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What is Geraniol? 9 Powerful Uses and Benefits of this Potent Terpene

You know what geraniums are (and if you don’t, go check your mother’s garden). But what is geraniol? And how can you use this terpene to improve your products and your health? In this post, we’ll answer your questions about this powerful terpene, including its uses, benefits, and potential side effects.


geraniol pink geranium blue sky

Reading time: 6 mins

We know you're incredibly busy, so here are the key takeaways:

9 Powerful Uses and Benefits of Geraniol

  1. Geraniol is an acyclic monoterpene alcohol (but don't drink it!).

  2. Geraniol is found in essential oils in plants like Geraniums, Palmarosas, Java Citronell, and Roses.

  3. Its sweet, floral, and citrusy notes work well in perfumes and creams.

  4. Geraniol is great for relaxation as well as a flavor enhancer for lemon, grapefruit, lime, and orange.

  5. Geraniol candles can be 5x more effective than citronella candles at repelling insects. 

  6. It acts as an effective antimicrobial and antibacterial.

  7. In its ability to fight free radicals, geraniol may have antioxidant, antitumor, and anticancer properties. 

  8. Studies have shown that geraniol can fight inflammatory responses in the body.

  9. It smells great!

    Now that the basics are covered, are you ready to dive a little deeper?

    Let’s do it.  

    What is Geraniol?

    Here’s a quick rundown of the science:

    Geraniol is a chemical compound in the terpene family. Chemical building blocks called isoprenes make up terpenes, and geraniol is what’s called an acyclic monoterpene alcohol. Monoterpenoid means that geraniol contains two copies of the building block isoprenes. Acyclic means that geraniol does not contain a ring in its chemical structure.

    It’s found in plant essential oils that come from plants and fruits like geranium oil, palmarosa oil, Java citronella oil, or rose oil. (1)

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    How Can Your Brand Use It?

    geraniol terpene uses pink geranium

    We use geraniol in consumer products like cosmetics and as food additives for its flavor and smell. Its sweet rose odor has hints of citrus, so it’s the perfect fragrance material for perfumes and creams. You may find the smell relaxes you for meditative moments when used in aromatherapy. Companies also use it in small quantities to enhance flavors like lemon, grapefruit, lime, and orange.


    People who research ways to make stronger health benefits think terpenes like geraniol may act together with certain botanical chemicals in a process known as the entourage effect (2). This effect describes when two chemicals act together to produce a chemical effect that is stronger than either chemical alone.

    Health Benefits of Geraniol

    Aside from its use as a flavor and an aroma, scientific literature suggests geraniol has many therapeutic uses. It seems the terpene boasts antioxidant, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties.

     

    Geraniol May Be Used as an Insect Repellent and Pesticide

    geraniol insect repellent close up fly

    If you're worried about creating or using a harmful fly or mosquito repellent, check this out:

    Geraniol candles repelled mosquitoes and sandflies five times more effectively than citronella candles and two times more effectively than linalool candles.

    Studies suggest geraniol also works as an effective pesticide against various types of even smaller critters (like the kind from your darkest nightmares you can only see with a microscope).

    Finally, researchers found essential oil with geraniol as its main active ingredient kills tiny parasitic worms found in certain fish (6).

    Specific essential oils make good insect repellents and insecticides, on top of being biodegradable. This means the oils don't stick around to harm the environment after we toss them.

    Geraniol Has Antimicrobial and Antibacterial Properties

    This terp is more than a one-trick pony. Sure, it helps make a killer bug spray. But it also acts as an antimicrobial agent to destroy bacteria and fungi harmful to our health!

    Much like it enhances the effects of certain compounds through the entourage effect, geraniol may also act together with other compounds to fight microbial disease.

    Studies suggest geraniol protects against the harmful fungus Candida albicans (7) which causes yeast infections and thrush. It can also knock out harmful bacteria that cause food poisonings like Campylobacter jejuni, E.coli, Listeria monocytogenes and Salmonella enterica (8). These bacteria can make you sick and may even cause death in severe cases when left untreated.

    Geraniol Even Has Antioxidant, Antitumor, and Anticancer Properties

    Oxidation is a chemical process that occurs inside the human body. Oxidizing chemicals called free radicals can damage human DNA and other components inside cells. They’re thought to contribute to aging, arteriosclerosis, and asthma (9)So having lots of free radicals is NOT a good thing. In fact, free radicals are associated with cancer, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and more.  

    Basically, the less free radicals you subject your body to, the less likely you are to develop certain cancers and diseases.

    This is where geraniols powerful antioxidant properties come in handy. Terpenes in essential oils act like assassins contracted to wipe out free radicals by scavenging them in your body (10). This neutralizes the free radicals, rendering them inactive and unable to cause damage.

    What’s even more amazing is the effect that geraniol may have on tumors. According to a review published by the International Journal of Oncology, “geraniol sensitizes tumor cells to commonly used chemotherapy agents” (11). Geraniol may also have the ability to make it harder for cancer cells to become resistant to anticancer drugs. This makes geraniol a very promising compound for future study into multi-targeted anti-cancer treatments.

    Geraniol is an Anti-Inflammatory

    geraniol pink white geranium oil flowers leaves

    The ability to fight inflammation often goes hand-in-hand with the antioxidant properties described above.

    Scientists demonstrated the protective effects of geraniol on rat subjects that suffered traumatic spinal injuries. Using the terpene, the researchers suppressed pro-inflammatory signaling pathways to reduce the rats’ inflammatory responses. Plus, this study showed off the terp’s ability to reduce oxidative stress responsible for tissue damage (12).

    Unfortunately, our sugary, fatty, Western diets are a much more common cause of inflammation (13). In a study on animals fed an atherogenic diet-one that causes plaque to build up in your arteries-geraniol helped reduce the effects of the diet by enhancing the body’s free radical scavenging abilities and inhibiting the inflammatory responses (14).

    This doesn’t mean you should go out and stuff your face with Big Macs thinking geraniol will immediately solve the resulting health issues. But it does mean supplementation with food containing the terpene can help reduce symptoms related to your body’s inflammatory response system.

    Potential Side Effects of Geraniol

    Anecdotal evidence suggests allergic contact dermatitis, or sensitive human skin irritation, may be a side effect of topical geraniol use (15). This is true for many substances you use daily, including soaps and detergents. Whether you have sensitive skin or not, you’ll want to read the instructions that come with our isolates to make sure you’re using it correctly.

    The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recognizes geraniol as safe for human consumption when used appropriately (17), and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) exempts it from registration when used as a pesticide or insecticide-unlike chemicals.

    Conclusion: Geraniol Terpenes Pack a Punch

    geraniol terpene two purple geranium flowers

    We use geraniol as a common additive to food and cosmetics for its full flavor and sweet rose aroma. Beyond its commercial use, the terpene shows promise as an insect repellent, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory compound.  Contact us today if you’re interested in using geraniol in any of your products! And don’t forget to Follow Us on Instagram for behind-the-scenes insights and news.

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