Monday, April 15, 2024

Everything You Need to Know About The Terpene Limonene

Have you ever taken a whiff of some Lemon OG and asked yourself how those dense green nuggets of ganja smell like lemon Pledge? That’s the limonene you’re smelling.

Terpenes 101

If you are already familiar with terpenes, feel free to skip onto the next section. If you’re a terpene newbie, prepare to have your mind blown. We’ll start with the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition, and go from there:

Terpene |noun|ter∙pene|\ ˈtər-ˌpēn \ :  any of various isomeric hydrocarbons ‎C10H16 found present in essential oils (as from conifers) and used especially as solvents and in organic synthesis; broadly : any of numerous hydrocarbons (‎C5H8) found especially in essential oils, resins, and balsams 

In case you don’t have a PhD in chemistry, terpenes are aromatic compounds that give plants like cannabis their smell. To be clear – by no means are terpenes just found in cannabis plants. They are present in all kinds of plants, fruits, herbs and more.

Basics of Limonene

Limonene, one of the most commonly used terpenes in flavorings and household cleaners, is a naturally-occurring hydrocarbon that smells exactly like you think it would – lemony.

Commonly found in citrus peels, citrus lotions and more, limonene has become known for far more than its presence in pot.

Potential Health Benefits of Limonene

There’s no evidence that any of these benefits survive the combustion process, but limonene supplements are commonly taken for a handful of reasons.


Just one of the many benefits of limonene, its anti-inflammatory properties can benefit anyone as a part of their general health regimen. While many different nutrients are known for fighting inflammation, limonene is cheap, abundant, and commonly overlooked.

Stress Reliever

Stress can be caused by almost anything, but limonene has been shown to help fight it in one big way. By helping to combat rising cortisol levels, limonene can provide your body a boost when it comes to thwarting stress.

Digestion Aid

Since some digestion issues are caused by too much bacteria, many turn to limonene as it is known for its anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.

Breast Cancer Fighter

This may sound crazy, but a 2013 study by The University of Arizona Cancer Center showed that women with breast cancer taking 2 grams of limonene daily for two to six weeks resulted in a “22% reduction in cyclin D1 expression” and “reduced cell proliferation.” Essentially, limonene shows serious promise when it comes to the prevention and treatment of breast cancer.

Marijuana Strains Highest in Limonene

Given the widespread prevalence of hybrid marijuana strains, trace amounts of limonene can be found in dozens of strains. Some of the cannabis strains that have become known for having the highest concentration include:

Strains with Citrus Names

  • Super Lemon Haze – A hybrid between Lemon Skunk and Super Silver Haze, Super Lemon Haze is known by cannaseurs for its potent lemony scent.
  • Lemon Kush – Often considered to be a generalized name for multiple lemony strains, Lemon Kush has small buds but packs a big punch.
  • Lemon Diesel – While this strain sounds like a cross between Lemon Skunk and Sour Diesel, its really a “potent offspring of California Sour and Lost Coast OG.”
  • Orange Kush – A 50/50 split between indica and sativa, Orange Kush is a hybrid you’ll 50% love for its uplifting aroma, and 50% hate for its tendancy to cause couchlock.
  • Agent Orange – Named after the poisonous Vietnam-era defoliant, be warned that while Agent Orange smells like a juicy orange peel, just a couple puffs will lead you to cotton mouth.
  • and more…

Other Strains Exceptionally High in Limonene

  • Durban Poison – Sweeter than it sounds, Durban Poison mixes citrus aromas with the sweet scent of anise.Anise
  • Jack Herer – A legendary strain named after a legendary cannabis activist, Jack Herer is one strain every cannabis consumer should try before kicking the bucket.
  • Berry White – The stress-relieving indica-dominant hybrid known for its blueish color and its bright orange hairs, a nugget of Berry White is 100% Instagram worthy.

Dangers of Limonene

Despite limonene being a naturally-occurring compound, there are some dangers associated with the citrus-scented terpene.

First and foremost, limonene allergies are quite common. If you’re allergic to citrus peels, citrus fragrances, or citrus cosmetics, you’re probably better off steering clear of the strains listed above.

RELATED: A Primer On The Science Of Cannabis Terpenes And Cannabinoids

Also, upon storage and exposure to sunlight and air, limonene breaks down into various “oxidation products” which act as skin, eye, and respiratory irritants.

While this mostly applies to the rampant use of limonene in cosmetics and skincare products, it also applies to those working in the extraction business. With the E.U. warning that there are “occupational hazards” related to handling limonene, it’s no laughing matter.

Last, but certainly not least, a 1977 study on animals showed that high doses of limonene can cause fetal development effects.


All in all, the average cannabis consumer doesn’t need to worry about the dangers effects of limonene. However, those working in cannabis extraction labs should be careful when working with bulk amounts of limonene.

This article originally appeared on Daily Marijuana Observer.


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