Some of the components of an essential oil have opened the way to the discovery of new groups of compounds with unusual chemical behavior. Our subject, zdravetz (Geranium macrorrhizum L.), belongs to the Geraniaceae family, which abounds in aromatic plants including the genus Pelargonium. It originates from South Africa and is widespread along the Mediterranean coast. Large quantities of pelargonium oil, incorrectly known as “geranium oil,” are produced from different varieties of Pelargonium roseum L. Of the genus Geranium, only zdravetz is used in Bulgaria for production of essential oil and aromatic extracts.
In Bulgarian “zdrave” means “health.” The people gave the name to this mountain plant for its green leaves with their specific warm-fresh aroma. It is a herbaceous perennial plant which grows in Bulgaria mostly at altitudes of 800-1700 metres above sea level. It forms long stems in the soil, branching out in vegetative tips with bunches of green leaves that contain less than 0.1% oil and are used for the preparation of aromatic products. Attempts at industrial cultivation of zdravetz have always been unsuccessful.
The first small quantities of zdravetz oil were produced in Bulgaria around 1926 by water distillation of the fresh leaves. Since 1950, the oil is a regular item in the list of natural Bulgarian aromatics as, in the following years, were the aromatic extracts, i.e. zdravetz concrete and zdravetz absolute. The total annual amount, produced from wild-growing plants only, is limited to some several hundred kilograms.