Every so often, my husband will head out to my garden and come back chewing something or other. Sometimes it’s an actual fruit or vegetable. Sometimes it is a leaf off my Wandering jew plant and sometimes he’s salted and eaten a leaf from my geranium plant. He swears that it was the remedy Mama Sofia (his grandmother) would prescribe when he had a bit of a stomach ache.
Not one to let unexamined herbal remedies slide by, I set about to find more on this plant. The genus for this plant is pelargonium spp and there are nearly 300 varieties. It is native to South Africa but was brought to Mexico in the seventeenth century.
Although a favorite of certain species of butterflies, the Japanese beetle becomes paralyzed after eating geranium flowers. It seems that they contain quisqualic acid which causes excitotoxicity (nerve cell death).
In Mexico, geranio leaves are mashed with vinegar and salt and applied to the forehead to alleviate headaches. A decoction made from red geranium flowers is used to treat diarrhea. Another diarrhea remedy calls for a rounded spoonful of ground geranio root boiled in ½ cup of water drunk every hour until the ailment ceases.
An upset stomach can be treated with a tea made from geranio, manzanilla (chamomile) and yerba buena (spearmint). Pelargonium sidoides and Pelargonium endlicherianum have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties that will indeed calm your stomach. Pelargonium roseum Willd. is antiparasitic and thus another variety that can soothe your digestive system if you have intestinal parasites.
The leaves are also applied topically to treat sores and wounds. Pelargonium graveolens has antifungal properties and is effective in healing diabetic foot ulcers. Pelargonium asperum and Pelargonium peltatum are antibacterial in nature.
Scented geraniums have long been used in perfumes. Pelargonium quercifolium smells like incense. The Prince Rupert variety has a lemon scent. P. radula has a lemon-rose smell. P. odoratissimum has an apple scent. P. capitatum smells like attar of roses. The aroma of the Reunion Geranium (Pelargonium roseum Willd) has an antidepressant effect.
Pelargonium sidoides is an effective treatment for acute respiratory tract infections. Extracts from the root of this same plant can calm a cough. Rose geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) essential oil has anticancer components.
Not all varieties have been studied scientifically, but there is more than enough evidence to say that geranio belongs in a curandera’s garden after all.