Before we get into the many medicinal and health benefits of lemons, let’s look into the brief history of this refreshing and fantastic fruit. The lemon was brought to Europe by the Arabs in the twelfth century. It was first cultivated in the southeast of the Iberian Peninsula. For a good reason, the Murcia region in Spain produces the juiciest, most aromatic lemons of all the Mediterranean countries.
Like other citrus trees, the lemon tree originates in Central Asia. After being established in Southern Europe, it was introduced to the Americas by Spanish explorers in the sixteenth century. Today it is cultivated in temperate regions on the five continents.
Although the lemon does not thrive in intense cold or heat, it needs some cold nights as the fruit is ripening to change its color from green to brilliant yellow. Because of this, lemons from tropical areas tend to be green, as with oranges and other citrus.
Lemon Nutritional Facts
Vitamin C stands out in the lemon’s makeup, somewhat less than the orange. Lemons have practically no proteins or fats and about 8.2 percent carbohydrates. However, the most exciting components of lemons from a dietary and therapeutic standpoint are not their nutrients but their so-called accompanying substances or phytochemicals. These substances lack calories and are neither vitamins nor minerals salts, so they cannot be qualified as nutrients.
The recent discovery of these non-nutritive substances in foods and their remarkable preventative effects on cancer and other diseases is one of the most significant advances in nutritional science. The lemon contains the following non-nutritive substances, which also appear in other citrus fruits, although in lower proportion:
Organic acids (between 6 and 8 percent), among which citric acid is prevalent, are followed by minor amounts of formic acid, acetic acid, and malic acid. These acids help increase the action of ascorbic acid or vitamin C and have a substantial antiseptic effect.
Flavonoids, among which diosmin, and hesperidin, dominate. These are found in the PULP and PEEL of the lemon. They play different physiological roles, among which are:
- Serving as antioxidants by potentiating vitamin C. They neutralize free radicals and prevent oxidation damage to the cells, which is the primary mechanism in the aging process.
- Protecting the capillaries reinforces capillary stability and improves blood flow in the veins. They prevent edema and thrombosis.
- Acting as anticarcinogens: Flavonoids can neutralize many carcinogenic substances that continually threaten the cells.
Terpenes – These are the properties that give citrus fruits their distinctive aroma. They are found mainly in the PEEL. The amplest of these is d-limonene, with its recognized anticarcinogenic and detoxifying effects.
Health Benefits of Lemons
Though the lemon impacts the entire body, its clinical functions originate mainly from its effect on the blood:
- Anti-anemic – It improves iron absorption
- Improves blood fluidity, thus preventing thrombosis
- Depurant, enabling the elimination of toxins from the blood
For these reasons, lemons are recommended explicitly in the following cases:
Anemia – Lemon should form a regular part of the diet of anyone suffering from anemia. Although its iron content is shallow, it is a very powerful anti-anemic since it boosts the absorption of iron provided in other plant-based foods. This effect is mainly due to vitamin C, which is considerably potentiated by the lemon’s non-nutritive factors, for instance, its organic acids.
Lemons also contain a specific amount of folic acid, which aids blood creation, and many other shielding functions, specifically in pregnant women.
Circulatory disorders – Hesperidin and the other flavonoids observed in lemons reinforce the capillary walls, enhance the elasticity of arteries and lower the blood’s predisposition to unnecessary clotting. Lemon use is advised in case of arteriosclerosis, the tendency to edema (retention of fluid in the tissues), thrombosis, and at any time there is a need to increase blood circulation and fluidity.
It has been said that lemon is capable of dissolving calcium deposits that form in the arteries as a result of arteriosclerosis due to its acidity. While there is no experimental evidence, it can be asserted that the lemon treatment described here improves arterial circulation, increasing blood flow through them.
People with high blood pressure can gain from lemons because of their practical action on the arteries’ condition and their mild diuretic and purifying effects.
Excess uric acid – The lemon effectively eliminates uric acid, a waste product constantly generated within the body and needs to be removed in the urine. Excess uric acid is accumulated in the joints causing rheumatism and arthritis pain. It produces nephritis in the kidneys.
Lemon alkalizes the blood, thus facilitating the urinary elimination of the toxic waste material that the body constantly produces. These substances are acidic, such as uric acid, so it may be said that as the lemon aids with their elimination, it “cleanses the blood.”
Kidney stones – Lemon treatment is very effective in helping dissolve kidney stones, mainly when these are formed of uric acid salts (urates).
Infections – Because of their vitamin C and phytochemical content, lemons improve the body’s immune system’s ability to resist conditions. Lemon use is appropriate for all infectious diseases, whether viral or bacterial.
- When applied topically, the lemon also has remarkable antiseptic and antibiotic properties whether applied to the skin, the nostrils, the throat, or even the conjunctivitis of the eye. Two drops of lemon juice in the eye two or three times a day can be very effective in case of conjunctivitis.
Digestive disorders – Because of the antiseptic, astringent action of the lemon (contrasted with the orange, which is laxative), lemon juice diluted with water is an excellent beverage for diarrhea, gastroenteritis, or colitis.
Anticarcinogenic – D-limonene, an aromatic terpene found in the lemon, particularly in the PEEL, has neutralized certain carcinogens. When d-limonene is given orally to laboratory animals one hour before feeding them a carcinogenic substance, they do not develop stomach cancer.
Regular lemon consumption with meals can aid in neutralizing many of the carcinogens found in foods and environmental factors; in this way, it helps avoid cancer.
Lemon Scientific Facts
- Scientific name – Citrus limon (L.) Burm.
- Other names – Bearss, Eureka lemon.
- French – Citron.
- Spanish – Limón, limón agrio.
- German – Zitrone.
- Description – The lemon is the aggregate fruit of the lemon tree, a spiny evergreen of the botanical family Rutaceae that reaches three to six meters in height.
- Environment – Temperate regions worldwide, particularly the Mediterranean and the Caribbean.
Regular use of small amounts of lemon as a dressing or seasoning in various dishes requires no particular caution, except that it should not be mixed in the mouth with starchy foods such as chestnuts, potatoes, or bananas. This is because the acids in the lemon inhibit the action of ptyalin and enzyme in the saliva that initiates carbohydrate digestion in the mouth. This explains why starchy foods eaten with lemon digest poorly.
Consuming more than one lemon a day on a sustained basis and lemon treatments should be avoided in the following situations:
- Gastroduodenal ulcer because it increases stomach acid secretion.
- Chronic constipation because of its astringent action.
- Anemia – Although lemon increases the absorption of iron from the foods that accompany it, consumption of large amounts is not advised in cases of anemia.
How to use and Prepare Lemons
- Fresh juice – Because of their high acidity, lemons are not usually eaten as fruit; only their juice is consumed. Including the peel (if pesticide-free) is essential because many fragrant terpenes, which have great medicinal benefits, are concentrated in it.
- Seasoning and dressing for numerous dishes: Lemon juice enhances the flavor, digestibility, and properties of all green leafy vegetables, rice, and legumes.
- Lemon treatment – This treatment is conducted over two weeks. On the first day, one drinks the juice of one lemon diluted in water one-half hour before breakfast. On consequent days one lemon is added up to seven. From that point, the order is changed back down to one lemon on the last day.
Children, the elderly, and those with low calcium, renal failure, or anemia should not use this treatment.
George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Foods and Their Healing Power.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Foods and Their Healing Power. Trans. Annette Melgosa. Vol. 2. Chai Wan: Editorial Safeliz, 2005. 124, 125, 126. Print.