 142 (5) 451-461 [Fr, en, 10 ref.] CIRAD-Réunion, Station de la Bretagne, 97487 Saint-Denis Cedex, Réunion.
Scientific Data: http://www.nda.agric.za/docs/Brochures/ProGuRosegeranium.pdf
DISCLAIMER: This work is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for accurate diagnosis and treatment by a qualified health care professional. Dosages are often not given, as that is a matter between you and your health care provider. The author is neither a chemist nor a medical doctor. The content herein is the product of research and personal and practical experience. Institute of Aromatic & Herbal Studies – Jeanne Rose©