Limonene: Terpenes 101


As cannabis lovers know, many of the health benefits derived from weed come from terpenes, organic compounds produced by plants. Terpenes such as Limonene aren’t limited to marijuana – cloves, lemons, oregano have them (to name a few). Ornamental plants have them too, good news for those of you who don’t only stop to smell the roses but decide to eat them just for kicks.

In regards to pot, different strains possess different terpene profiles

These profiles influence a strain’s aroma as well as its effects and benefits. Limonene, for instance, is found in strains like Super Lemon Haze, not surprising since limonene gets its name from lemons. Or, more specifically, the rinds of lemons.

Limonene is known for its use in cosmetics, perfumes, and medicines, but its use in cleaning products is becoming more widespread. It’s used as a solvent to help remove oil and add aroma: it provides a turpentine-like effect.

While its relevance to the cleaning industry may leave you questioning how beneficial limonene is for the human body – “A glass of Pine-Sol a day keeps the doctor away” isn’t really how the saying goes – limonene is actually good for you.

Limonene in Plants

rosemary LimonenePlants possess terpenes for a reason; limonene is used to ward of predators and dissuade insects from invading. It’s found in the rinds of citrus fruits (namely lemons and oranges), rosemary, peppermint, juniper, and in pine needles. It’s also one of the compounds found in pinene (another terpene).

Limonene as a Medicine

Historically, limonene has been used medicinally and therapeutically to aid in all sort of issues.

Limonene is known to elevate mood and relieve stress

It provides antifungal properties (because of its ability to permeate proteins) and antibacterial properties. It’s useful in reducing gastric reflux, thus minimizing the accompanying heartburn. And it’s believed to improve the absorption of other terpenes.

Limonene promotes weight loss and treats bronchitis too. It increases attention span, focus, and promotes a healthy libido. And I have your attention now.

Limonene and Cancer

The ability for limonene to do the above is great, but when it comes to the benefits of terpenes, many of us look at them in regards to malignancies: we want to know if terpenes can hinder cancer’s ability to either start or spread.

According to a study conducted by the Department of Biology at Purdue University, limonene does possess anti-tumor activity. In rodents, it offers chemopreventative benefits against skin, liver, stomach, and mammary cancer (the rodent’s version of breasts).

When combined with other terpenes, Limonene is beneficial against pancreatic cancer too

It’s believed limonene is effective because it promotes a process that results in carcinogen detoxification and leads to apoptosis, a circumstance where cancer cells go off and die like we want them to.

Limonene is also anti-inflammatory, something that may prevent cancers from occurring in the first place: per the National Center for Biotechnology Information, inflammation is a critical part of cancer development and progression. This is why so many cancers arise from sites of infection, chronic irritation, and long-term inflammation (short-term inflammation helps heal the body while long-term destroys its tissues).

Because recent studies have pointed a shaking finger towards inflammation as a major component of malignancy, anything that prevents inflammation is now looked upon as having the potential to prevent cancer as well.

Limonene and the Immune System

Of course, the immune system plays an instrumental role in cancer, perhaps explaining while there are reports of kidney cancers, breast cancers, testicular cancers, and melanomas going away without treatment. Another explanation is that tumors must acquire an increasingly number of mutations to progress. The ones that fail to do this end up disappearing.

limonene In regards to limonene and the immune system, a study conducted in 2011 at the University of Arizona found that it’s a terpene with the ability to modulate the immune system and enhance how the body uses it. A subsequent study two years later found that limonene was effective in preventing cancer cell proliferation and reducing the size of the tumor, suggesting that it works with the body to fight malignancy. A study in 2015 found similar results.

Strains High in Limonene

Now that you know why limonene is a desired terpene, you might be ready to run out and buy a strain filled with it. Your local budtender can help guide you in the right direction, but some strains worth giving a try include:

Super Lemon Haze: Super Lemon Haze provides a social, uplifting, and energetic high that’s great for use during daylight hours or when you feel like engaging in conversation. It elevates the mood and helps relieve chronic stress, anxiety issues, and depression. It’s also used for minor pain relief as well as nausea and loss of appetite.

Lemon Kush: The high from Lemon Kush is a bit delayed, taking ten or so minutes to come fully into fruition (so be aware if you’re a first-time smoker). When it does, it offers acute and focused cerebral effects. It’s been used to compound creativity and help with free association of thoughts. Many users like it because of the clear-headedness it provides: you’re high but not so much that you can’t get anything done. It might even prove conducive to getting the mundane accomplished: smoke up before you conquer spring cleaning.

Lemon Skunk: Lemon Skunk is high in THC (hovering around 22 percent). It provides users with a sense of well-being, cerebral stimulation, and introspection. Some users experience frank exhilaration while others find that it inspires creativity. It can be somewhat sedating, which you may or may not like. New users should reserve this strain for nighttime use until they build up a bit of tolerance. This strain is known to cause dizziness too, especially in high doses. Just something to know in the event you’re planning to drive, operate heavy machinery, or walk across a tightrope without a net below.

Limonene: Terpenes 101 was last modified: by
Jenn Keeler
About Jenn Keeler
Jenn Keeler is a freelance writer and illustrator specializing in humorous lifestyle articles. She is one of the few people on earth actually using an English degree. Her heart belongs to the Denver Broncos and her husband. In that order.