Terpene Profile: Limonene, Uplifting Medicine from Cannabis

If you visit our blog with any regularity, you’ll recognize the term “terpenes.” They’re the fragrant oils that give different strains of cannabis, not to mention many other plants and natural substances, their characteristic aromas and flavors.

Terpenes aren’t the only “active ingredients” in the cannabis plant—that crown goes to cannabinoids such as THC and CBD—but they’re among the most important. Besides determining the dominant aromatic and flavor characteristics of any given cannabis plant, the terpenes—of which there are over 200 in cannabis!—have medical attributes as well, bringing their own unique healing properties to bear.

We’ve written previously about myrcene—the most abundant and arguably most important terpene—but there are many, many more. Today we’ll look at limonene, one of the most distinctive of the terpenes. As you might suspect, it has a characteristic lemony aroma, but there’s much more to the story than just a pretty smell.

Limonene: What Does It Do For Us?

Limonene is found primarily in citrus—particularly orange—rinds, and it’s been used in medicines, foods, and natural cleaning products for many decades.

Limonene citrus terpene

Though many primary terpenes such as pinene exhibit anti-inflammatory and analgesic effects in our bodies, one of limonene’s greatest strengths may be that it’s a “helper terpene,” helping facilitate the absorption of other terpenes through our skin, our mucous membranes and our gut. 

That last part of the body is important. As is increasingly becoming clear, the gut is in many ways a “second brain,” playing a large part in our body’s regulatory functions and even emotions. Limonene may help maintain healthy digestion and gut function; some other potential benefits currently under study include:

Limonene for belly

Anti-Cancer: Fighting cancer remains one of the medical world’s highest aims, and—as with many other terpenes—limonene may have a role to play. Two studies completed by the University of Arizona suggested that limonene not only helps modulate our immune system—an important role in fighting any disease, not just cancer—but may also play a direct role in controlling the spread of certain cancers themselves

Anti-Fungal: Again, as with many other terpenes, a study suggests that limonene can exhibit powerful antifungal properties. Because it absorbs easily through the skin, it may have a role to play in treating stubborn fungal infections like athlete’s foot and yeast outbreaks.

Mood Uplift: Anecdotally, many users report that limonene helps impart a generalized feeling of uplift and well-being. That’s certainly the case with high-limonene cannabis strains, as we’ll see below….

Cannabis Strains with High Limonene Content

Limonene is one of the “primary terpenes,” and it’s abundant in many cannabis strains. That said, not all strains containing limonene smell like lemon; sometimes you’ll detect a more subtle citrus scent, or even not one at all! While we need more research to determine the effectiveness of limonene for cannabis, the terpene still imparts a lovely aroma and energetic effect.

Limonene in cannabis

Strains with “lemon” in their name are a good indicator of limonene content. Others include: 

Strawberry Diesel: A versatile hybrid strain, it’s well-loved for its daytime usability—it doesn’t tend to leave you groggy—and it’s also good for fighting insomnia. But go slow: This strain is fast-acting and can be intense if you overindulge.

White Fire OG: This strain is popular in social situations or as a creative prompt. Some love it for its anxiety- and depression-fighting qualities, and many medical patients turn to it for relief from symptoms related to treatment for cancer. 

OG Kush: This is a potent, high-THC strain, and for many, the piney, spicy and earthy aromas are the epitome of “dank.” It’s known for a strong euphoria and general uplift, but be cautious: It can exhibit powerful “couch-lock”!

If you’d like to learn more about strains or products with limonene, stop by your favorite Columbia dispensary!