Introduction: Extracting Limonene From Backyard Citrus Fruit

Hello All,

I hope you are having a fantastic day and staying safe. Today I have decided to detail the steps to take citrus fruit from your backyard, and extract limonene from it. Limonene is a terpene, that is a building block to the taste and smell of all citrus fruits!

So when we extract it, it should be a good oil to use in things like creating bath products or to add as food flavoring.

The set up will be an investment to continue to create essential oils, and other distillations in the future. So, there is a small start up cost for equipment, though unless you break it, you will only ever need to buy one.


  • Citrus Fruit - I used Limes because we have many lime trees
  • Distillation Set - I bought this one on ebay for 40 dollars
  • Heating Mantle - I bought it from amazon for 50 dollars
  • Glass storage containers - Michaels - 10 dollars
  • 10 mL syringe with tips - Amazon 8 dollars
  • Distilled Water - Made at home

Step 1: Process Citrus Fruit

In citrus fruit, the highest concentration of limonene is within the citrus peel itself. The rest of the fruit does also contain limonene, though it is not nearly as concentrated in other areas. For this reason, we will zest all of our citrus, until we have about 100 grams of citrus zest.

Just for reference, when I zested about 30 limes, it gave me 200 grams of zest. So I will have enough zest to complete this extraction twice.

Step 2: Weigh Citrus Fruit

We will be weighing out the citrus fruit until we have about 100 grams. At which point we will add it to our boiling flask, with 300mL of distilled water.

We actually have 99.6 grams in our starting flask, though this is close enough.

Step 3: Distill Citrus Peels

This step is as easy as it sounds. Just turn on your heating mantle, and wait for the water to start boiling. As it boils it will start to create yellow-pale bubbles in the flask. This is the oil that is being separated from the lime peels and evaporated with the water. Eventually, you will be able to see a clear hydrosol in the receiving flask with a small layer of oil forming on the top.

This top layer is your limonene oil.

Step 4: Pulling the Top Layer

Usually the best method of separating oil from water is by using a separation funnel. However, if you are very careful you call use a syringe to pull off the top layer of oil, which is your limonene.

At this point we are able to see multiple phases our product has gone through. We see our hydrosol from our boiling flask on the right, followed by the hydrosol in receiving flask, then the limonene in our 10mL vial.