There’s a lot of information out there about the major cannabinoids in cannabis like tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD). But cannabis’s other active ingredients, terpenes, play a big role in both the taste and smell of marijuana—and its therapeutic effects.
In our series on terpenes, we’ve gone over some of the most common terpenes like:
Next, we want to focus on another powerful, but lesser-known terpene: geraniol. This terpene smells sweet and floral, and also acts as an antioxidant, neuroprotectant and pain reliever.
Cannabis is a complicated plant. Researchers have identified over 400 chemical components in cannabis—including more than 60 cannabinoids. Around 200 of these identified compounds are terpenes—a different class of chemical responsible for much of the smell and taste we perceive in cannabis.
Unlike cannabinoids, terpenes aren’t unique to marijuana. Terpenes give flavor and aroma to many plants, fruits and vegetables—some insects even produce terpenes, too.
These flavorful and aromatic chemicals have also been shown to have therapeutic properties, altering the effects of cannabis in powerful ways. In fact, research suggests that terpenes can be the biggest chemical factor in the experiential differences between marijuana strains.
Like cannabinoids, terpenes are also subject to the entourage effect. This means that they work together synergistically, and may cause different effects depending on the other cannabinoids and terpenes present.
Geraniol is a fragrant terpene named for the geranium flower, which contains geraniol and has a similar odor: a sweet rose scent with a hint of citrus.
Geraniol can also be found in:
Honey bees also produce geraniol from their scent glands. They use the terpene to mark nectar-bearing flowers and the entrance to their hives.
Traditionally, manufacturers added geraniol to cosmetics or food products, because of its sweet fragrance and taste. The rose and citrus aromas make it ideal for enhancing flavors like rose, lemon, orange or lime.
But recently, researchers have been exploring the other potential uses for this terpene, and are finding some incredible results. It turns out there are many therapeutic uses for geraniol, including:
Studies also suggest geraniol works against various types of mites and can even kill tiny parasitic worms found in certain fish. Since it’s natural and biodegradable, it’s a great base for an insecticide that won’t harm the environment.
Studies on geraniol have found it can protect against the fungus that causes yeast infections and thrush, as well as many of the bacteria that cause food poisoning. Since these organisms can be deadly, geraniol could prove to be a key ingredient in life-saving treatment.
One study showed that geraniol helped inhibit cell growth in rodents. Another study showed that geraniol slowed the growth and proliferation of prostate cancer cells in a lab setting. Though there’s a long way to go to prove geraniol can affect cancer cells in humans, its antioxidant properties have cancer researchers excited for possible future studies.
In another study, researchers fed hamsters a diet that causes plaque buildup in the arteries along with geraniol. Scientists found that geraniol helped reduce the negative effects of the diet by inhibiting the inflammatory response.
For relieving pain: Another big benefit of this terpene is its ability to ease pain. Studies on mice treated with geraniol showed that geraniol directly mediated activation of pain neuron sites in the brain. This allowed for pain relief without negatively affecting motor skills, a feature that’s much needed among our current pain treatment options.
Enhancing topical cannabis: As if geraniol didn’t have enough going for it, it can also help make other chemicals more effective. Geraniol can enhance the skin’s ability to absorb cannabis topicals. So, topical preparations high in geraniol may be more potent and effective than ones without the terpene.
As a neuroprotectant: One final therapeutic benefit of geraniol that’s important to mention is its ability to protect nerve cells. One study showed that geraniol was able to help preserve the structure and function of nerve cells. The authors of the study note that this could make it particularly helpful in treating diabetic neuropathy, which causes pain, numbness and weakness in the limbs.
Looking to take geraniol yourself? The best way to benefit from this terpene is to find cannabis products that contain higher levels of geraniol. While isolates of geraniol exist, it works best when blended into a ready-made product.
In high concentrations, geraniol can cause allergic reactions, skin discomfort and eye irritation, so it’s not recommended that individuals use the isolates themselves.
Still, finding products that advertise their terpene content isn’t always easy, and geraniol is one of the rarer terpenes. One trick for finding geraniol-rich marijuana strains is to look for cannabis flower or products rich in linalool, which tends to correlate with higher levels of geraniol.
But even when terpene results are absent, these powerful compounds just can’t hide—use your nose. The slight smell of roses and citrus in a marijuana strain may indicate higher levels of this terpene. You can also look for cannabis strains that are known to have higher levels of geraniol such as Amnesia Haze or strains with Skunk in the name.
Photo credit: Erol Ahmed