Nerolidol Photo by: Gina Coleman/Weedmaps

A sesquiterpene present in the essential oil of many plants and flowers, such as lavender and jasmine. Alternately referred to as peruviol and penetrol, this terpene possesses a floral or woody aroma reminiscent of fresh tree bark. There are two isomers of nerolidol, cis-nerolidol and trans-nerolidol. Nerolidol's therapeutic effects include antifungal, sedative, anticancer, antibacterial, and anti-anxiety properties.

What is nerolidol?

Nerolidol is the primary scent compound of a species of orchid native to Mexico. In addition to lending its floral fragrance to this orchid, cannabis, and other plants, nerolidol has been used as a natural sleep aid due to its purported sedative properties. The nerolidol terpene may also be beneficial in combating pests that harm humans and plants. Nerolidol has, in some cases, been effective at warding off head lice, spider mites, parasites, and certain bacteria and fungi, in addition to exhibiting a range of other potential health benefits as a scent compound and a naturally occurring component of cannabis. 

What is cis-nerolidol?

There are two different types of nerolidol, cis-nerolidol and trans-nerolidol. The difference between cis-nerolidol and trans-nerolidol lies in the arrangement of their atoms, along with other properties. In simple terms, nerolidol encompasses both types.

What is nerolidol good for?

The combination of woody and floral notes in nerolidol makes it a popular addition to lotions and perfumes. You may have also encountered the terpene in a scented moisturizer or salve made with nerolidol-rich essential oils such as orange blossom (neroli) or tea tree oil.

As the terpene is a component of ginger, you may have cooked or baked with it. In fact, nerolidol is a commonly used terpene in the food industry and serves as a flavoring agent and scent compound in many products, including candy and chewing gum. 

Finally, you may have experienced nerolidol as a woody aroma outdoors while strolling through a garden of Brassavola nodosa, or Mexican orchids.

Therapeutic properties of nerolidol

Researchers are currently studying potential health benefits, including the nerolidol terpene's different effects on different people. Researchers need to conduct clinical trials in order to develop a better understanding of nerolidol's effects on humans.


One 2007 study published in the Biological & Pharmaceutical Bulletin analyzed the effectiveness of nerolidol against a skin fungus in guinea pigs. Researchers found that nerolidol seemed to act as an antifungal agent in a clinically effective manner on the guinea pigs.  


A 2013 study published in the journal Neurochemical Research revealed that nerolidol appeared to have a sedative and antioxidant effect on rodent test subjects. More research is needed to understand if nerolidol could function as a sleep aid for humans.


One 2016 study published in the journal BMC Neuroscience showed that nerolidol had apparent antioxidant properties in rodents. Researchers found that nerolidol protected against oxidative stress and exhibited potential in treating neurological conditions, such as Parkinson's disease.  


In 2017 Basic & Clinical Pharmacology & Toxicology published a study that demonstrated how cis-nerolidol arrested cell growth and induced cell death in human liver cancer. 

Antibacterial and antimicrobial

Nerolidol terpene effects may include the ability to make certain strains of bacteria more susceptible to antibiotics, as uncovered in a 2003 study published in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. Further, a 2007 animal study published in the Netherlands in the International Journal of Antimicrobial Agents discovered that the terpene could be a tool against malaria when used with other drugs.  


A 2016 study published in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology found that nerolidol seemed to have an anti-anxiety effect in mice. 

Skin lesions

A 2007 study published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutics found that nerolidol was a skin penetration enhancer of topical agents on animals, which could possibly benefit skin lesions. Further research is necessary to determine if nerolidol could exert an effect on human skin lesions.

Role of nerolidol in cannabis

Due to its sedative properties, the terpene may provide a tranquilizing effect when experienced through cannabis. The cannabis strains Jack Herer, Blue Dream, Black Lime Reserve, Chemdawg, Island Sweet Skunk, and Skywalker OG contain high levels of nerolidol. Jack Herer and Blue Dream, in particular, are two prominent cannabis strains high in THC, which may enhance any psychoactive or sedative effects of nerolidol. The natural woody aroma emanating from nerolidol could enhance such sedative qualities as well.

Bottom line

Nerolidol is notable for its appealing floral, woody aroma and for its potential as a therapeutic agent against diseases as diverse as malaria 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 June 20, 2022.