Limonene: the most citric and refreshing cannabis terpene

If you’ve ever found yourself enjoying the refreshing or lemony aroma of certain strains, chances are you’ve experienced the effect of limonene, a terpene found in cannabis. Limonene is responsible for that captivating citrus aroma, but it also offers interesting properties.

In this article, we will delve into the exciting world of breeding and cannabis strains to unravel the secrets of limonene, learn about its characteristics, and explore the effects that this refreshing terpene can bring to those who consume it.

What is limonene and what are the effects of this terpene in cannabis?

Introduction to limonene terpene

Imagine that you have enjoyed a pleasant day in the middle of nature and when you get home you want to put the finishing touch to the summer day. Homemade lemonade, CBD Lemon Haze (Vibration) flowers. and a candle to set that amber scene while the sun goes down.

What is it that smells so rich, so fresh and so energizing? Lemon Haze flowers? Or the candle? Not lemonade? Well, neither one nor the other, because it is all of them at the same time, and at the same time it is none of them. Because it is not the buds, the squeezed lemon or the wax itself that smells, but the most characteristic volatile ingredient in all of them. One that you do not see, and yet it invades everything: the terpene limonene, the refreshing aroma that will accompany us throughout this article to discover its properties.

What is limonene?

Limonene is a terpene found mainly in citrus fruits, but also in other plants and especially in cannabis, being one of the most abundant aromatic compounds in commercial marijuana strains (1).

The aroma of limonene is citrusy and refreshing.


Limonene, also known as d-limonene, is a monoterpene. Terpenes are aromatic hydrocarbons, molecules composed of carbon and hydrogen. The prefix mono refers to the fact that its molecular formula is composed of only two isoprene units of five carbons each. This makes it one of the lightest kinds of terpenes, and therefore it is very volatile, being one of the aromas that reach our nose most quickly.

Furthermore, it turns out that limonene is one of the most naturally occurring terpenes.

What is the aroma of limonene?

Limonene gives cannabis strains a citric touch. When it is the predominant terpene, it is able to make cannabis refreshing.

For humans, the importance of these unseen substances, terpenes, is that they allow us to identify elements by smell and taste. If a lemon is placed under our nose and our eyes are closed, we will know which fruit it is. In the same way, if we are given to smell cannabis flowers with citrus notes, we will assume that we are in front of a CBD flower. Orange Mood (Mandarin Cookies) or of Zkittlez CBD .

Where is limonene found?

All citrus fruits contain limonene: limes, lemons, tangerines, oranges or grapefruit accumulate this terpene especially in the skin, which is covered with essential oil glands.

In the case of cannabis and CBD flowers limonene, like all terpenes, is in the resin-filled trichomes that cover the buds. These trichomes, tiny and almost imperceptible to the human eye, but very evident to the touch because of their sticky texture, are resin glands that cover the entire cannabis flower. The trichomes are of vital importance, because that is where the main active components of cannabis are formed: the cannabinoids and terpenes.

Which CBD flowers are rich in limonene?

Limonene is one of the predominant terpenes in many cannabis strains, and is capable of overshadowing the aroma and flavor of other less potent terpenes. It is also one of the most appreciated aromas by cannabis consumers, who have fallen in love with its intoxicating fragrance through genetics as revered as Jack Herer, Tangie or Do-Si-Dos.

You can find a high limonene content in the CBD flowers of the following Cannactiva strains Cannactiva :


Effects of limonene in cannabis

In the world of cannabis, terpenes are gaining more and more prominence in scientific research, and it is not because of their aroma, but because of the effects that their consumption can cause in our organism.

If at the beginning it was thought that terpenes were mere organoleptic distinctives, today it is already known that terpenes, such as limonene, can modulate the effects of cannabinoids such as cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). .

This is due to the entourage effect (the famous entourage effect) according to which the active compounds of cannabis (cannabinoids and terpenes) complement each other and offer more complete benefits when consumed together than when consumed in isolation.

This principle was discovered by Israeli researcher Raphael Mechoulam in the late 1990s, and has been further studied by other scientists. By this theory, consuming CBD alone, a pure CBD extract whose formulation does not include any other components of the cannabis plant, does not produce the same effects as a CBD extract. Full-spectrum CBDThe plant’s natural compounds, including minor cannabinoids (CBC or CBG, for example) and levels of terpenes (limonene), myrcenepinene or the linaloolfor example).

What is the effect of limonene-rich cannabis?

If we look for the properties of limonene associated with cannabis or CBD flowers, the most repeated is the invigorating effect.

Cannabis strains with high levels of limonene have an energizing effect.

Cannabis strains with high levels of limonene have an energizing effect, as reported in the cannabis literature.

There is, however, a scientifically proven property of limonene related to the entourage effect. It was found by scientist Ethan B Russo in his study Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects(2).

In this research B Russo concluded that limonene is a “helper terpene”, that is, it facilitates the absorption of other terpenes either by topical route, mucous membranes or ingestion. Here is the main effect of limonene in cannabis discovered so far: it enhances the usefulness of other components of the plant.

In cannabis, limonene helps other terpenes to be better absorbed, either topically, by mucous membranes or by ingestion.

Interaction of limonene with cannabinoids

If, as a result of the entourage effect, it had already been shown how terpenes influence the effects of cannabinoids, a recent preclinical study carried out in Israel, and published in the scientific journal Biochemical Pharmacology (3), has confirmed that some terpenes, including limonene, enhance the effects of THC by enhancing the activation of CB1 receptors. CB1 receptors receptors of the endocannabinoid system .

Limonene, when consumed simultaneously with THC, amplifies the reception of this cannabinoid, and therefore enhances its therapeutic effects, the experts concluded.

This fact is of utmost importance for people who use THC for medicinal purposes, since strains rich in limonene would make it possible to reduce the dose of medical cannabis in treatments, without detracting from the benefits it offers. In this way, the adverse effects of THC would be reduced, without reducing its benefits.

Improving the cannabis experience

In recent years, cannabis terpenes, the aroma and flavor of the different strains, have become the main protagonists of cannabis breeding. breeding . Because cannabis consumers are no longer so much focused on cannabinoid levels, but rather on how the flowers they are about to taste and how they smell.

As with wines or beers, cannabis connoisseurs seek to awaken their senses. To embark on a sensory journey that includes sweet moments, bitter ones, some spicy, and the most enveloping ones, even fruity.

If in the past one variety was chosen according to how much THC or CBD it had, nowadays the selection is made according to its aroma, according to its terpenes. You choose the Gelato because you want a mouthful of chocolate, the Tangie because you want to refresh yourself with citrus fruits, or the Blueberry because you want to get lost in the forest with a basket full of wild fruits under your arm.

Benefits of limonene

As mentioned before, limonene is not only present in cannabis, but also in many other plants, fruits and vegetables, mainly in the essential oil of citrus fruits.

Although studies are more limited in the case of cannabis, limonene has aroused the interest of part of the scientific community, and experimental studies have been conducted to determine the benefits of this monoterpene.

When you walk through the detergent section of the supermarket, the citrus scent is one of the most prominent. There is a reason for this: limonene is an excellent cleansing agent, in addition to the fact that, psychologically, it denotes feelings of cleanliness and freshness. So the effect of the citrus scent is going to be mood elevating.

Benefits of limonene for anxiety and depression through aromatherapy

One of the main effects of limonene is that it improves our mood: it makes us happier due to its antidepressant and anxiolytic properties.

These conclusions are mainly drawn from aromatherapy experiments, during which it has been found that inhaling limonene acts as an anxiolytic agent since it increases serotonin in the prefrontal cortex and dopamine in the hippocampus (9).

On the anxiolytic properties of limonene, a clinical study also confirmed that depressed hospitalized patients were, after exposure to citrus fragrances in the environment, less depressed, and some decreased their antidepressant medication (10).

Along these lines, another study conducted with grapefruit essential oil with limonene concentrations of 78% found that women exposed to environmental fragrance with high levels of limonene in a dental clinic had lower levels of anxiety and a more positive attitude, for example (4).

Other properties of limonene

On the other hand, limonene is also said to have properties against gastroesophageal reflux (5).

Some research has also been done on its antitumor properties: a preclinical study involving 40 women with breast cancer revealed that limonene intake can decrease the multiplication of cancer cells in the affected area (6).

Possible benefits of limonene as a protector against cancers of the lung, liver, colon, pancreas and skin are also being studied. Limonene has the ability to block carcinogenesis induced by benzanthracene, a compound produced by burning cannabis herb. Thus, some researchers suggest that limonene may help attenuate some of the damage caused by inhaling smoke from cannabis combustion (7).

According to studies, this terpene also has an immune stimulating effect (8).

In another type of in vitro experiment, also by inhalation, the antifungal properties of limonene were tested (11).

In addition, when applied topically, limonene may enhance the effects of CBD acne creams. CBD creams against acne . This is deduced from studies conducted with two citrus essential oils, composed mainly of limonene, which inhibited the bacterium involved in the pathogenesis of acne, Propionibacterium acnes.

How to identify limonene in cannabis?

Limonene is very abundant in cannabis, but not all strains with high limonene content have a pronounced lemony aroma.

The same variety of cannabis has at least ten terpenes with significant levels, but it is the three most abundant that give it the characteristic smell of a genetic. Therefore, limonene can sometimes have a more subtle citrus aroma.

Strains with high levels of limonene taste and smell mostly citrusy, but that aggravating fragrance is nuanced by other aromatic notes, by those other terpenes that enrich the overall aroma of the strain.

Thus, limonene is responsible for that familiar citrus scent we all know; however, subtle differences in the final odor can be observed, depending on the other terpenes present. For this reason of aromatic nuances, when we rub the skin of a citrus fruit, we can tell by the smell whether it is orange, lemon or lime, because each has its own characteristic nuance and aroma.

Similarly, it has been found that when given a whiff of limonene (the pure substance), tasters describe a citrus odor, but are able to distinguish the source of the odor. Nuances matter!

Which cannabis strains are rich in limonene?

Some of the genetics with the highest levels of limonene are the classic Jack Herer, OG Kush and Sour Diesel. Also Tangie, Super Lemon Haze, Purple Punch, or Wedding Cake, more recent varieties that have arrived to delight consumers with a passion for citrus flavors.

How to preserve limonene in cannabis?

Although limonene is a very abundant terpene in nature, it is also a very fragile terpene. In general, terpenes are very delicate and disappear easily depending on the humidity, heat, light or oxygen to which they are exposed.

In the case of limonene, it is a very light monoterpene, and therefore volatile. It is easier to destroy a monoterpene than other heavier terpenes, such as sesquiterpenes and triterpenes.

In order to preserve limonene levels and not eliminate it, it is important to keep in mind that limonene degrades when subjected to temperatures above 177°C. If there is vaporization For example, pay attention to the temperature applied to the vaporizer and do not exceed the above mentioned limits.

I hope you enjoyed this aromatic journey to the heart of citrus through cannabis. Now that you’re a limonene expert, all that’s left is to experience it.

  1. Smith CJ, Vergara D, Keegan B, Jikomes N. The phytochemical diversity of commercial Cannabis in the United States. PLoS One. 2022 May 19;17(5):e0267498. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0267498. PMID: 35588111; PMCID: PMC9119530.
  2. Russo EB. Taming THC: potential cannabis synergy and phytocannabinoid-terpenoid entourage effects. Br J Pharmacol. 2011 Aug;163(7):1344-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1476-5381.2011.01238.x. PMID: 21749363; PMCID: PMC3165946.
  3. Raz N, Eyal AM, Zeitouni DB, Hen-Shoval D, Davidson EM, Danieli A, Tauber M, Ben-Chaim Y. Selected cannabis terpenes synergize with THC to produce increased CB1 receptor activation. Biochem Pharmacol. 2023 Apr 19;212:115548. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2023.115548. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 37084981.
  4. Matsumoto T, Asakura H, Hayashi T. Effects of olfactory stimulation from the fragrance of the Japanese citrus fruit yuzu (Citrus junos Sieb. ex Tanaka) on mood states and salivary chromogranin A as an endocrinologic stress marker. J Altern Complement Med. 2014 Jun;20(6):500-6. doi: 10.1089/acm.2013.0425. Epub 2014 Apr 17. PMID: 24742226; PMCID: PMC4048973.
  5. Moraes TM, Kushima H, Moleiro FC, Santos RC, Rocha LR, Marques MO, Vilegas W, Hiruma-Lima CA. Effects of limonene and essential oil from Citrus aurantium on gastric mucosa: role of prostaglandins and gastric mucus secretion. Chem Biol Interact. 2009 Aug 14;180(3):499-505. doi: 10.1016/j.cbi.2009.04.006. Epub 2009 May 3. PMID: 19410566.
  6. Miller JA, Lang JE, Ley M, Nagle R, Hsu CH, Thompson PA, Cordova C, Waer A, Chow HH. Human breast tissue disposition and bioactivity of limonene in women with early-stage breast cancer. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2013 Jun;6(6):577-84. doi: 10.1158/1940-6207.CAPR-12-0452. Epub 2013 Apr 3. PMID: 23554130; PMCID: PMC3692564.
  7. Lidya Kebede, Seyedehsara Masoomi Dezfooli, Ali Seyfoddin. (2022) Medicinal cannabis pharmacokinetics and potential methods of delivery. Pharmaceutical Development and Technology 27:2, pages 202-214.
  8. Dusan Vukmirovic, Nguyen T. K. Vo, Colin Seymour, Dave Rollo, Carmel Mothersill. (2021) Influence of common dietary supplements (curcumin, andrographolide, and d-limonene) on the radiobiological responses of p53-competent colonic cancer epithelial cells. International Journal of Radiation Biology 97:3, pages 341-347.
  9. Zhou W, Yoshioka M, Yokogoshi H. Sub-chronic effects of s-limonene on brain neurotransmitter levels and behavior of rats. J Nutr Sci Vitaminol (Tokyo). 2009 Aug;55(4):367-73. doi: 10.3177/jnsv.55.367. PMID: 19763039.
  10. Komori T, Fujiwara R, Tanida M, Nomura J, Yokoyama MM. Effects of citrus fragrance on immune function and depressive states. Neuroimmunomodulation. 1995 May-Jun;2(3):174-80. doi: 10.1159/000096889. PMID: 8646568.
  11. Chee HY, Kim H, Lee MH. In vitro Antifungal Activity of Limonene against Trichophyton rubrum. Mycobiology. 2009 Sep;37(3):243-6. doi: 10.4489/MYCO.2009.37.3.243. Epub 2009 Sep 30. PMID: 23983542; PMCID: PMC3749397.

Which plants are rich in limonene?

Limonene is also found in other plants, fruits and vegetables. In fact, all citrus fruits contain limonene: limes, lemons, tangerines, oranges or grapefruit accumulate this terpene especially in the skin, which is covered with essential oil glands. Other aromatic plants, such as celery, fennel, rosemary, or mint, also produce limonene, although in smaller quantities.

What is the function of limonene in plants?

Apart from the smell and taste it brings to cannabis and fruits, limonene is a terpene with a much more important mission than pleasing the palate or nose for some plants. For them, limonene is an effective insect pest repellent. Some produce limonene, for example, because many parasites are “scared” of the citrus scent. So limonene allows them to stay safe from attack and survive.

Jásminka Romanos
Periodista especializada en comunicación para el sector del cannabis

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