Isoborneol Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

Isoborneol is a terpene with a spicy, woody aroma. Isoborneol is also commonly used as a food additive, a flavoring agent, and a natural insect repellent. Isoborneol is an isomeric form of borneol — the isomers, or compounds, in the two are the same, but the atomic arrangements and properties are different.

What is isoborneol?

Isoborneol is a white solid monoterpene that lends a fruity or spicy flavor to foods and beverages when employed as an additive. This terpene infuses perfumes with the same aromatic properties. Similar to borneol from which it derives, isoborneol possesses a camphor like fragrance reminiscent of the woods.

Isoborneol in everyday life

Isoborneol is frequently used to flavor baked goods, so you may have tasted the terpene in a carrot cake, gingerbread cookie, or other spicily sweet desserts. Hard candies with fruit flavors may also contain isoborneol as an additive. Beverages such as orange and grape soda could be a liquid source of isoborneol. Finally, isoborneol may be an ingredient in certain insect repellants.

Therapeutic properties of isoborneol

The most notable therapeutic property of isoborneol is as a potential antiviral agent. Researchers have pinpointed a specific potency in isoborneol that may treat the common herpes simplex virus. Isoborneol has also shown to exhibit antimicrobial, antitumor and neuroprotective properties.


A 1999 study published in Antiviral Research asserted that isoborneol acted as a potent inhibitor of herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1), which causes painful sores or fever blisters to form around the mouth. In the study, isoborneol was found to inactivate the virus within 30 minutes of exposure and to inhibit replication of the virus. The tests were performed on human and monkey cell lines, and additional tests on active viruses in humans would be helpful.


Along with other terpenes, such as linalool and camphene, isoborneol may possess antimicrobial qualities within essential oils used in traditional Chinese medicine. A 2013 study published in Natural Product Communications tested these terpenes and others to compare the antimicrobial activity of different essential oils. The oil containing isoborneol demonstrated the highest antimicrobial effect when tested against bacterial and fungal strains.


A 2011 study published in Investigational New Drugs showed that a derivative of isoborneol, but not isoborneol itself, was promising in slowing the growth of cancerous tumors in mice, both in vitro (in a container) and in vivo (in living mice). While the results were encouraging, the researchers noted that additional studies are essential.


Isoborneol could be an effective treatment for some neurodegenerative diseases, according to a 2007 study published in Cellular Physiology and Biochemistry. Specifically, because isoborneol is a powerful antioxidant, it may prove useful in treating neurodegenerative diseases associated with oxidative stress, such as Parkinson's disease.

Role of isoborneol in cannabis

Isoborneol can infuse your cannabis experience with a sweet or spicy sensation. It is unclear what role isoborneol may play in the psychoactive effects of cannabis. The terpene may be found in cannabis varieties that contain borneol, such as K13-Haze and Golden Haze.

Bottom line

Known for its warm, spicy profile, isoborneol may offer potent properties against a number of diseases and viruses, most notably herpes.

Major contributions from Dr. Adie Rae.

Was this article helpful? Give Feedback

has been subscribed!

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.