This is the 12th installment in our weekly series, “Let’s Talk Terpenes,” published every Monday. For more information, read the introduction to this series, “Let’s Talk Terpenes: A Guide For Medical Marijuana Patients.”

Some terpenes have a larger role in the foundational character of a strain, while others add cadence and complexity. Strains such as Agent Orange, Strawberry Diesel or Purple Punch, with fruity and floral aromatic profiles, may owe their uniquely sweet fragrance, in part, to a terpene called geraniol. In addition, cannabis strains that are rich in linalool are usually also high in geraniol. 

This terpene’s name may sound familiar because it’s derived from the geranium plant, the herb known for its citrus scent and insect-repelling properties. However, geraniol’s somewhat peculiar aroma brings in more subtle notes of rose and fruits, playing a softer role than the strong citrus smells of citronella oil that is found in geraniums.

Like almost all other major terpenes in cannabis, geraniol has powerful antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. This makes geraniol potentially useful for a variety of therapeutic applications, as supported by various scientific studies.

In 2009, scientists studied the combined effects of geraniol and camphene to discover that both of these terpenes were useful in the treatment of inflammatory lung diseases. 

Then, in 2011, researchers found that geraniol was effective at relieving bacterial-induced inflammation in animal models, proposing that it could be used as a novel therapeutic approach for the treatment of inflammatory side effects.

Its pharmacological potential as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory were brought to light in this 2015 review.

Geraniol was also found to be an effective antifungal and antibacterial when put up against 18 varieties of bacteria and 12 varieties of fungi in another study.

 A recent study published in 2016 in the Journal of Cancer Medicine showed that geraniol was able to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells by altering the expression of master genes involved in cell proliferation. This prevented cancer cells from spreading to other parts of the body.

Among the most promising therapeutic uses for geraniol is its potential contribution to cancer treatment. There is scientific evidence that the natural antioxidant properties of this terpene discourage tumorous cell growth in a number of cancers.

A 2005 study published in Biochemical Pharmacology showed how geraniol inhibited the proliferation of MCF-7 breast cancer cells.

Perhaps the strangest synthesis of geraniol is within honey bees, who produce it in their scent glands as both a marker for nectar-bearing fruits and as a territorial mechanism to thwart off potentially dangerous colonies from creating a hive or taking over a pollination site.

Besides the geranium plant, geraniol can be found in rose oil, lemongrass, lemons, peaches, grapefruits, oranges, carrots, coriander, blueberries, and blackberries. The subtlety of geraniol’s rose and floral notes, which are accentuated by slight citrus tones, make this terpene a major player in the fragrance industry. Geraniol is utilized as an additive to a variety of perfumes, colognes, lotions, detergents, candles, as well as many other household products. This terpene is also used as a food additive, especially in pastries and desserts.

Understanding individual terpene characteristics can play a key factor in selecting the ideal strain. Whether inhaled or used aromatically or topically, geraniol can be a key component in the broad spectrum of terpenes and cannabinoids that maximize the therapeutic effects cannabis may provide. Feel free to email us to assist with any questions you may have.