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Jan 13th 2023
Terpene Profile: Limonene

As we’ve discussed many times in our patient education articles, medical cannabis is a lot more than THC, CBD and cannabinoids. Terpenes are a big component as to why medical cannabis is effective for millions of people.

What are Terpenes?

Terpenes are aromatic compounds found in the essential oils of all plants in the natural world, including cannabis. Terpenes contribute to the flavor, aroma, and nuanced effects that a medical cannabis patient will experience between different cultivars (strains) of cannabis.

Terpenes are essential players in The Entourage Effect or the synergy between cannabinoids, terpenes, and other components of the cannabis plant work together to create an effect.

Terpenes are what differentiate a cannabis cultivar that will have you up cleaning the house or locked into the couch with your TV remote. It is because of terpenes that we’ve often urged those who get their medical cannabis certification with Compassionate Clinics of America to look beyond the binary of “indica” and “sativa”, as well as “hybrids” that seemingly are a blend of both.

There are hundreds of terpenes in the natural world, including in cannabis. In the natural world, terpenes are responsible for that energized, refresh feeling that you experience stepping into a forest of fir trees. That’s the terpene pinene. When you feel the relaxing and calming effect when inhaling lavender or its essential oil, that’s likely the terpene linalool working its soothing magic. Both terpenes when present in different cannabis cultivars will lead to similar effects.

Terpenes in Medical Cannabis: Limonene

This is our first article in our Terpene Profile series, where we’ll do a deep dive into specific terpenes that are common in medical cannabis products. The goal of this series is to help our patients understand how terpenes contribute to the overall cannabis experience and its outcomes.

Here, we’ll feature one of our favorite terpenes: limonene. Once you learn more about limonene, you’ll recognize that you’ve had a lot of encounters with this terpene, beyond your cannabis.

Limonene: An Overview

Limonene is one of the most recognizable terpenes for its citrusy aroma and flavor. When you cut into a lemon or lime, that zesty, fresh scent of the rind emits limonene.

Limonene is found in all citrus fruits, with the highest concentrations of this terpene occurring in oranges, grapefruits, and lemons. In lesser concentrations, limonene can also be found in caraway, dill, and bergamot plants.

Because of its sweet, citrusy, and fresh scent, limonene has many uses across multiple industries. It is used as a flavoring agent in foods, beverages, and chewing gum. Also because of its fresh scent, limonene is used as a fragrance, cleaner, and solvent. Limonene can often be found as an ingredient in household cleaning products, cosmetics, topicals, and other personal care products.

When a cultivar (commonly known as a strain) contains limonene, medical cannabis patients often associate it with a citrusy scent, and feelings of energy and being refreshed, somewhat akin to what people would describe a “sativa” strain as.

Terpenes in Medical Cannabis: Limonene

Existing Research on Medical Benefits of Limonene

While there is still a call for more research on how limonene in cannabis affects medical cannabis patients because limonene and other terpenes exist within the natural world, there is a decent body of research explaining its health benefits.


Limonene is mostly revered for its anti-anxiety properties. One animal study observed that combining limonene with other essential oils may contribute to a lessening of anxiety and depression. They concluded that the terpenes in essential oils “might be considered a complementary therapy for the treatment of anxiety disorders”.

This study also suggested that limonene works synergistically with the terpene linalool (remember, that terpene in lavender?) to contribute to anti-anxiety effects.

Pain Management

Another animal study looked at how limonene affected animal subjects and how it could affect ulcerative colitis (UC). Researchers saw significant anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects and that it impacted pain signalling, or how the animals experienced pain, concluding that “limonene may be a novel potential target for the therapeutic effects of UC.”

Potential Anti-Cancer Properties

At Compassionate Clinics of America, we do not believe in spreading hope that cannabis can help fight or kill cancer, believing that people with cancer should seek traditional therapies alongside cannabis medicine. However, we want to uncover some knowledge that is helping us understand why so many cancer patients are singing the praises of the plant.

While these studies are not in regard to cannabis, some studies are looking at limonene and its potential anti-cancer properties. Some research is looking at the role of limonene in killing cancer cells in studies of lung cancer, prostate cancer, and colon cancer. It’s too early to determine how limonene in cannabis may have anti-cancer properties, and we hope for a future of more research.

Cannabis Cultivars with Limonene

For medical cannabis patients, cannabis brands have gotten better about displaying the terpene profiles of their cannabis products on their packaging. If you’re interested in exploring products with high concentrations of limonene, ask your budtender at your dispensary where you use your medical cannabis certification.

We will tell you that just because a product is citrusy smelling, it may not always contain limonene. It’s a common misconception that cannabis products that have lime, lemon, or orange in their names contain limonene. The only way to know whether a cultivar contains limonene is by obtaining test results.

Terpenes in Medical Cannabis: Limonene

However, test results tell us that limonene is found in higher concentrations in the following cannabis cultivars: Super Lemon Haze, Banana OG, Berry White, Do-Si-Dos, MAC, Strawberry Banana, Tahoe, Wedding Cake, White Fire OG, and Lemon G.

Explore Limonene and Other Terpenes

We will continue to release information about other terpenes on a monthly basis, so to keep those who get a medical cannabis certification from us informed on ways to target their cannabis product choices to their desired medical outcomes.

If you or someone you care for is interested in exploring a medical cannabis certification, we provide compassionate support and education to residents of Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maine, Virginia, Texas, Louisiana, West Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Iowa, Georgia & Minnesota. Reach out anytime. There are several benefits to having your medical cannabis certification, even in legal states, including cultivation (in some states), lower taxes, and higher possession and purchase limits. We offer Sezzle payment plans in most states to ensure medical cannabis certifications are financially accessible. Join us in reimagining health and wellness.

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