Eye-catching geranium flowers in white, pink, salmon, red, fuchsia, lavender or bi-colors are popular additions to gardens.1 Now found worldwide,2 geraniums are actually perennial plants native to South Africa3 and then brought to Europe in the 17th century.
Geraniums refer to more than 200 geranium plants,4 such as Geranium maculatum or wild geranium,5 Pelargonium peltatum or ivy geranium6 and Geranium "Rozanne" or hardy geranium.7 Out of all the geranium species, however, only Pelargonium graveolens, aka Sweet-scented geranium or Rose geranium8 can be safely consumed. Note: Do not confuse Pelargonium graveolens with Pelagoniu capitatum, also known as Rose-scented geranium, as it is NOT edible.9
The Rose-scented geranium is an erect and branched shrub that grows up to 1.3 meters (4.2 feet) high and a meter (3.2 feet) wide. The plant's hairy stems are herbaceous when young, but turn woody once mature. The rose-scented leaves have different and numerous glandular hairs, while the white or pinkish flowers bloom during the late to winter to summer and have an umbel-like shape.10
The edible Sweet geranium grows to about 1.2 meters (4 feet) by 0.8 meters (2.6 feet) and flowers from May to July. The rose-scented leaves are good brewed as a tea and the flowers can be eaten raw.11
Geraniums aren't just pleasing to the eyes, but can offer positive effects to your body, too. Keep reading to learn about geraniums' health benefits and how you can incorporate these into your daily routine. Again, remember if you're going to consume them, only use Pelargonium graveolens.
Geraniums' Outstanding Health Benefits
The various health benefits linked to geraniums include:12
Healing pain: People with chronic pain or migraines can drink tea brewed from geranium leaves, since it aids with releasing endorphins and treating pain.
However, the effect is relatively mild, so it's not recommended for permanent pain relief.
Relieving stress: Geranium tea's soothing properties can help alleviate a cluttered mind and/or get rid of an unpleasant mood.
Plus, organic compounds and chemicals in the tea are able to positively impact the endocrine system and assist with balancing stress- and anxiety-causing hormones.
Treating inflammation: Geranium has anti-inflammatory properties, helpful for alleviating sore joints and muscles and even easing inflammation of the gut or cardiovascular system.
Facilitating better digestion: Geranium may help eliminate harmful and discomfort-causing bacteria, and restore gastrointestinal health.
Boosting the immune system: Geranium's natural antiseptic, antibacterial and anti-fungal properties contribute to its abilities as a cold and flu reliever.
You can also chew on geranium leaves so the body receives antibacterial compounds that'll help enhance the immune system and bolster quick recovery from illnesses.
Geranium can also help prevent internal and external pathogens from damaging your body.
Improving kidney health: Volatile components in geranium may enhance kidney health and encourage urination, helping with body detoxification and removing excess salts, fats and water.
Increased urination can assist in reducing kidney strain and in inhibiting toxins from transferring to other parts of the body.
Common Uses of Geraniums
Geranium leaves and essential oil were used to ease headaches and other injuries.13 Nowadays, the flowers and leaves are used as scents and as flavorings for salads, desserts and tea. The leaves, flowers and branches may be mixed into baths, too. The flowers can be used topically and mixed in lotions or creams, and can work as an insect repellent. Geranium is also valuable because of its ability to help alleviate:14
Skin wounds, bruises, pimples and eczema
Premenstrual and menopausal problems
Geranium Care: How to Grow and Cultivate These Plants
Geraniums can be grown from stem cuttings, either indoors or outdoors, in containers or on the ground.15,16 Geraniums prefer lots of sun, but may need partial shade during very warm conditions. Well-drained soil with a 6.5 pH level is also required, alongside a layer of mulch (preferably at 2 inches) that'll help conserve moisture and allow the roots to stay cool during the summer.17
If you're planting geraniums on the ground, ensure that the plants are separated by an 8- to 12-inch wide gap. When growing in containers, purchase pots that are 8 to 12 inches wide and have drainage holes. Indoor plants require four hours of direct sunlight daily, in daytime temperatures of around 65 and 70 degrees F and nighttime temperatures of 55 degrees F.
Using a soaker hose, water the plants weekly without wetting the leaves. This enables geraniums to retain moisture, inhibits the soil from drying out and prevents the growth of fungus. You may need to water container-grown geraniums more since these dry faster. Then, apply fertilizer on ground-grown plants every four to six weeks during spring and summer.
While geraniums can grow indoors all year round, try propagating geraniums by overwintering, especially in frost-prone areas. Plant new geraniums outdoors annually or cut back the plants by one-third during the fall, before temperatures reach 45 degrees F. Afterward, move plants into containers to begin indoor overwintering. During the fall as well, start bringing outdoor container-grown plants inside.
Another overwintering method is to take 6-inch geranium cuttings usually grown outdoors, place them in soilless mix and transplanting them in indoor containers. Once done, move the container-grown geraniums outdoors in the spring after all danger of frost has passed.
Watering the plants adequately and not in excess is a must. Poorly drained or overwatered soil in geraniums may lead to stem and root rots, resulting in blackened and rotting stems. The risk for acquiring plant diseases like bacterial and fungal leaf spot, which causes leaf spots and drops in crowded areas, also rises.
Watch out for pests like whiteflies and aphids. The latter sucks out juice from geranium leaves and stems, and secretes a sticky substance called honeydew.
Pruning geraniums is ideal too. Frequent pruning produces geraniums with bushy growth and scented leaves, while unpruned geraniums are leggy and unattractive. Start by removing a green stem tip above a leaf using fingers or scissors. When you pinch it back or prune, retain three or four leaves on the stem so the plant produces new growth. If geraniums are blooming, remove the spent blossoms.
Must-Try Geranium Recipes
As mentioned earlier, Sweet-scented geranium (Palargonium graveolens) is the only geranium plant that's safely consumed,18 so if you want to try this plant, you can make a batch of this refreshing geranium tea:19
Rose Geranium Tea
Combine all ingredients in a jug and cover with boiling water. Steep for at least 10 minutes.
This recipe makes 6 servings.
While geranium is safe when taken in food amounts or used externally, it's ideal to do so in moderation. Pregnant or breastfeeding women are advised to refrain from consuming large amounts of geranium. There aren't enough studies to show whether geranium is safe to take in large amounts.20 Furthermore, side effects such as increased sensitivity, eye irritation, rashes or a burning sensation were also seen in people who took geranium.
How to Use Geranium Oil to Your Advantage
The plant's essential oil can be beneficial for your well-being. There are around 67 compounds in geranium essential oil. Citronellol (26.7 percent) and geraniol (13.4) make up the bulk of this essential oil. Other compounds include nerol (8.7 percent), citronellyl formate (7.1 percent), isomenthone (6.3 percent) and linalool (5.2 percent).21
Sweet-scented geranium essential oil is used in food preparation, perfumery, herbal medicines and massage therapy,22 and is also regarded highly in aromatherapy because it can soothe conditions like sore throats, anxiety, depression and insomnia, and help with uplifting mood, reducing fatigue and promoting emotional wellness.23 Geranium oil can be used for these purposes, too:24,25,26
It can also help with preventing skin problems like sagging and wrinkling, and with muscle toning. The oil helps improve blood circulation below the skin's surface, promotes an equal distribution of melanin and inhibits scars and dark spots from appearing.
Anti-inflammatory properties: Geranium oil can help reduce pain and inflammation.
Antiseptic properties: This oil helps speed up wound healing and treat skin problems like acne, burns, frostbite, athlete's foot, eczema and hemorrhoids.
Astringent properties: The oil prompts the gums, muscles, intestines, skin, blood vessels and tissues to contract.
Antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant properties: Geranium oil may assist with preventing bacterial infections and inhibiting bacteria strains like Brevibacterium linens and Yersinia enterocolitica and fungal species Aspergillus niger.
Detoxifying agent: Geranium oil can induce urination that'll help remove toxins from the body, stop excess gas formation in the intestines and boost digestive function.
Deodorant capabilities: The oil's fragrance makes it a good deodorant, and even helps prevent body odor.
Wound and scar healer: Geranium essential oil can assist with speeding up wound healing and preventing toxins from reaching the bloodstream through open wounds.
The most common way to use geranium oil is by inhalation, by placing a few drops onto a cloth or into a diffuser. This stimulates the body's limbic system, which is in charge of controlling emotions and affecting the nervous system. Inhaling geranium oil was proven to influence heart rate, stress levels, breathing, blood pressure and immune system.27
It's also used as a massage oil to help relieve stress and aching muscles, and as a natural insect repellent. It can also help heal insect bites and stop itching.28 However, prior to topical application, dilute geranium essential oil with a carrier oil like jojoba, olive or sweet almond. Do not apply geranium oil directly to the skin, especially if you have skin sensitivities.29
Pregnant and nursing women should consult a physician or health expert first before attempting to use geranium oil, since there's a lack of research about the oil's safety. This oil should not be used on young children and babies, because their skin is very delicate. Furthermore, parents should avoid administrating the essential oil near children's noses, as there were initial reports of toxicities and even death after doing this.