The cannabis plant contains a great many terpenes. Around 200 of them, to be exact. Of these hundreds, a handful do the lion’s share of the work.
You may have heard about some of them already—myrcene, limonene, β-caryophyllene and linalool are pretty well known.
Less talked-about is the nerolidol terpene.
We’re not sure why, since the effects of nerolidol are as numerous as they are impressive. Researchers have found that nerolidol boasts a solid range of therapeutic properties; we’ll discuss that later.
Of course, like other terpenes, it also has a distinctive and pleasing aroma—and it features prominently in several cannabis strain profiles.
So while nerolidol might not be as famous as some of its fellow terpenes, it’s worth setting aside a little time to make its acquaintance.
What is nerolidol?
Nerolidol, sometimes called peruviol or penetrol, is what’s known as a sesquiterpene. That means its chemical structure is slightly different from monoterpenes such as myrcene and linalool.
The nerolidol terpene comes in two forms: trans-nerolidol and cis-nerolidol. They differ in their molecular formula, but for our purposes they’re one and the same.
Found in the essential oils of many plants, nerolidol is most closely associated with jasmine, tea tree, lemongrass, ginger, cannabis and a unique species of orchid native to Mexico. And as its name indicates, nerolidol is central to neroli oil, which comes from the flowers of bitter orange trees.
Nerolidol’s aroma is layered and complex, with floral and citrus notes complementing strong scents of woodlands and fresh tree bark. For this reason it is frequently added to perfumes, lotions and cosmetics, plus cleaning products and detergents. It is also used in food as a flavoring agent, having been approved for that purpose by the FDA.
What are the effects of nerolidol?
As with other terpenes, scientific research into nerolidol is just beginning. That being said, a number of studies have been done, and the results are impressive to say the least. As it currently stands, the list of nerolidol benefits is long and diverse.
In 2016, the journal Molecules published a broad study of nerolidol and its effects. The authors concluded that nerolidol performs an array of biological activities that can be beneficial to human health.
Nerolidol acts as an antioxidant agent by protecting cells—including lipids, proteins and DNA—from damage caused by free radicals, which increase in number as we age.
In a good illustration of nerolidol’s antioxidant properties, mice that were given trans-nerolidol doses of 25, 50 and 75 mg/kg were found to have lower nitrite levels and more antioxidant enzymes than mice that were given only saline.
The antibacterial potential of nerolidol was tested against several strains of bacteria, including MRSA (which causes staph infection), E. coli and salmonella. In each case, nerolidol showed strong antibacterial activity; moreover, it made antibiotics more effective in fighting the infections.
According to the study, nerolidol counteracts some of the most common causes of fungal infections in people. This includes dermatophytosis, more commonly known as ringworm.
Compared to eugenol, which comes from cloves, trans-nerolidol was better at treating skin lesions resulting from ringworm. Thus, the study’s authors state that “trans-nerolidol is a good candidate for the development of anti-fungal drugs.”
In tropical climates, parasitic disease is very common and very deadly. Since nerolidol is cheap and widely available, scientists are eager to learn the extent of its anti-parasitic properties.
So far, studies have demonstrated that it has the potential to treat a variety of parasitic illnesses such as malaria, sleeping sickness and snail fever.
Those are just a few of the many health benefits associated with nerolidol, which has also demonstrated an ability to help treat ulcers, chronic pain and inflammation, and even cancer.
It has sedative effects as well, meaning it could be used to alleviate conditions like anxiety and insomnia.
Nerolidol and cannabis
As noted above, a number of cannabis strains are chock-full of nerolidol terpenes. In addition to Skywalker OG and Jack Herer, Green Mountain, Chemdawg and Sour Kush are known to be high in nerolidol.
Any unique effects produced by these strains is likely due to the interaction of nerolidol with the varying levels of THC and CBD that are present.
When in doubt, rely on your sense of smell. If your bud is sending forth a woodsy aroma with subtle hints of citrus and orchids, it probably contains a fair amount of nerolidol. By all accounts, that’s a good thing.