Lemons & limes talk limonene!

Today I’d like to introduce a new series of articles entitled as aroma chemistry. As you know I’m a chemist and when I was creating Chemist in the Bottle I had a concept in my mind that it would be great if you could find some interesting information from my field of studies here and so the idea of aroma chemistrywriting appeared. In this series I will be writing about chemical molecules used in perfumery and cosmetics, about their sources, properties and eventual effects on us. I hope you’ll find those articles educative and fun! Our first guest is a molecule of limonene!

Limonene is a chemical substance which is build of 10 carbon atoms and 16 hydrogen atoms, so it’s formula is C10H16. It has an annular structure based on 6 carbon atoms, so it’s a cyclohexane derivative. It also belongs to the group of alkenes as it possesses one double C=C bond. Where you can find limonene? There’s plenty of it in lemons, oranges, limes, mandarines and many other citrus fruits. The name of the molecule actually comes from the word “lime.” Did you ever experienced the situation when you wanted to peel the orange and some juice got into your eye making it red and itchy? Yup, that’s limonene doing. The greatest amounts are in outer, coloured part of the rind. There’s almost no limonene in the white part of the peel, in the pulp there are only small amounts.

That won’t be a surprise for you that limonene has a nice smell of bittersweet citruses. But you might be curious what does it have to do with cosmetics and perfume. Well, it has to do quite a lot. Check out the boxes of your face creams and favourite perfume. Most of you will find limonene listed in the ingrediens list, somewhere by the end of it probably. This substance is used there in several purposes. Purpose one: it can be a part of fragrance composition of your cream or perfume (especially a citrus one). Purpose two: it has mild antibacterial properties so that your cream would live longer after opening. Purpose three: in both cosmetics and perfume it is added to preserve the product.

Now you know where to find limonene, how does it smell, how does it look like and why is it used in your products. Limonene is one of those chemicals that are prone to oxidation. It’s probably oxidized limonene that causes perfume to change it’s smell after many years of storing it (and it applies not only for wrong storing). Products of limonene oxydation can cause a contact dermatitis on your skin in bigger amounts. But you don’t need to worry much. Your knowledge about perfume is on a high level and I’m sure you know that expired cosmetics and perfume that changed their aroma shouldn’t be used for one’s own sake!

There are also some good sides of having limonene in your everyday diet. Small amounts of limonene and it’s derivatives like carveol and carvone protect our body tissues from bad mutations and cancer. So eat citrus fruits and your body will be thankful to you! I think that will be it when it comes to speaking about limonene. Of course numerous studies on this molecule are being conducted but they’re advanced chemistry things that generally don’t apply to perfume and cosmetics industry. Lemons want to than you for your attention!

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11 thoughts on “Lemons & limes talk limonene!

  1. poodle says:

    This was very interesting. I like reading about what makes up perfumes. I think these posts of yours will be great to read. It was interesting to see some of the many places limonene is used too. I’ve seen it on labels and knew it was citrus but now I know more. That’s helpful too in terms of allergies I think. If there’s something you are sensitive too it helps to be able to understand the ingredient labels. Of course most perfumes don’t list ingredients but other products that we use do.

    • lucasai says:

      Thanks, I was hoping you’ll find it interesting. Limonene is used in different products, even in something like soda water or lemonade. Luckily not every ingredient can cause an allergy. And yes, the ability to read the labels is good.
      Limonene is such a substance that it has to be listed in the ingredients if it was used in bigger amounts (above the concentration that doesn’t require listing)

  2. hajusuuri says:

    Nice article, Lucas! This ingredient seems to work equally well in perfumes as well as food, unlike whatever is in cherries that makes food taste good but somehow I have never heard of or aware of a perfume with cherry notes. In any case, I like this series and can’t wait to read the next one! On a side note, I may have some chemist genes in me as my mom taught high school chemistry for one year before she “retired” to be a full-time mom when she had my older sister.

    • lucasai says:

      Thanks hajusuuri! Yes, it’s used in cosmetics, perfume, food and beverages too. I’ll try to get to the “cherry chemistry” and write an article about it. I’m happy you like it. Yes, you might say you’ve got some chemist genes even if your mum taught chemistry only for a year.

  3. […] allergic reactions and should be avoided if there is a known sensitivity – watch out for limonene (a citrus based oil), pine oil and coconut diethanolamide. While less chemicals are obviously […]

  4. Gunnar Wolpe says:

    How much limonene is found in an average, whole lemon or lime? I’ve been searching for this information, but haven’t been able to find any place where this has been posted. For those who might want to consume whole lemons and limes for liver and gallbladder health, this would be useful to know. Limonene is known to dissolve cholesterol gallstones, but not getting enough of it in one’s diet may result in cholesterol accumulating faster than it is being dissolved.

  5. Meebeesoo says:

    Hi all

    I am not sure if I am in the right place to ask this but I have been found to be allergic to both Limonene and Linalool and am struggling to find all the products that contain them. Basically it seems that i am allergic to everything in my bathroom cabinet and I would really like to know what to avoid…it may be a silly question but as my allergy is a contact dermatitis that affects my hands and particularly my finger tips, does that mean I need to avoid consuming food that contain either Limonene or Linalool too…or do I just avoid things like soap, shower gel and shampoo etc?

    Hope someone on here will be able to offer me some advice ….thank u all in advance

    • lucasai says:

      Since it’s a skin allergy and not food allergy you are okay to eat oranges or some lemons but I would suggest avoiding products containing these allergens. Also you might want to wash your hands thoroughly each time you peel a citrus

  6. […] Lemons & limes talk limonene! Chemist in the Bottle Web site. https://chemistinthebottle.wordpress.com/2012/07/19/lemons-talk-limonene/ Accessed February […]

  7. Tannie says:

    I have a lot of comments about d- limonene, I went to the feedstore to buy vaccines for my puppies, and found a bottle of Adams flea and tick shampoo with d-limonene. My mother dog had twelve in all and we were at our wits ends on fleas and ticks and had a couple of inside dogs as well. I put the shampoo on my pups and left it on them and low and behold the infestation went away within 15 minutes then used clorohexidine with baby oil and a comb and combed them and wala…no more flea eggs either. Thanks for this info. about limonene being also a good chemical to help in the cancer. For we had a bout with that as well. My God how come none tells these things ? Limonene is now on my list for supplements to rid us of sneaking suspicions . Talk about a cure all! Thanks! I will commit this to eternal memory.

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