Limonene Digestion Benefits + Other Fascinating Benefits

Image of fresh lemon cut in half and cannabis buds on a white background with wordign Limonene Benefits by The Healthy RD

Despite modern advances in medicine, nausea, and digestive disorders are very stubborn and resistant to treatment. Limonene is a natural compound primarily found in citrus peels that can tackle some digestive disorders.

Its benefits for digestion are appealing because it is a safe and potentially beneficial add-on for almost any digestive issue that you may have. This natural compound may have a lot of other health benefits too.

In this post, learn about what limonene is and how it may be used to help alleviate some daunting health conditions.

What is Limonene?

Limonene is a natural antioxidant found in foods and herbs. It is a natural treatment for heartburn in some people and may have a lot of other health benefits too. This natural compound is a monoterpene that is derived from lemon and orange peels (not the juice). It’s also naturally found in other plants like cannabis, rosemary, red pepper, chamomile, ginger and turmeric, St. John’s wort, valerian, hops, anise, and fennel.

Limonene Heartburn Benefits

Remember, limonene is made from the skin of citrus, not the juice of citrus, so limonene isn’t acidic at all. Rather, it is rich in antioxidants that can help protect the stomach.

Limonene helps many people who suffer from acid reflux and heartburn. This is because it helps protect the stomach while also destroying harmful bacteria.

One study found that limonene doesn’t change stomach acid. Rather, it enhances the production of gastric mucus secretion which is the protective lining of the gut.

Limonene also may be a natural alternative for the treatment of heartburn. Patients receiving 1 g of limonene per day found relief from heartburn. In fact, 90% had complete resolution of heartburn symptoms after 14 days of using limonene.

Limonene for Stomach Ulcers?

The primary antioxidant in lemon essential oil is D-limonene.  Almost 70% of the total lemon essential oil is limonene!

Limonene taken orally is protective against stomach ulcers in animal studies as I will describe next.  It also increases gastric mucus, a protective layer of the stomach in animals.

Limonene also helped protect against drug and alcohol-induced stomach ulcers. Lemon oil also appears to protect against the bacteria H. Pylori in preliminary research.

While more research is needed, eating limonene rich foods and herbs may help prevent stomach ulcers in the first place. This natural compound also has calming effects on the brain, which can reduce stress-related causes of ulcers.

Limonene Benefits for Nausea

Nothing brightens up a day as much as the scent and sight of lemon.  Imagine slicing a lemon, if you will, and the aroma that instantly revitalizes your senses. Even the memory can trigger a positive thought and feeling!

A well-designed study looking at pregnancy-induced vomiting was conducted in 2014.

Pregnant women received either lemon essential oil or a placebo and were instructed to put 2 drops of oil on a cotton ball and inhale the scent immediately at the first symptom of nausea.

The women inhaling the lemon essential oil had significantly reduced nausea and vomiting episodes compared to the placebo group by day 2. This study is the first of its kind during pregnancy.

Other studies find benefits of other types of essential oils for nausea, as well.

Let’s take a look at the evidence for pharmaceutical and other nausea treatments during pregnancy. Around 50% of pregnant women are turning to natural options because there are really no safe and effective prescriptions for the condition.

How does limonene reduce nausea?

While much of how our sense of smell affects our brain is unknown, olfactory sensors signal the brain undoubtedly.

When we smell lemon, tiny lemon molecules are dissolved in the nasal cavity.  This then stimulates neurons that give messages to the brain, especially the limbic system.  From there, much remains a mystery.

We DO know that lemon has positive effects on the digestive tract, however.

Lemon May Reduce Infections

Because it is naturally anti-bacterial, it may also help prevent infections.

Lemon essential oil has strong antimicrobial properties. The antimicrobial compounds in lemon may also reduce the growth of viruses too.

Citrus pulp containing limonene reduced parasitic infections in an animal study. However, more research is needed to determine if lemon essential oil works in humans.

Lemon May Reduce Gallstones

Lemon peel is a traditional treatment for reducing gallstones and preventing them. This is because it is well-known to help dissolve stones or reduce their formation.

Some preliminary research work shows that lemon essential oil may reduce gallstones. 

For example, when given through a biliary drain to treat retained cholesterol gallstones limonene reduces any remaining gallstones in people after gallstone surgery.

Limonene May Reduce Colitis

Due to its high antioxidant content, lemons may help reduce inflammatory conditions such as colitis.

For example, a study in rats found that limonene reduced inflammation markers and increased antioxidants.

While it is unknown if it helps control inflammatory bowel disease in humans, clinical research indeed shows that it reduces inflammation markers in people.

Other Limonene Benefits

Further, limonene may help those with anxiety disorders.

This is because limonene increases GABA (gamma-Aminobutyric acid) production in the brain, reduces glutamate excitability, and may prevent neurotransmitter overproduction. It also helps enhance the serotonin systems in the body in early work.

Limonene has anti-seizure properties, more than likely from its ability to reduce glutamic acid neuronal over-excitability.

As a natural anti-nausea compound, limonene can help alleviate awful things like morning sickness.

Additionally, the inclusion of lemon extract as part of weight loss was more effective at reducing inflammation than an equal-calorie weight loss strategy in people.

Last but not least, limonene reduces stress hormone cortisol serum levels, improving adrenal fatigue in people with elevated cortisol. But, if you are actively having severe gastritis, you should avoid limonene because it could irritate your stomach. However, limonene is generally recognized as safe, so most people tolerate it quite well.

Sustainability of Limonene

The use of citrus essential oils is environmentally responsible because it uses the portion of the fruit that is generally thrown away when making juice or other fruit extracts.

50% of the fruit is thrown away when making citrus juices. Why not put it to use?

Limonene Precautions

Lemon, as a natural plant and food extract, is generally recognized as safe.

If using lemon oil as a supplement, make sure you choose a high-quality, food-grade kind that is certified pure therapeutic grade (CPTG).

Limonene can cause skin sensitivity if rubbed on the skin.  Make sure to dilute it with a neutral oil before application for topical use.

Large doses of limonene taken orally (>8 g/day) may cause nausea, but are otherwise found to be safe and have favorable effects in patients with advanced cancer.

Certain medications may interact with lemon.  Click here for a review from

What Causes Digestive Issues?

The Standard American Diet gets in the way of a healthy digestive tract. Inflammation and indigestion, as well as heartburn and nausea, can be the end result!

Lack of healthy bacteria, antioxidants in the diet, and enzymes all add up to digestive illnesses.

Drugs for Digestion are Expensive and Can Be Dangerous

Many people continue to turn to drug therapies for digestive issues. 

Nausea treatments are available but the cost can be insurmountable. 30 pills of Zofran are going to hurt your pocketbook at around $700.00 per month.

The side effects of some anti-nausea medications are numerous.  They can include diarrhea, constipation, headache, sleepiness, heart palpitations, and itchiness.

Medicine side effects for nausea can be worse than nausea itself.  Find out about my journey to being free of motion sickness here.

Pregnancy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting

A pregnant woman is faced with few safe prescriptive options for nausea.  For example, ondansetron (Zofran) is now linked to birth defects and is only used in severe cases.

A review of anti-nausea research (Cochrane Review) during pregnancy concludes that medications are not usually a viable option unless the vomiting becomes life-threatening.

Ah, the joys of pregnancy.  The anticipation of what is to come is an amazing experience, but the physical side effects of nausea can be daunting from day to day.

Physical illness, loss of workdays, lack of energy, fatigue, irritability, lack of enjoyment of life, and lack of preparation for childbirth are a few issues that are faced with pregnancy-related nausea.

When I was pregnant, nausea plagued me day and night.  This dragged on into the 5th month of pregnancy!  Morning sickness is a cruel misnomer for those who feel nausea every waking moment.

One food that would alleviate nausea during pregnancy, at least temporarily for me: is citrus.  I couldn’t get enough citrus; almost every other kind of flavor induced nausea.

Since then, much more has been discovered about natural nausea alternatives.


Lemon essential oil, which is rich in limonene, may benefit digestion in many ways and is a safe option to try.

A recent publication came out called Science’s War on Medicine.  To sum it up, we must look at medicines, vitamins, and natural plant compounds from numerous angles when we decide to help ourselves.

The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body and is shared for educational purposes only. Consult your doctor or healthcare provider before making changes to your supplement regimen or lifestyle.

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