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Limonene Terpene Overview: Benefits of Limonene?


What is Limonene and the Benefits, Effects, Research, and Science?

We take you through the benefits, options, and important criteria you should consider when looking at products containing limonene.

Introduction into the Terpene Limonene – What is Limonene? How Does Limonene Interact With CBD?

Scientifically reviewed by: Dr. Vance Green, PharmD.
Updated on August 24, 2021

Limonene is one of the most common terpenes in nature and serves as a clear demonstration of how these commonplace compounds can help us, especially when combined with CBD and other cannabinoids.

This is the latest in our series of educational articles about terpenes. These scented compounds are found throughout nature. They help produce the wonderfully unique smells of different strains of hemp and cannabis and, scientists believe, play an important role in producing their benefits as well.

Today’s subject, limonene, is one of the most common terpenes and, actually considered one of the most common terpenes in plants as a whole. While terpenes benefit people when ingested, they evolved originally to help the plants themselves. Scientists believe plants often use limonene to help ward off harmful fungus and bacteria. That’s one way you’ve probably encountered limonene too: as the key ingredient in citrus-based cleaners. When you use it on your floor, it is helping kill germs and freshening the smell of your kitchen.

There’s more at work behind limonene than a fresh smell, however. The reason so many people find the scent so soothing could be linked to how it helps us. Keep reading to learn all about the benefits of limonene, based on some of the latest scientific research.

Limonene Terpene Icon

Scientifically speaking, limonene is a natural aliphatic hydrocarbon, part of a class of natural chemicals known as monoterpenes. It’s a major component in citrus fruit peels and the scent of oranges.

What are the possible benefits of limonene?

One reason limonene is so widespread in nature is that it has many benefits for the plants that produce it. Likewise, its benefits in humans seem widespread: scientists believe it could help both body and mind.

According to cannabis researcher Dr. Ethan Russo, limonene is highly bioavailable, meaning it’s easy for us to absorb it into our bodies through smoking and other forms of ingestion.

Limonene was found to exert an anxiolytic [anti-anxiety] effect similar to that seen with diazepam.” – Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, January 2013

benefits of limonene terpene

Unfortunately, as is often the case with anything relating to cannabis, we still have a lot to learn about the benefits of limonene and how it works in this plant. Still here are some interesting potential effects revealed by modern scientific research:

  • Anti-anxiety: Scientists showed limonene to be calming, both when inhaled as a vapor and swallowed orally. Another common terpene, linalool, likely works together with limonene to help produce the calming effect of CBD oil and hemp flower.
  • Depression: Much like with anxiety, limonene could help with depression by increasing serotonin and dopamine receptor activity, according to 2002 research.
  • Gastric reflux: A patent exists on the use of limonene to treat certain kinds of gastric reflux.
  • Antifungal and antibacterial: We already explained how limonene helps kill germs when used in cleaners. This could also play a role in its benefits in skincare products.
  • Increased absorption through the skin: One study showed that limonene, among other terpenes present in essential oils, seemed to improve absorption of estradiol, an estrogen steroid hormone, through the skin.
  • Possible future use in cancer treatment: Some promising research shows limonene inhibits the growth of tumors in both lab animals and humans. However, this action is present at very high levels, far beyond what’s present in any cannabis or hemp strain.

It’s hard to isolate out the benefits of limonene alone in cannabis, because of the “entourage effect.” Just as we mentioned above with limonene and linalool, researchers believe the compounds in cannabis work better together, collectively, then they do in isolation.

These studies data support the hypothesis that myrcene is a prominent sedative in cannabis.” — Dr. Ethan B. Russo, MD

What hemp and cannabis strains are high in limonene?

Just like the terpene myrcene, a previous entry in this series on terpenes, limonene is extremely commonplace in cannabis and hemp strains. If you’ve ever enjoyed a strain that smelled of lemons, citrus or other tropical fruits, you’ve probably experienced limonene.

At the same time, it’s important to remember that no single terpene or other natural compound gives cannabis and hemp their unique aromas. And regardless of how fruity it smells, limonene makes up less than 2% of the compounds found in even the strains highest in it. The only way to know for sure if a strain is high in limonene is to buy lab-tested products and verify the results yourself.

When it comes to high-CBD hemp flower, Hawaiian Haze and Bubba Kush are two strains that contain abundant amounts of limonene. In a customer review, David W. told us Hawaiian Haze has “an irresistible aroma” that makes it “great for both smoking and infusion.”

In high-THC cannabis, some strains that generally contain high levels of limonene include Strawberry Banana, Tahoe OG and Cinex.

Some of the common terpenes in hemp and cannabis include myrcene, limonene, pinene and linalool.

Understanding the wonders of terpenes

Though abundant in nature, we still don’t know as much as we could about how limonene interacts with cannabinoids and the other compounds in hemp and cannabis. As the stigma against these plants fall away, more research will continue to reveal how terpenes like limonene benefit humanity.

READ MORE: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TERPENES – What are Terpenes and What are the Benefits of Terpenes. Effects, Benefits, Research, Science & More.

One of the top terpenes in hemp, limonene is especially abundant in cannabis strains like Hawaiian Haze and Bubba Kush.

Get to know our favorite ‘terps’

As we said in previous articles, Myrcene is just one of  the terpenes found in hemp and just a fraction of the ones found in nature.

Thanks to the years of prohibition and the stigma that grew up around hemp and cannabis, we’re only just beginning to learn about how compounds like terpenes work and could help us.

READ MORE: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT TERPENES – What are Terpenes and What are the Benefits of Terpenes. Effects, Benefits, Research, Science & More.

Writer: Kit O’Connell is a writer and journalist from Austin, Texas. His work has also appeared in Yes! Magazine, the Texas Observer, and elsewhere. He served as Editor in Chief of the Ministry of Hemp from 2017 until 2021.

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