Cannabis Science

Limonene Terpene: Uses, Effects, and Benefits

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Terpenes are aromatic chemicals found in certain plants such as marijuana. Plants usually use terpenes, which are usually strongly scented, to ward off insects and other predators. One well-known terpene and essential oil, limonene, is said to have unique effects and benefits. You love the smell of lemons, oranges, and other citrus fruits because of their high limonene content. Interestingly, limonene is also found in cannabis. If you’re wondering what the effects and benefits the terpene limonene are, read on.

Photo: Unsplash

What Does Limonene Do?

Limonene is used in many ways. It’s often used in products and sold in essential oil form. 

IARC Monographs on the Evaluation of Carcinogenic Risks to Humans says limonene can be used for flavor and fragrance additives in: 

  • Perfume
  • Soap
  • Food 
  • Beverages

They also said, “d-Limonene has been used in non-alcoholic beverages, ice cream and ices, sweets, baked goods, gelatins and puddings, and chewing gum.”

In addition to that, limonene is used for its true purpose as a terpene, warding off insects. Therefore, if you’re purchasing natural insect repellant, you will likely find limonene in it. 

If you love the strong citrus smell of limonene you can purchase it as an essential oil. You probably won’t find an essential oil with a limonene label. However, limonene can be found in lemon, orange, grapefruit, and other citrus oils.

If you love the smell, you can create your own natural air freshener. You can get lemon essential oil which has about 94% limonene, water, and a spray bottle. However, be careful of using this in areas where your pets can access it since essential oils can be harmful to them.

In addition to air fresheners, citrus essential oils have tons of purported benefits such as helping with focus. However, we don’t recommend applying essential oils directly to your skin, always mix them with a carrier oil. 

According to Healthline, “Essential oils have the potential to aggravate the skin. Certain citrus oils can cause photosensitivity when skin is exposed to sunlight after use. Avoid using on any areas of skin that will be exposed to the sun within 12 hours.”

What are the Effects of Limonene in Weed?

First of all, limonene and other terpenes don’t make you high. However, they seem to cause a number of other effects. The effects may vary from stoner to stoner. 

At the same time, the effects of limonene on weed need way more research. However, one theory is that terpenes like limonene work in conjunction with the other chemicals in marijuana in a phenomenon known as the entourage effect. The entourage effect may be responsible for certain effects of weed such as its supposed anti-cancer properties. 

In addition to that, terpenes like limonene could be responsible for the differences experienced by the various strains. Healthline says, “The main hypothesis is that the terpene profile — the dominant terpenes — of a strain work in tandem with the cannabinoid content — the amount of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD), and other cannabinoids — to produce the effects people associate with different strains.”

A strain of weed that’s heavy in limonene could help with anxiety problems, however, that effect was only confirmed in mice. However, stoners often say that weed helps them with a number of mental problems including depression and anxiety.

Perhaps, limonene plays a role in that. One stoner on Reddit said that they use limonene-heavy strains to boost their mood. While another stoner on Reddit said limonene gives them anxiety. 

Limonene is also being investigated as an anti-cancer agent. According to Therapeutic and Medicinal Uses of Terpenes, “Studies have reported limonene to exhibit strong cancer inhibition activity both in vitro and in vivo.”

In reference to many other studies, the article said, “These findings indicate a novel application of limonene towards fighting and preventing cancer.”

Interestingly, weed is being looked at in terms of cancer prevention. Could limonene and the other terpenes play a role? Maybe. More research is definitely needed. 

Limonene Benefits

According to a 2018 review, limonene may have the following effects:

  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Antioxidant
  • Gastroprotection
  • Antinociceptive (ability to diminish pain)
  • Anticancer
  • Antidiabetic
  • Antihyperalgesic
  • Antiviral

Let’s discuss some of these benefits. 

As said before could possess cancer-fighting properties. A 2000 study says, “Our results show that peel consumption, the major source of dietary d-limonene, is not uncommon and may have a potential protective effect in relation to skin squamous cell carcinoma (SCC).”

In addition to cancer-fighting properties, limonene may have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties. According to a 2006 study, “Citrus oil is composed of monoterpenes, in particular D-limonene, which is known to inhibit growth of bacteria, fungi, and certain parasites.These findings suggest that a mixture of citrus oil and MgCl(2) could be used as a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent.”

Limonene could also have antioxidant properties. A 2010 study examined limonene from the yuzu (Citrus junos Tanaka) essential oil and its effects on human eosinophilic leukemia HL-60 clone 15 cells. The study’s findings suggest that “limonene may have potential anti-inflammatory efficacy for the treatment of bronchial asthma by inhibiting cytokines, ROS production, and inactivating eosinophil migration.”

In addition to those benefits, animal studies suggest that limonene could even help with your digestion. 

However, we’re not sure if limonene produces these same effects when people use weed. More research is needed. 

Limonene Weed Strains

Limonene is found in weed strains in various amounts. If you’re looking to add some limonene-heavy strains for your bong or blunt? However, Strain Print and Get Ispire suggest:

  • Berry White
  • Durban Poison
  • Jack Herer
  • Jack the Ripper
  • Lemon Diesel
  • OG Kush (and other OG cultivars)
  • Sour Diesel
  • Super Lemon Haze
  • Giesel
  • Wedding Cake
  • Quantum Kush
  • Cinex
  • Do-Si-Dos
  • Lemon OG
  • Berry White
  • Black Cherry Soda
  • Strawberry Banana
  • Purple Punch


Limonene is a common terpene in many plants such as weed. It’s used for many things including fragrances. However, there needs to be more research done about the role of limonene, and how it affects weed strains and stoners. Some people find it to be calming while others have the opposite effect. It may also have a number of benefits such as antibacterial and anti-cancer properties. At the same time, people will experience different effects from limonene in the same way weed affects everyone differently. 


About Trevann

Trevann is Stoner Rotation’s Jamaica-based lead writer for the Science section of our cannabis blog. She graduated with honors receiving her Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular Biology from the University of West Indies, Mona. For the last three years, she has covered some of the biggest questions around cannabis and health underpinned with research from supporting studies, medical journals and scholarly articles. Got something on your mind? You can reach her at [email protected].