Similar to the decorative flower of the same name, Geraniums used by herbalists are native to South Africa's arid Cape Province region.
Sharing several constituents with rose oil - geraniol, linalol and citronellol - the essential oil has an aroma that is similar to that of rose. Thus Geranium oil is often used as a scent in soaps and detergents.
Geranium oil is produced in environments as far apart as Africa, Russia, China and Reunion. As with many plants, there are wide variations in the essential oil due to variations in the climate and soil in which it is grown. It can vary from sweet and rosy to musty, minty and green.
The distillation process involves cutting the leaves, then allowing them to partly dry before beginning the distillation process. That way there is less water to be vaporized and extracted from the plant material during the distillation.
It was very popular during Victorian times, when a potted plant was kept in order to always have a supply of fresh sprigs for reviving sensitive ladies. It was also used in finger bowls at formal dining tables.
These days it is considered indispensable by many aromatherapists, popular for those with congested, oily and dry skin.