The Benefits of D-Limonene

Can this citrus-peel-sourced substance fight cancer and relieve heartburn?

Slices of different citrus fruits on dark wood
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D-limonene is a compound sourced from citrus-fruit peels. Sold in dietary supplement form, D-limonene is said to offer a variety of health benefits. 

Why Do People Use D-Limonene?

In alternative medicine, some proponents claim that D-limonene can help treat or prevent cancer by killing cancer cells.

In addition, D-limonene is said to promote weight loss, as well as relieve symptoms of bronchitis and heartburn.

D-limonene is also thought to reduce inflammation.

The Health Benefits of D-Limonene

To date, very few studies have tested the health effects of D-limonene. However, some preliminary studies suggest that it may offer certain benefits. Here's a look at some key findings from the available research:

1) Cancer

A number of preliminary studies published in the 1990s indicate that D-limonene may protect against cancer. In a research review published in Critical Reviews in Oncogenesis in 1994, for instance, researchers analyzed the available research on D-limonene and determined that it may help inhibit the growth of tumors and possibly protect against breast cancer.

More recent research on D-limonene and cancer includes a 2012 study from Human & Experimental Toxicology, in which tests on mice revealed that D-limonene may help protect against skin cancer in part by reducing inflammation and oxidative stress.

In addition, a 2012 study published in Life Sciences suggests that D-limonene may help fight colon cancer. In tests on human cells, the study's authors found that D-limonene may protect against colon cancer by inducing apoptosis (a type of programmed cell death essential for stopping the proliferation of cancer cells).

Given the lack of human clinical trials testing the anti-cancer effects of D-limonene, it's too soon to recommend D-limonene as a treatment of any type of cancer.

2) Heartburn

D-limonene may aid in the treatment of heartburn and gastroesophageal reflux (GERD), according to a research review published in Alternative Medicine Review in 2007. According to the report, D-limonene may help treat heartburn and GERD by neutralizing gastric acid and promoting normal peristalsis (the contraction of muscles in the digestive tract).

Related: Natural Remedies for Heartburn Relief

Possible Side Effects

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety of long-term or regular use of D-limonene supplements.

It's important to keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals.

 Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. Learn more about using dietary supplements safely.

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend D-limonene for any condition. It's important to note that self-treating a condition with D-limonene and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering the use of this supplement, make sure to consult your physician first.

The Takeaway

Although it's too soon to recommend D-limonene for cancer prevention, you can talk with your healthcare provider about other lifestyle changes and natural remedies that may help strengthen your defense against cancer. For instance, there's some evidence that maintaining optimal levels of vitamin D and increasing your intake of green tea and omega-3 fatty acids may offer some anti-cancer benefits.

In addition, some research suggests that such herbs as licorice, slippery elm, and marshmallow may provide some heartburn relief. You can also fend off heartburn by avoiding trigger foods, eating smaller portion sizes, and working to manage your stress levels.

Sources

Chaudhary SC, Siddiqui MS, Athar M, Alam MS. D-Limonene modulates inflammation, oxidative stress and Ras-ERK pathway to inhibit murine skin tumorigenesis. Hum Exp Toxicol. 2012 Aug;31(8):798-811.

Chidambara Murthy KN, Jayaprakasha GK, Patil BS. D-limonene rich volatile oil from blood oranges inhibits angiogenesis, metastasis and cell death in human colon cancer cells. Life Sci. 2012 Oct 5;91(11-12):429-39.

Crowell PL, Gould MN. Chemoprevention and therapy of cancer by d-limonene. Crit Rev Oncog. 1994;5(1):1-22.

Sun J. D-Limonene: safety and clinical applications. Altern Med Rev. 2007 Sep;12(3):259-64.

Vigushin DM, Poon GK, Boddy A, et al. Phase I and pharmacokinetic study of D-limonene in patients with advanced cancer. Cancer Research Campaign Phase I/II Clinical Trials Committee. Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 1998;42(2):111-7.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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