Geraniol…I Think I Love You

Ahhhh…geraniol. The fragrant monoterpenoid, common to flowers such as roses and geraniums, has quickly become a personal favorite of mine, and for magnificently medicinal reasons. But before getting into that, it’s worth noting that geraniol is also found in a delightful array of other plants, including lemongrass, catnip, beebalm, citronella, Assam tea, grapes, and tobacco. Amazingly, geraniol has also been shown to be the active component in the Nasonov pheromone released by worker honeybees to re-orient the bees out foraging back to the hive. [1]

Geraniol demonstrates antioxidant properties. [2] Researchers found that geraniol increased cell viability, that is, the cell’s ability to survive or live successfully, when using rat alveolar macrophages — a type of cell within the body that’s capable of surrounding and absorbing bacteria, thereby helping to clear our airways of infectious, toxic, or allergic particles.Geraniol also led to an increase in superoxide dismutase (SOD), an important enzyme that catalyzes the breakdown of the superoxide radical (O2), thus making it an integral antioxidant. When the superoxide radical is not held in check, damage to our cells can result.

Geraniol has also been found to be a neuroprotectant. [3] When geraniol was given to mice in which Parkinson’s disease (PD) had been induced, the mice demonstrated improved motor coordination, and expression of biomolecules called neurotrophic factors (NTFs), which enrich the growth and survival potential of neurons. They are also involved in the formation of long-lasting memories. This study also demonstrated geraniol’s antioxidant activity. These attributes make it an attractive molecule for further study in treating or preventing neurodegenerative disorders like PD.

The list of important therapeutic applications of geraniol goes on. Researchers have found the terpenoid to possess antitumor or anticancer properties. [4, and references therein] These findings have been shown for skin, oral, breast, lung, colon, prostate, pancreatic, kidney, and liver cancers. It suppressed the growth of breast cancer tumor cells, while a specific type of healthy cell line was unaffected. [5] Lung tumor cells in mice were reduced in mass and volume when treated with geraniol. [6] Furthermore, the spread of cancerous cells in both the colon and the pancreas was decelerated. [7, 8] Geraniol was found to provide chemoprotective activity in both kidney [9] and liver [10] cancers. Chemoprotective agents protect healthy tissue from the toxic effects of anticancer medications.Additionally, geraniol has increased the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs.

While the mechanisms by which geraniol inhibits tumor growth and survival might not be well-understood, yet, the fact that it has been studied with regards to so many different types of cancer make it a tremendously significant molecule for further study.

Cannabis cultivars known to contain geraniol include Lavender, Amnesia Haze, Headband, Great White Shark, and Death Star OG. So, yeah, I guess it is love after all.


[1] Boch, R. and Shearer, D. “Identification of Geraniol as the Active Component in the Nassanoff Pheromone of the Honey Bee”, Nature, 1962, Volume 194: Pages 704-706. [journal impact factor = 41.577; cited by 127]


[2] Tiwari, M., and Kakkar, P. “Plant derived antioxidants – Geraniol and camphene protect rat alveolar macrophages against t-BHP induced oxidative stress”, Toxicology in Vitro, 2009, Volume 23, Pages 295-301.[journal impact factor = 2.903; cited by 112]


[3] Rehka, K. et al. “GeraniolAmeliorates the Motor Behavior and Neurotrophic Factors Inadequacy in MPTP-Induced Mice Model of Parkinson’s Disease”, J MolNeurosci, 2013, Volume 51: Pages 851–862.[journal impact factor = 2.891; cited by 26]


[4] Cho, M. et al. “The antitumor effects of geraniol: Modulation of cancer hallmark pathways (Review)”, International Journal of Oncology, 2016, Volume 8: Pages 1772-1782.[journal impact factor = 3.025; cited by 27]


[5] Duncan R. et al. “Geraniol and beta-ionone inhibit proliferation, cell cycle progression, and cyclin-dependent kinase 2 activity in MCF-7 breast cancer cells independent of effects on HMG-CoA reductase activity”,Biochem Pharmacol, 2004, Volume 68: Pages 1739-1747.[journal impact factor = 5.009; cited by 107]


[6] Galle M. et al. “Suppression by geraniol of the growth of A549 human lung adenocarcinoma cells and inhibition of the mevalonate pathway in culture and in vivo: Potential use in cancer chemotherapy”, Nutr Cancer, 2014, Volume 66: Pages 888-895.[journal impact factor = 2.322; cited by 19]


[7] Carnesecchi S. et al. “Geraniol, a component of plant essential oils, inhibits growth and polyamine biosynthesis in human colon cancer cells”,J PharmacolExpTher, 2001, Volume 298: Pages 197-200.[journal impact factor = 3.867; cited by 183]


[8] Burke Y. et al. “Inhibition of pancreatic cancer growth by the dietary isoprenoids farnesol and geraniol”,Lipids, 1997, Volume 32: Pages 151-156.[journal impact factor = 5.559; cited by 228]


[9] Ahmad S. et al. “Preclinical renal cancer chemopreventive efficacy of geraniol by modulation of multiple molecular pathways”, Toxicology, 2011, Volume 290: Pages 69-81.[journal impact factor = 3.621; cited by 48


[10] Ong T. et al. “Farnesol and geraniol chemopreventive activities during the initial phases of hepatocarcinogenesis involve similar actions on cell proliferation and DNA damage, but distinct actions on apoptosis, plasma cholesterol and HMGCoA reductase”, Carcinogenesis, 2006, Volume 27: Pages 1194‑1203.[journal impact factor = 5.334; cited by 98]

About the author

Jason S. Lupoi, Ph.D.

Jason S. Lupoi, Ph.D.

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