The Terpene Limonene

The terpene limonene sounds like it should be from some tropical country. And indeed, it’s a citrusy terpene that has fragrances of orange, grapefruit, lemon, and lime. Like myrcene, it’s found in cannabis and other plants.

Terpenes 101 Refresher Course

Remember that almost all plants have terpenes, and they are responsible for the fragrances and tastes of different parts of the plant. Cannabis and hemp are no exception. These terpenes also determine how the use of the plant will make you feel (see our blog on Myrcene). In other words, if you smoke the flower, ingest an edible, or use a lotion or ointment, the terpenes will offer different benefits.

Unlike Myrcene, the limonene fragrance smells and tastes strongly of orange, grapefruit, lemon, and lime and is found primarily in oranges and other citrus fruits, some maple trees, cottonwoods, aspens, Douglas fir trees, and other evergreens, and in the hemp plant. Interestingly, limonene is also found in rosemary and peppermint.

Limonene Effects – What Does the Terpene Limonene Do?

The terpene limonene is sometimes used for anxiety and stress relief (inhaled and orally administered), as a mood elevator, and as relief for obsessive-compulsive disorders. Anecdotal evidence and some studies suggest it works with some people and not others, but it has been shown to increase serotonin levels.

The surprising properties of limonene are anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and antifungal, both of which have been documented in various studies.

People with acid reflux and those on chemotherapy also like limonene because it’s believed to help with digestion. Scientists are currently working on studying this terpene for possible brain power-boosting properties.

Nerd Corner

The Terpene Limonene’s chemical formula is C10H16 and the structure looks like this:

Limonene in its natural state is formed from geranyl pyrophosphate in the resin glands of a flower. The aromatic properties result from D-limonene and resins that are often found in deciduous trees and conifers. This explains why many fragrances in those trees remind us of orange and citrus. In the cannabis plant, it either remains in that form or is converted to other cannabis terpenes.

Uses of the terpene Limonene

Limonene has some interesting and varied uses. It’s important to be careful with limonene. It can cause skin irritation and is also flammable in liquid or vapor form. It is toxic to fish and other water life.

However, it’s often used as a dietary supplement as well as fragrances in body products and cosmetics. It’s also very popular in cleaning products, both as an oil dissolver and as a fragrant solution to “cleaning product” smells.

Other interesting uses for limonene include the removal of postage stamps, as a solvent in 3D printing, paint stripping, and in histopathology. Early studies show limonene’s promise as a tumor cell killer. It may also assist in absorption of other terpenes like caryophyllene, through the skin and mucous membranes.


Although it’s not clear yet how the terpene limonene works and what its targets actually are, it shows promise in treatments for various illnesses, as well as playing a role in mental health and wellness. While we’re waiting for more information, we can use it with care in aromatherapy, on the skin, and as a supplement in limited amounts.