/Smellin’ Lemons: Unlocking the Potential of Citrus-Scented Cannabis

Smellin’ Lemons: Unlocking the Potential of Citrus-Scented Cannabis


Ever wish you could give your brain a jumpstart? The answer might be right under your nose. When we need to shift our frame of mind, we might pop in earbuds or pour a cup of coffee, but few of us consider the power of smell.

Have you ever wondered why certain scents can bring back memories from years past? It’s actually related to the location of where smells are processed in the brain. Sensory information and “episodic” memories, or events from our past, are processed in areas that are close to each other inside the brain.

A recent study at the University of Toronto found that memories about space and time merge in an area of the brain that is important for the sense of smell, known as the anterior olfactory nucleus.

“When these elements combine, a what-when-where memory is formed,” says Afif Aqrabawl, a PhD candidate in the Department of Cell & Systems Biology, and lead author of the study. “This is why, for example, you might have the ability to remember the smell of a lover’s perfume (the what) when you reminisce about your first kiss (the when and where).”

Given the impact that smell seems to have on the brain, you might wonder how you can harness aromas to influence your thoughts and feelings.

According to research, citrus smells appear to have a notable influence on how we function. A Japanese study found that diffusing lemon and rosemary essential oils in the morning and orange and lavender ones in the evening helped Alzheimer’s patients function slightly better. An entirely different study from Japan was carried out on the accuracy of typists, and, strangely enough, it found that lemon fragrances were shown to produce 54% less errors.

Browse any wellness or meditation blog and you’ll come across a plethora of listicles touting the mood-boosting benefits of orange and lemon fragrances, but there is some science to back it up.

Granted, you may not be suffering from Alzheimers or gunning to beat your words-per-minute score on Mavis Beacon, but the effects of citrus smells can potentially help you with something universal: the effects on your mood.

Browse any wellness or meditation blog and you’ll come across a plethora of listicles touting the mood-boosting benefits of orange and lemon fragrances, but there is some science to back it up. A 2014 study showed that smelling citrus for 10 minutes helped to boost the mood of participants for up to 30 minutes, significantly reducing things like tension, anxiety, and hostility.

When it comes to fruits, herbs, and cannabis, that all-important smell factor is down to something called terpenes. Produced by cannabis plants in the same glands that make THC and CBD, terpenes are aromatic oils that give cannabis varieties distinctive flavours like berry, mint, pine, and citrus. Some of these compounds are thought to promote mental acuity, while others may improve relaxation.

If you’re looking for a cannabis strain with an uplifting smell, try something with lots of limonene. Limonene (which takes its name from the lemon) makes cannabis smell sweet and sour like fresh-pressed citrus and some emerging science shows it might be a mood booster.

Studies have found that inhaling limonene vapour reduced anxiety in lab mice and even reduced behaviour associated with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). However, limonene’s success in these studies appeared to depend on the type of anxiety test administered, which could mean that limonene might reduce anxiety in some situations but not others.

Current research suggests that terpenes have different ways of working with CBD too. Certain compounds like beta-caryophyllene, alpha-pinene, alpha-bisabolol, and linalool potentially have an additive effect with CBD, meaning they interact with different receptors than CBD. Limonene, specifically, seems to act in co-operation with CBD, as they appear to provide their anti-anxiety effects through the same serotonin signalling pathways.

More research is needed to understand fully how we can use limonene to help humans feel more relaxed and focused, but the initial groundwork looks promising. We know for sure that scent affects the brain in a very real way, and that the future of citrus terpenes as a possible stress-reliever has serious potential.

As it stands, limonene is the second most common terpene in nature and a major player in the cannabis world. More and more citrus buds are coming on the market every day, many of which deserve a closer look… even if it is just for a pleasant whiff.

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