Limonene, Simplified

By Josh Hall
Crystalweed Cannabis, Unsplash

The next time you slather on cosmetics or scrub that stubborn grime with cleaning supplies, there’s a good chance you’ll be smelling limonene. You can find this aromatic terpene in an assortment of everyday items where it gives off a fruity, citrus aroma that’s effective at masking what can sometimes be an unpleasant scent.

Using terpenes in concert with cannabidiol (CBD) is a trendy topic of conversation among both manufacturers of CBD products and users. But in order to understand why this arrangement is beneficial, it’s imperative that you know what a terpene is and how they work.

What is Limonene?

Terpenes occur naturally in the essential oils of many plants and aid as a defense mechanism against environmental stressors. Each plant or tree can have their own unique terpene profile, which is what attracts insects for the purposes of pollination.

You might be wondering why manufacturers have been increasingly using limonene in connection with CBD. That’s because while limonene has its own merits, using the two in unison can supply an even more powerful benefit. More on that later.

What is Limonene Used For?

There are a lot of theories and assumptions of limonene’s therapeutic benefits, but there is limited research that indicates exactly what it does to our body. One thing we do know is that inhaling limonene vapor boosts our serotonin and dopamine levels. By intensifying these areas of the brain, we’re more likely to stave off anxiety, depression, and OCD.

In another study, research also found limonene to exhibit anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Inflammation affects most of us in some way, particularly those battling rheumatoid arthritis or psoriatic arthritis, along with painful conditions of the joints like osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia, and muscular pain in the neck and back. If you’ve ever explored using CBD, you’re probably aware that cannabinoids also offer tremendous anti-inflammatory potential, so you can imagine the inflammation-fighting power provided by pairing limonene with CBD.

Researchers also believe limonene can inhibit the growth of lung cancer cells. In fact, the results of a thorough research study indicated the plant extract was successful in suppressing the growth of transplanted tumors in a grouping of mice.

While testing on mice is a common research application, it can cast doubt in the minds of some about whether the results will be as impactful on humans. However, limonene seems legit.

A human clinical trial discovered that limonene may have reduced breast cancer tumor growth for almost a year. A later project on the influence of daily limonene supplementation found that it may have helped to curtail a protein that causes breast cancer tumor growth.

This is all promising. But it’s important to keep in mind that these are trials, something to discuss. This potential is good reason for professionals to study more, not a reason for people battling disease to get false hope.

How is Limonene Administered?

As mentioned, limonene is a naturally occurring plant extract. You can find it in the rinds of citrus fruits, such as grapefruit, lemon, lime, and oranges. Like other terpenes, it’s used as an additive not only to enhance the medicinal value, but to make the product more aromatic.

Because of a sensation called the “entourage effect,” or the practice of stacking cannabinoids and terpenes to enhance the benefit of each, manufacturers have found ways to infuse limonene with CBD in a variety of ways. For instance, you can find the duos in oil tinctures, and topicals like salves and creams.

Is Limonene Safe?

The reason why limonene is so frequently added to typical household and beauty products is that it’s generally non-toxic, which is a good thing. However, our bodies all react differently to what we put on and in them. Minor skin irritation or sensitivity may occur if your skin’s unique composition does not respond well to the chemical make-up of limonene.

However, as long as you are using limonene in moderate amounts, you should be fine. One dosing suggestion we give for those dipping their toe into CBD is to start slow and see how your body feels. Given the chance of you finding a product that contains both limonene and CBD, that tip seems especially important here.

How Does Limonene Work?

Because limonene provides such a wide-reaching benefit, it can work in many ways. Like we talked about, limonene can have a dramatic impact on the serotonin and dopamine levels in our brain. These functions play a significant part in how we are feeling and our happiness, so in the most basic of terms, limonene may be able to literally make us happier.

Its role as a cancer fighter is a bit more complicated. The prevailing thought is that limonene helps advance a process that causes something called carcinogen detoxification—which is just a scientific term for slowing the growth of cancerous tumors. This eventually leads to apoptosis, or the term used to describe the death of cancerous cells. Again, great potential to study more.

Is Limonene Legal?

Yes, it is, as evidenced by its presence in an assortment of household cleaners and over-the-counter beauty products. Now, where you need to be careful here is when it’s used with other products infused with cannabinoids.

CBD and cannabigerol (CBG) products that fall under the 0.3% threshold for THC are legal to buy and ship in all 50 states and in many countries across the world. However, the same can’t be said for cannabinol (CBN) or cannabichromene (CBC), which currently reside in a bit of a legal gray area. If you’re finding products with limonene and CBN or CBC, you may want to consider holding off on purchasing.

The Bottom Line

The sweet scent of citrus has been making cleaning the bathroom slightly more tolerable for decades, and we have limonene to thank for that. At some point in the future, cancer sufferers may also have limonene to thank for eradicating a deadly disease from their body. While research on the medicinal purpose of limonene is still in its infancy, the research that is available appears to be promising.

Terpenes are a desirable part of the cannabis plant, and there are few out there that pack the same punch as limonene. We are big fans of full-spectrum CBD products that bring a little something extra to the table with the help of different plant components. As you shop for new CBD products, keep an eye out for those that include limonene for a little added benefit boost.

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