Therapeutic applications of limonene

Monika Retajczyk, Agnieszka Wróblewska



Introduction: Limonene is a monoterpene compound which in nature occurs in the form of two isomers, R and S. From these two isomers, particular attention is now given to R-(+)-limonene, mainly because it can easily be obtained from cheap and renewable raw materials (waste orange peel) and the numerous and varied uses of this compound in medicine, cosmetics and perfumery.

Materials and methods: This review article describes the use of limonene. Particular emphasis was put on describing the uses of this compound in medicine. Literature data show that limonene in many cases has a therapeutic effect. The article also draws attention to the safety of limonene applications, proven in the reported experiments on humans and animals. The study also describes the metabolism of limonene in the human body, as well as studies on the allergenic effects of limonene’s oxidation products, both S and R isomers. These studies highlight the importance of limonene peroxides, which have the strongest allergenic properties. In addition, studies on the antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antifungal effects of limonene are presented. This article also describes the effect of Ras protein in the body of a healthy person, shows its association with carcinogenesis, and presents studies in which limonene acts as an anti-cancer agent, e.g. by inhibiting the prenylation of this protein. This work provides information on limonene-induced phases I and II of carcinogen metabolism catalysed by cytochrome P450. Studies show that limonene is an active compound both in therapy and in cancer prevention. Various uses of limonene have been studied so far, including the treatment of heartburn and gallstones, and also as a component of a topical gel for rheumatoid arthritis.

Results and conclusions: Limonene is a compound that can easily be extracted from waste, which is an obvious advantage in its application. Disadvantages in the use of limonene are the allergenic properties of its oxidation products. This review shows the numerous applications of limonene in medicine and indicates reasons for further research on this compound. One of the most important directions could be research on preventing the oxidation processes of this compound.


limonene; monoterpenes; gallstones; antitumour activity; antibacterial properties; allergies

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