The number of people in our country experiencing stress and its effects on their mental and physical well-being is growing. Up to 77% of all Americans experience physical symptoms related to stress; 73% report psychological consequences of increased tension. (1) Some compounds present in medical cannabis have been noted to exercise a positive impact on how our bodies deal with stress, enabling us to live more positive lives; one of these compounds is the terpene Limonene. Speaking with one of our Ohio medical cannabis doctors can help you decide which strains and routes of medicinal cannabis can help with your health issues. To see if you pre-qualify to be a patient, take our quick eligibility survey.
Humans respond to stress in many ways, displaying physical and emotional changes that can affect how we interact with our loved ones, co-workers, and those we come into contact with on a daily basis. Signs of stress include the following:
- Muscle tension
- Upset stomach
- Decreased sex drive
- Feeling nervous
- Lack of energy
When our bodies are subjected to stress, we can experience any one of these or a number of other symptoms. Our response to stress is rarely if ever limited to one symptom; nervousness, for example, can lead to increased heart rate and blood pressure, tooth grinding, abdominal upset, and headaches. The hypothalamus, located in the brain, is responsible for releasing hormones in response to a real or imagined threat to our safety; this is known as the flight or fight response. When this reaction is stimulated too often or for long periods of time, changes can occur that affect our mental or physical health. The results of extended stress include strokes, ulcers, insomnia, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, heartburn, alterations in the menstrual cycle, erectile dysfunction, increased blood sugar, and an altered immune response.
Limonene is the second most abundant terpene in nature according to current research. As with many beneficial substances, limonene is produced in the trichomes or flowers of the cannabis plant. It is found in a variety of strains as well as citrus fruits, pine, juniper, rosemary, celery, fennel, caraway, and mint. There are two varieties of limonene: d-limonene has a distinct citrusy odor, while l-limonene smells rather like turpentine. Limonene is used in commercial food flavorings, cosmetics, fragrances, and cleaning products, along with being popular for its use in aromatherapy.
As part of the entourage effect, limonene interacts with several cannabinoids including CBD-A, CBC-A, THC-A, CBG, and CBC; it also functions alongside other terpenes such as beta-caryophyllene and linalool to positively impact the effect of cannabis strains containing these terpenes as well as limonene. It has been found to increase the permeability of cell membranes, or how easily substances pass into and out of the cell wall, which could contribute to this effect. One of limonene’s significant properties is reducing the anxiety that can be produced by THC as well as producing a feeling of well-being.
Several studies have shown limonene’s stress-relieving properties. Not only can it help reduce stress and anxiety, but as far back as 1955, 9 of the 15 patients treated with limonene showed a decrease in their need for antidepressant medication as well as an increase in immune system functioning and a normalization of their stress hormone levels. (2)
How Limonene Moderates the Stress Response
Our bodies have the remarkable ability to regulate essential systems in response to a real or perceived threat such as fire, assault, injury, or disease. This regulation occurs in the region of the brain known as the HPA (hypothalamic pituitary adrenal) axis; the process influences motivation, mood, memory, appetite, pain, body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and digestion. When exposed to prolonged stressors, the HPA response can cause an increase in tension-related symptoms.
Lengthy exposure to stress or anxiety can lead to an imbalance in the body’s systems. Anxiety and depression are associated with a deficiency in several neurotransmitters, chemicals that transfer information from one nerve cell to another throughout the nervous system. These chemicals include serotonin and dopamine. In a 2013 study, limonene was found to not only increase the availability of serotonin, but to decrease anxiety-related symptoms. It has also been found to affect adenosine receptors, which in turn triggers the increased release of dopamine. Dopamine and serotonin are stress-reducing chemicals, transmitted through the nervous system. Serotonin works on emotional processing, while dopamine is associated with the pleasurable feelings we get from eating a good meal or spending time in an activity we enjoy. Because of the connection between anxiety and depression, researchers have suggested it can be helpful for both conditions. (3,4)
The side effects of antidepressant and anti-anxiety medications can be unpleasant, and because of this many people choose not to use pharmaceutical drugs to treat their conditions. These can include nausea, dry mouth, difficulty sleeping, drowsiness, agitation and irritability, increased appetite and weight gain – in fact, many of the side effects of the medications prescribed for anxiety and depression are the same as those caused by chronic stress. In contrast, limonene has very few negative effects, including the following:
- interference with drugs metabolized by the liver (notably those working on Cytochrome P450 2C9 [CYP2C9])
- it can cause a skin rash and/or itching, often in people allergic to turpentine
- eye irritation
- GI upset, if taken in large quantities
Limonene is effective when used in aromatherapy, smoked, vaped, or taken orally. It has a relatively low boiling/vaporization temperature of 350.6°F or 177°C; this should be taken into consideration when deciding what route will best benefit your particular situation.
What Strains are High in Limonene?
Sativas tend to contain more limonene than hybrids or indicas, though there are varieties of each that have high levels of this important terpene. Here are a few suggestions:
- Hindu Kush
- Cookies and Cream
- Emerald Jack
- Liberty Haze
- Lemon G
- Dirty Girl
- Sour Diesel 2
- Kosher Kush
While most cannabis users are familiar with the effects of THC and CBD, familiarizing ourselves with the other components of the plant as well as their benefits is important if we want to achieve optimal health and wellness. Talk to one of our Ohio Medical Cannabis Physicians to discuss your conditions and how to best treat them with this beneficial herb.