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Much Ado About Geranium … or was it Pelargonium?

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I found a treasure at the St Kilda Night Market on Valentine’s Day, a lovely Peppermint Geranium (Pelargonium tomentosum) from the HERBS2HEALME stall.

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The scent when touching the leaves is just like fresh peppermint. What got me hooked into buying was the tip from the grower to use it in baking to infuse chocolate cake with a peppermint flavour.  Both, leaves and flowers are edible and add flavour to sugars, jellies, lemonade and teas. Medicinally it can be used for its astringent properties as a poultice for bruises and sprains.

Having known of rose geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) a world opened for me to explore the many scented varieties that mimic the scent and flavour of the botanical world, e.g., cedar wood, cinnamon, nutmeg, apricots, orange or ginger. Scented geraniums were introduced to England from South Africa in 1632 and it took until the 1840’s to be discovered by French perfume makers.

The Geraniaceae family is a family of perennial herbs and shrubs of 7 genera and about 750 species globally distributed in mostly temperate zones. The genera of Geraniums and Pelargoniums are the Rosencrantz & Guildenstern of the plant world and commonly used interchangeably however they are different genera. To ease confusion GardenWeb has a good description of the differences for you:

“True geraniums, also known as cranesbills, referring to the shape of the fruit, for the most part have symmetrical flowers with ten fertile stamens. Most Pelargonium have bilaterally symmetrical flowers with up to seven of the ten stamens fertile. True Geraniums have a different seed dispersal technique than Pelargoniums. Geraniums fling their seeds away while Pelargonium seeds float away on the breeze and usually have a ‘feathered ‘ end that Geraniums don’t have. Of course, you can only see this when they are producing seeds.

Pelargoniums are tender perennials and occur naturally almost entirely within South Africa. Leaves of true geraniums are usually deeply divided and cut while those of most groups of pelargoniums are not. Pelargoniums also have rather thick, succulent stems, originating as they do from areas where they have to withstand summer drought, whereas geraniums have the appearance of ‘normal’ herbaceous perennial plants, a mounding form of many many slender stems arising from a central core, and fibrous roots.”

Native to Australia are three genera and about 36 species and this native pelargonium was photographed in Porongurup National Park in Western Australia.

Pelargonium

Geranium essential oil is distilled from the flowers and leaves of pelargonium odorantissimum (apple-like fragrance) or graveolens (rose aroma), see below.

Rose Geranium

The oil is widely used by the perfume industry as it can be made to imitate most fragrances. As with all essential oils the list of properties is long and includes for example analgesic, antidepressant, antiseptic, diuretic, insecticide, tonic, vasoconstrictor which support our mind and body in the following ways:

Mind: Tonifies the nervous system and reduces stress through its action on the adrenal cortex.

Body: Regulates the endocrine system and is effective for premenstrual tension and menopausal problems. A tonic for the liver and kidneys to clear the body of toxins. It’s diuretic properties help to guard against fluid retention and swollen ankles. Indicated for throat and mouth infections.

Skin: Balances and tones the skin. Used for acne, bruises, broken capillaries, burns congested skin, oily complexion, mature skin, insect repellent, wounds.

In her book ‘Bach-Blueten und 52 neue Bluetenessenzen’ Dr. Cornelia Alber-Klein indicates Geranium flower essence (geranium perforatum) to be used when wanting to break through confined social or moral life circumstances. It frees a person from the burden of external pressure  having to conform to social and moral constrains to nurture oneself and satisfy one’s own needs.  It allows for space and playfulness in relationships that have grown stale.

References:
Dr. C. Alber-Klein, R. Hornberger. Bach-Blueten und 52 neue Bluetenessenzen. Edition Tirta, 2005.
J. Lawless. The Encyclopedia of Essentail Oils. Thorsons, 2002.
W. Sellar. The Directory of Essential Oils. Vermilion, 2oo1. 
D. Greig. Field Guide to Australian Wildflowers. New Holland, 2012.

© 2013. Annette Zerrenthin

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Lifting the veil on Wild Carrot

Wild carrot Daucus carota is a flowering plant in the Apiaceae  (or Umbelliferae) family of mostly aromatic plants that include angelica, anise, caraway and parsley. These plants are known for their umbrella shaped flower head . Light and feathery, Wild carrot also named Queen Anne’s lace, bishops lace or bird’s nest graces meadows and gardens all over the world. Native to temperate climate zones of Europe and south-west Asia the plant has migrated across the oceans to North America and Australia.

The domesticated carrot is a subspecies known as Daucus carota subsp. sativus.

 Early Geek texts from the 1st century AD describe the use of the plant as a vegetable as well as a medicinal plant thought to contain contraceptive properties.

Carrot seed essential oil is used in aromatherapy as a tonic for the digestive system, especially the liver and gallbladder, and to relieve stress and mental exhaustion. With its carotol properties the oil is a premier skin healing oil, and is used externally mixed in a carrier oil for dryness, dermatitis, ageing skin and eczema. Personally, I love use essential oils in my daily skincare by blending a few drops of  helicrysum, frankincense and carrot seed oils in sweet almond oil and  I am yet to try this face mask of honey, olive oil and carrot seed oil. When using essential oils it is common sense to test if it causes irritation to your skin.

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The healing properties of Wild carrot flower essence centre around vision and seeing in all forms from eyesight, insight to clairvoyance. The doctrine of signature of the plant with its lace like, umbrella shaped flower head suggests a veil that may conceal repressed emotions or hurt, a not wanting to see what is, an obstruction of sight.

 

“But when the self speaks to the self, who is speaking? The entombed soul, the spirit driven in, in, in to the central catacomb; the self that took the veil and left the world — a coward perhaps, yet somehow beautiful, as it flits with its lantern restlessly up and down the dark corridors.” ~ Virginia Woolf

 

The harmonising qualities of the Flower Essence Society’s Queen Anne’s Lace essence are indicated as follows: “This essence is helpful for many who are seeking balanced psychic opening, or who may experience vision problems connected with emergent clairvoyance. The Queen Anne’s Lace flower helps to ground and stabilize, as well as to refine and sensitize the soul’s “clear-seeing.”  

Wild carrot flower essence by the German brand Rosengarten-Essenzen supports us in seeing and recognising what is. It can be used to accompany therapy supporting clear reflection on experiences that had been repressed. The essence relieves eye strain caused by bright sunlight or computer monitors.

© 2013. Annette Zerrenthin

References:
Bodyworks. Murdorch Books, 2007
Davies, P. Aromatherapie von A-Z. Knaur, 1990.
Chiazzari, S. Colour Scents. Saffron Walden, 1998.
Alber-Klein, C. & Hornberger, R. Bach-Blueten und 52 neue Bluetenessenzen. Edition Tirta, 2005.
Kaminski, P. & Katz, R. Flower Essence Repertory. Earth-Spirit Inc., 1992.