Health – Lemons

According to the classic herbal medicine text, A Modern Herbal, by Margaret Grieve (Dorset Press, 2002), lemons are the most valuable of all fruits for the preservation of health. Used by cultures around the world since ancient times to improve and maintain health, lemon juice packs a strong phytochemical punch. With the potential to ease conditions from inflammation to poisoning to cancer, lemons deserve a closer look into the medicinal features that give them their healing properties.


Lemons have long been recognized for their healing properties. Nero, the notorious emperor of Rome, famously drank copious quantities of lemon juice to counteract attempts on his life by poisoning. During the 18th century, British Royal Surgeon James Lind discovered that lemons could ward off scurvy, a debilitating epidemic illness among sailors that resulted from Vitamin C deficiencies. Since then, it has been British law that every ship carry enough lemon juice for every sailor. Since ancient times in Indonesia, women with migraines have been advised to wash dishes or soak their feet in water with lemon juice.

Citric Acid

Lemon juice is 6.7 to 8.6 percent citric acid. Citric acid is a powerful chelator, or substance that can bind metal ions and remove them from solution. This makes citric acid a sought-after chemical in soaps and cleaning products, but it also may provide powerful health benefits by treating heavy-metal poisoning in people and helping fight viral and bacterial infections.

Vitamin C

Lemon juice is rich in vitamin C, a water-soluble vitamin and powerful antioxidant required for the growth and repair of body tissues. Vitamin C is required for the formation of collagen, a protein found in skin, scar tissue, blood vessels and other body tissues. Antioxidants like vitamin C help slow the aging process, fight tumors, repair wounds and ward off inflammatory illnesses.

Additional Properties

Bioflavonoids in lemon juice strengthen blood vessels and maintain eye health. Limonene may have anti-cancer properties. Potassium, also present in lemon juice, is essential for normal kidney function and is an electrolyte, critical for nerve and muscle function.


The juice isn’t the only medicinal part of the lemon. Per unit weight, citrus peel has considerably higher quantities of medicinal phytochemicals than the juice. The peel contains higher concentrations of citric acid and active anti-cancer compounds than the juice or the pulp. In a 2001 study, researchers Hakim and Harris found that the peel showed strong potential for significantly reducing risk of non-melanoma skin cancers.

Research by Texas Agriculture Experiment Station scientists has shown that citrus compounds called limonoids targeted and stopped neuroblastoma cells in the lab. They now hope to learn the reasons for the stop-action behavior and eventually try the citrus concoction in humans.

“Neuroblastomas account for about 10 percent of all cancer in children,” Harris said, “and is usually a solid tumor in the neck, chest, spinal cord or adrenal gland.” The finding in citrus is promising not only for its potential to arrest cancer, but because limonoids induce no side affects, according to Dr. Ed Harris, Experiment Station biochemist who collaborated on the study with Dr. Bhimu Patil, a plant physiologist at the Texas A&M University-Kingsville Citrus Center in Weslaco.

“Limonoids are naturally occurring compounds,” Harris said. “Unlike other anti-cancer drugs that are toxic, limonoids apparently do not hurt a person. That’s the beautiful potential.”

Patil calls citrus fruit “a vast reservoir of anti-carcinogens.” As a plant physiologist, he has succeeded in isolating and purifying a number of limonoids from citrus so that the biochemists could evaluate and compare their anti-cancer abilities at the molecular level.

“Limonoids are unique to citrus,” Patil said. “They are not present in any other fruits or vegetables. My goal is to find the direct benefits of citrus on human health.” Science Daily, 2004.

Medicinal Uses

Lemon juice is an astringent and can be used to gargle with for sore throats or as lotion for sunburn. It’s also a cooling drink for fevers. With strong anti-inflammatory properties, lemon juice is recommended for acute rheumatism. Lemon juice has been used to counteract narcotic poisoning, and has long been recognized for its value as a hangover cure.

Handy Hints Using Lemon

Asthma – drink 1 tablespoon before each meal to help throat and nasal passages

Persistent cough – combine equal portions of olive oil and lemon juice and warm slightly. Drink 1 tablespoon 3 times daily

Morning sickness – carry a handkerchief and a bottle of lemon essential oil. When feeling nauseous, dab a little on the handkerchief and breathe in the vapor

Garlic breath – cut a lemon in bite sized segments and chew, skin, pith and all

Eczema – combine equal quantities of lemon juice and pineapple juice and apply every hour

Mosquito bites – dab equal parts of lemon juice and vinegar to reduce irritation

Gum disease – rub gums with lemon peel sprinkled with salt

Lighten age spots – press a slice of freshly cut lemon onto the spots for 10 minutes once a week until the spots have faded

To get rid of warts – dab lemon juice on the wart then press a piece of freshly cut onion on wart. Keep in place for 10 minutes

So, don’t underestimate this little yellow fruit that God gave us to not only enhance the flavor of our food, but also to be used as a medicine with all of its healing properties.