Geraniol Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

Geraniol is a monoterpenoid and alcohol that is a primary component of citronella oil, rose oil and palmarosa oil. Geraniol occurs naturally in the essential oils of geranium and lemon as well as numerous fruits, flowers and vegetables. The geraniol terpene has demonstrated anti-inflammatory, anticancer, antibacterial and antifungal properties in addition to a host of purposes in personal and industrial products. 

What is geraniol?

Produced by the scent glands of honeybees, geraniol serves as a mark of nectar-bearing flowers and a guide for the bees to locate the entrance to their hives. The fragrance of geraniol has little to do with honey, however, and is best described as having a rose-like aroma. Because of its floral aroma, geraniol uses typically center around perfumes and other scents. Additionally, the geraniol terpene is often used as a flavoring agent for many fruit-based products, such as the orange flavor in a cough drop or the watermelon flavor of a hard candy. Geraniol bears a connection to other terpenes present in cannabis, including myrcene and ocimene. These two terpenes are formed by the dehydration and isomerization of geraniol. Geraniol is also linked to geranyl acetate.

Geraniol in everyday life

If you have a sweet tooth, then you may have consumed a good amount of geraniol, as the terpene is often used to enhance the flavor of ice cream and candy. Outside of the kitchen, you may have some products containing geraniol in your medicine cabinet, such as body lotion and soap. Finally, along with citronellol, the geraniol terpene is a key component of citronella oil, which wards off mosquitos, so you may have these terpenes sitting on your patio in a candle.   

Therapeutic benefits of geraniol

Recent research is pointing towards geraniol as a weapon against serious medical conditions. 


In animal studies, geraniol has been shown to reduce inflammation in traumatic spinal cord injury. At the same time, geraniol promoted cell survival and provided antioxidant benefits; altogether, these results suggest that the terpene has significant promise in treating injuries. Another study in animals, published in the European Journal of Pharmacology, yielded similar results and showed that geraniol had anti-inflammatory effects against atherogenesis, or the formation of plaques in the arteries that can lead to hardening of the arteries, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.  


A 2016 literature review of the geraniol terpene published in the International Journal of Oncology summarizes the diverse mechanisms by which geraniol fights cancerous tumors; “Geraniol controls a variety of signaling molecules and pathways that represent tumor hallmarks; these actions of geraniol constrain the ability of tumor cells to acquire adaptive resistance against anticancer drugs.” As resistance to anticancer drugs is a reality for many patients, this study and future related research could offer important insights into how to effectively treat cancer with naturally-occurring compounds. The types of cancer that the terpene could fight are plentiful, and may include “breast, lung, colon,  prostate, pancreatic, skin, liver, kidney and oral cancers.”

Antibacterial and antifungal

One study published in the journal Microbios combined antibacterial and antifungal tests utilizing five aromatic constituents of essential oils: cineole, citral, geraniol, linalool and menthol. Geraniol was found to be the second-most effective constituent in fighting bacteria, with linalool leading the group. In combating fungus, geraniol was tied with citral as the most effective. In total, the study found that geraniol was able to inhibit 16 types of bacteria as well as the entire 12 fungi used in the experiment. 

Role of geraniol in cannabis

Several cannabis varieties are rich in the geraniol terpene; among them are Headband, Island Sweet Skunk, Afghani, Lavender and Amnesia Haze. Further, varieties that have high levels of the terpene linalool tend to be high in geraniol as well. Cannabis with a dense concentration of geraniol will often present with a pleasant floral aroma and a sweet, fruity flavor. Afghani, for example, is known for its earthy-sweet aroma that brings to mind fresh fruits. 

Bottom line

A rosy scent and sweet taste are the surface pleasures of the geraniol terpene, but the benefits may go much deeper with the terpene possessing antibacterial and antifungal properties, as well as potentially being used to treat inflammation and cancer.

Major contributions from Dr. Adie Rae.

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The information contained in this site is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical or legal advice. This page was last updated on July 6, 2022.