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Citronellol: Uses, Health Benefits, and Strains

in the picture shown a sliced lemon, citronella flower, sliced ginger, lemon grass and whole ginger

If citronellol sounds familiar, you might recognize it from bright, yellow mosquito candles and insect repellants made from the citronella plant (thus the nickname “the mosquito plant”).

Citronellol itself is a terpene found in plants like citronella plants (Cymbopogon nardus), lemon geraniums, lemongrass, eucalyptus, catnip, ginger, and of course, cannabis. The fresh, grassy smell of this terpene lends itself well as a fragrance ingredient to perfumes and is a base for botanical products like geranium oil and rose oil.

The signature smell of citronellol is also commonly found in mosquito sprays. However, note that citronella does attract other insects like spider mites, which can be an issue if you’re growing cannabis or other plants.

Like other terpenes, citronellol scents vary; they can have a fresh, floral smell or bright citrus smell, depending on the version. This is one reason why citronellol makes for such perfect perfume compositions.

Besides its use as a fragrance ingredient, citronellol has potential medicinal uses as well. Research is limited, but studies have found essential oils like citronellol appear to have antiseptic, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. Let’s take a closer look.

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What Is Citronellol?

Citronellol is a terpene found in a wide range of plants, including basil, lemongrass, and cannabis. It is a naturally-derived ingredient that carries a grassy, citrus, or floral smell. Many essential oils and personal care products have citronellol as an ingredient due to its pleasant aroma and antifungal properties, which results in smoother skin and reduces signs of fine lines.

Known scientifically as dihydrogeraniol, or geraniol for short, citronellol is a terpene or chemical compound that gives plants their signature smells. Citronella oils are common fragrances used in perfumes, cleaning products, insect repellents, and beauty products.

Citronellol comes in two forms that produce different scents. One form has a citrus smell and the other a sweet floral scent reminiscent of roses.

Free Cannabinoid and Terpene Guide

Health Benefits and Uses

Aside from what is arguably its most popular use — repelling mosquitoes — citronellol is suggested to have a wide range of health benefits as well.

Healing Wounds

Citronellol is a natural antiseptic, so it’s good at wiping out germs. While scientific studies on humans are limited, citronellol’s antimicrobial properties show promise in helping clean and speed up wound healing.

Improving Skin

As we mentioned earlier, citronellol acts as an antifungal, which makes it a popular ingredient for skincare products. Geraniols are primary components or raw materials in other essential oil products (like rose oil and geranium essential oil) that have a wide range of potential benefits for the skin.

As such, citronellol may promote anti-aging benefits and could also be useful for managing conditions like chronic dermatophytosis (ringworm), which causes red rashes on the skin. Products like geranium essential oil may help reduce acne breakouts and other types of skin irritation.

Lowering Heart Rate

Citronellol has been shown to reduce heart rate and relax arteries in rats. While studies in human subjects are needed, this early research indicates that citronellol could make it useful for managing high blood pressure (hypertension).

Reducing Disease Spread

You’ve likely experienced firsthand the relief citronellol can provide from the ever-bothersome mosquito. But repellants like these actually play a larger role in reducing the spread of mosquito-borne diseases — including dengue fever, malaria, and yellow fever — which are responsible for killing thousands of people every year.

Potential Risks and Side Effects

There are few risks or dangers associated with using citronellol on the skin, although an allergic reaction can happen. It’s always a good idea to do a skin test as some may be allergic to the terpene, which may cause skin or eye irritation.

Highly concentrated citronellol products can cause skin irritation that produces rashes or blisters. That said, keep in mind highly concentrated forms of the terpenes aren’t found in products you’d consume or use for topical applications.

If citronellol is eaten, it may cause coughing or throat irritation. In general, there is little harm associated with citronellol.

Cannabis Strains High in Citronellol

Cannabis strains (cultivars) with distinctly lemon, orange, or rose scents are likely to contain higher levels of citronellol. This includes varieties like:

  • Lemon Kush OG
  • Lemon Skunk
  • Super Lemon Haze
  • Lemon Tree
  • Lemon OG
  • Orange Skunk
  • California Orange
  • Sugar Black Rose
  • Thunderbird Rose
  • Sweet Jane

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Frequently Asked Questions

What does citronellol do for skin?

Citronellol is often used in cosmetics due to its pleasant, sweet, citrus, and grassy aromas. While its smell doesn’t affect the skin, its antifungal properties do. Early research shows citronellol could help manage types of fungal infections and improve skin’s appearance.

Is citronellol safe?

Citronellol has low permeability, which means it doesn’t soak into the skin too deeply. That means it shouldn’t cause skin irritation. In concentrated form, citronella oils can mildly irritate the skin and eyes. If eaten in high doses, people may cough or experience throat irritation. In general, citronellol is considered quite safe for use.

Can you be allergic to citronellol?

Yes, some people may be allergic to citronellol and find it causes skin or eye irritation. While severe allergic reactions are rare, citronellol can cause contact dermatitis (an allergic skin reaction).

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