What Is Limonene?

Limonene is an aromatic cannabis terpene produced in the flower’s resin glands. In isolation, it’s commonly associated with fruity, citrus aromas, and it’s found in many everyday items like fruit rinds, cosmetics, and cleaning products.

Terpenes are fragrant oils secreted alongside cannabinoids like THC and CBD, and these terpenes not only determine the smell of a cannabis strain, they may also modify its effects.

What is it and is it natural?

Limonene is a natural and organic compound from a family of plant metabolites called terpenes.

It can be found in two different chemical forms, which are both located in various plants, and the limonene structure is as follows:

  • D-Limonene found abundantly in the peels of lemons or oranges and cannabis. Also extractable in lower concentrations from rosemary. It smells like citrus fruits and is often used in soaps, fragrances, detergents, insecticide and chewing gum.
  • L-Limonene is less common and found primarily in pine needles or cones. Has a turpentine-like scent and is often used in industrial cleaning products.

Limonene, commonly known as d-limonene for its chemical structure, is a terpene present in lemons and citrus apart from Cannabis.  

It is present as a monoterpene in resin glands, used for centuries as a natural treatment for multiple health issues and an ingredient in household items. It can be found concentrated in orange peels, other fruit rinds, cosmetics, and cleaning products.  

Like other terpenes, Limonene is produced by a wide range of plants other than Cannabis, including juniper, citrus fruits, lemons, rosemary, and peppermint. 

Its aroma can be identified as zesty citrus and can reduce allergic lung inflammation apart from its antioxidant properties (Hansen, Wolkoff & Larsen 2016). It is also known for its anti-anxiety attributes, potent antifungal and antibacterial qualities, and stimulating the immune system. Currently, it is also considered to help in the potential suppression of breast cancer cells. 

What are the benefits of Limonene?

What Is Limonene?

Researchers believe that terpenoids like Limonene can work synergistically with the cannabinoids found in cannabis to improve the effects felt by users.

This is the basis of what is colloquially known as the entourage effect, where the effect of the sum of each compound is far greater than each one used in isolation.

Outside of this phenomenon, terpenes have been the basis of a variety of research studies. Analysing their unique effects when used both in isolation and in combination with multiple cannabinoids like THC and CBD.


Limonene is widely used to treat anxiety and insomnia. A 2013 study published studied Limonene’s ability to reduce depression and anxiety in rodent models of these disorders. The results suggested Limonene improved anxiety-like states by interacting with the brain’s serotonin system (Costa, Cury, 2013). 


A study published in the New Zealand journal found that Limonene inhibited the cells’ growth while suppressing transplanted tumors’ proliferation. Another study in 2009 determined that it could be used to treat individual prostate cancer types. A 2012 study published demonstrated that as part of a blood orange oil emulsion, Limonene could kill human colon cancer cells (Kotamballi, 2012). 


limonene has shown effective in raising the mood. Some suggest the terpene as a natural antidepressant that assists restore homeostasis by blocking stress-induced immunosuppression. 


 Limonene inhibits the growth of fungi, distinctly of species that attack food. 

Immune Stimulation: 

Limonene has been successful in regulating and boosting immune function. 

How does the Limonene terpene affect cannabis strains?

Terpenes are fragrant oils secreted alongside cannabinoids like THC and CBD, and these terpenes not only determine the small of a cannabis strain, they may also modify its effects.

Limonene is an aromatic cannabis terpene produced in the flower’s resin glands. In isolation, it’s commonly associated with fruity, citrus aromas, and it’s found in many everyday items like fruit rinds, cosmetics, and cleaning products.

A terpene recognizable for its zesty citrus fragrance, primarily lemon, but also in orange, lime, and grapefruit.

Limonene is found in the peels of these citrus fruits and in many varieties of cannabis. Along with myrcene, the limonene terpene is one of the most abundant terpenes to occur in cannabis.

The terpene has also been explored for its inflammatory, anti-anxiety, antibacterial, and anti-cancer qualities.

What aromas are associated with limonene?

What Is Limonene?

True to its name, cannabis strains that are high in limonene smell like lemons and limes. Many citrus fruits (including oranges, lemons, mandarins, limes and grapefruits), as well as juniper, are high in limonene.

Keep in mind, each cannabis strain has many terpenes that work together to create a complex aroma profile.

What are the reported effects of limonene?

The short answer: we don’t know. There have been no scientific studies that link consuming limonene-centric cannabis strains to a specific effect.

There have been a few studies that investigated the effects of citrus oil on both mice and humans.

Citrus oil (which contains limonene) was shown in a few studies to have a calming effect on mice. In a very small study involving humans, 12 patients were exposed to lemon essential oil and 9 out of the 12 experienced an elevated mood.

Research on cannabis and its related effects is ongoing and over time, more information on terpenes such as limonene will become widely available. It’s important to balance any perceived positive effects associated with limonene with the reported negative effects of cannabis consumption.

The bottom line: there isn’t enough evidence to support any claims linking limonene content in a particular strain to any specific effect, however you can use a strain’s terpene profile to choose your favourite aroma or taste.

Early Liver Disease Detection and Limonene

Liver cirrhosis is often a product of alcoholism, and it is usually diagnosed too late in the cycle to regulate the disease, leading to increased healthcare costs and demand for transplants.

A recent study by the University of Birmingham concluded that Limonene holds potential as an early marker for liver disease via patient breath samples. They found that pre-transplant patients had extremely high levels of Limonene in their breath, much higher than levels found in a healthy person.

The researchers hypothesised that this was due to the body being unable to process Limonene while suffering from liver disease. Later finding that post-transplant, the same patients had a much lower level of Limonene in their breath.

Concluding that excess Limonene levels could prove fruitful as a potential early sign marker for liver disease, which otherwise would be unlikely to be diagnosed.

Limonene Allergy & Contact Dermatitis

While Limonene isn’t toxic to humans, as with almost anything, it’s possible to be allergic to it. This can lead to contact dermatitis (an itchy, red allergic skin rash) when a product containing Limonene is applied directly to the skin.

It’s also possible to suffer limonene allergy only via external exposure to Limonene while being completely fine if drinking orange or lemon juice.

Although this isn’t too common, it’s something to be aware of if adding d-limonene to your skin or using cleaning products with it in. It may also irritate the respiratory tract, as well.

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