Lemons are a delightful and versatile fruit that come from a beautiful evergreen tree. Citrus trees in California bloom throughout the year and produce fruit in the winter and early spring. Lemons have been studied for years and provide a variety of health benefits.
Lemon bioflavonoids might improve hearing and decrease vertigo and nausea and vomiting in some patients with Meniere’s disease.
The citric acid seems to reduce kidney stone formation with recurrent calcium nephrolithiasis (kidney stones). This seems to work by increasing citrate levels and decreasing urinary calcium levels.
Lemons contain many phytochemicals such as bioflavonoids, liminoids, and limonene. Some of these have antioxidant activity such as d-limonene. Limonene, derived from lemon oil, is a solvent of cholesterol and has been used clinically to dissolve cholesterol-containing gallstones.
Lemon bioflavonoids found mostly in the pith and peel seem to inhibit cancer cell development in vitro (in a test tube) and inhibit metabolism of certain carcinogens.
Acid reflux and GERD
Lemon acidity levels are substantially higher than other citrus fruits such as orange or grapefruit. According to Jamie Koufman, MD, author of Dr. Koufman’s Acid Reflux Diet, citrus juice-especially lemon and lime-can be a trigger food for those with acid reflux and should be taken in small amounts on an acid reflux diet. Dr. Koufman encourages the use of lemon zest in her diet since it is not acidic but offers a lot of flavor.
While the acid from lemons may trigger acid reflux, d-limonene extracted from the lemon oil in the peel can significantly improve GERD symptoms to the point of remission in 89% of patients taking d-limonene.
A non-citrus source of limonene is lemon balm. Lemon balm has been used as a calming agent, helpful as a mosquito repellent, and thought to have antiviral and antibacterial properties.
Limonoids, another phytochemical, taken from citrus seeds exhibit a wide range of biochemical properties including antibacterial, antifungal, antimalarial, and antiviral activities.
Scottish Physician James Lind was a pioneer of naval health and hygiene in the 1700s. He advocated for better ventilation aboard ships, clean drinking water, improved cleanliness, and introduced lemons as a remedy for scurvy (vitamin C deficiency).
Lemons were discovered in northeast India and Asia and introduced into Spain and North Africa about 1000 and 1200 AD and thought to be a variety of the citron fruit.
According to medical herbalist, Andrew Chevallier, FNIMH, A dab of lemon juice can be directly applied to acne, athlete’s foot, stings, ringworm, warts and sunburns. For colds, combine 20 ml lemon juice with 50 mL hot water, a crushed clove of garlic and a pinch of cinnamon. Drink up to three times per day.
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Bear WL, Teel RW. Effects of citrus flavonoids on the mutagenicity of heterocyclic amines and on cytochrome P450 1A2 activity. Anticancer Res 2000;20:3609-14.
Koufman J. Dr. Koufman’s Acid Reflux Diet. Katalitix Media; 2015.
Chevallier A. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine. New York, NY: DK Publishing Inc; 2000.
Ranganna S, Govindarajan VS, Ramana KV. Citrus fruits. Part II. Chemistry, technology, and quality evaluation. A. Chemistry. Critical Rev Food Sci Nutr 1983;19:313-86.
Seltzer MA, Low RK, McDonald M, et al. Dietary manipulation with lemonade to treat hypocitraturic calcium nephrolithiasis. J Urol 1996;156:907-9.
Tundis R, Loizzo M, Menichini F. An overview on chemical aspects and potential health benefits of limonoids and their derivatives. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2014;54(2):225-50.
Williams HL Jr. Eriodictyol glycoside in meniere’s disease. Trans Am Acad Ophthalmol Otolaryngol 1964;68:45-59.