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Guide to Geraniol, the Sweet-Smelling Terpene With Anti-Inflammatory Benefits

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While cannabis smells like many things, sweet is one of the rarer yet more beloved descriptives of a strain’s (or cultivar, a plant variety that has been bred for specific traits by selective breeding) aroma. The sweetness can be attributed to a lesser-known terpene in cannabis: geraniol.

Geraniol is one of the hundreds of terpenes found in the cannabis plant. Its oil is colorless and free of flavor, naturally occurring in geranium – where it gets its name – and many other plants. Geraniol produces a sweet, floral fragrance with hints of citrus, and while it’s not as famous as other terpenes, it plays a key role in some of cannabis’ most floral-smelling strains.  Geraniol has antioxidant and anticancer properties.

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What Is Geraniol?

As mentioned above, geraniol is a terpene so-named for the geranium plant, a herb that shares the terpene’s signature citrus and floral scent. Geraniol occurs in many places in nature, such as in roses, lemongrass, citrus fruit like lemons and grapefruits, coriander, and some berries.

Some animals also naturally produce geraniol. Honey bees produce geraniol from their scent glands to identify nectar-bearing fruit for their hive members and mark their territory against potential rival bee colonies. A 2016 study discovered that E. coli (which naturally produces a small amount of terpene) could be engineered to produce higher quantities of geraniol, which is promising for industrial applications.

Geraniol’s signature fragrance is a natural insect repellent, making it a key ingredient in bug spray and the primary ingredient in citronella oil products. Many companies use geraniol as a fragrance in cleaning products to enhance their smells and the terpene’s disinfectant and pest-controlling properties.

The subtlety and complexity of geraniol’s floral, rosy notes also make it a favorite in the fragrance industry. Geraniol is added to a vast catalog of perfumes, lotions, candles, and other beauty products.

Health Benefits and Uses

While the research to date is limited, geraniol has featured in a handful of scientific studies and, in them, demonstrated promising therapeutic potential.

A 2015 review examined geraniol’s potential pharmacological applications and found that the existing research showed antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This indicates geraniol’s usefulness in soothing chronic pain or other inflammatory conditions.

Another study exploring the antibacterial and antifungal potential of several essential oils found evidence that geraniol was the most effective against fungi and one of the most effective against bacteria, marking it as potentially valuable for combating dermatological issues.

Geraniol examined in animal studies has also shown promising potential in managing diabetes and other digestive conditions and mitigating symptoms of atherosclerosis, which causes plaque formation in arteries. Finally, examinations of geraniol’s effect on cancer cells show potential for tumor reductive and inhibitive properties, suggesting usefulness in treating certain cancers.

Potential Risks and Side Effects

Geraniol is generally non-toxic to animals and humans, though there may be some risk of allergic reaction. There is a slight risk of skin reactions or sensitivity when using geraniol topically, as with many essential oils. However, its toxicity applies primarily to insects, making it a valuable and non-toxic bug repellent.

The FDA recognizes geraniol as safe for human consumption, so there is no risk of toxicity when ingested. There are no known side effects of using geraniol.

Cannabis Strains High in Geraniol

Geraniol isn’t one of cannabis’ most prevalent terpenes, yet its distinct rose, floral, and citrus notes are the key element in giving several strains their distinctive bouquet. A few strains/cultivars that feature geraniol in a substantial amount include:

  • Agent Orange
  • Harlequin
  • Purple Punch
  • Black Cherry Soda
  • Strawberry Diesel
  • Kimbo Kush
  • Dutch Hawaiian

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is geraniol safe for humans?

Yes, geraniol is safe for consumption and topical use in humans, and it is primarily toxic to insects, bacteria, and fungi.

Is geraniol safe for skin?

Geraniol is safe for topical use in humans. Many skin care, beauty, and perfume companies use geraniol as a scent enhancer and its antibacterial properties. However, those with sensitive skin may want to test geraniol on a small patch to confirm the possibility of an allergic reaction.

Where is geraniol found?

Geraniol occurs naturally in a wide variety of plants and some animals. The essential oil is produced by geraniums (where it gets its name), roses, lemongrass, citrus fruit like lemons and grapefruits, coriander, and berries. Honey bees and the bacteria E. coli also produce geraniol as an essential oil.

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