Lemon trees, which grow 10 to 20 feet and produce sharp thorns along with their sour fruit, are of unknown origin, though they are believed to be native to northwest India. Lemons have been grown in Italy since 200 A.D. and in Egypt since 700 A.D. More than 20 lemon varieties are cultivated around the world. Lemon juice is a refreshing and healthy beverage with a variety of purported medicinal benefits, some of which have been substantiated by scientific research.
Lemons provide a wealth of health-boosting compounds including vitamins, minerals, fiber, phenolic antioxidants, essential oils and carotenoids. Lemons are an important source of vitamin C, providing 46 milligrams in a 3.5-ounce serving. This is almost as much as the same-sized serving of orange juice but with one-quarter of the sugar of orange juice. Vitamin C performs three main health functions through which it influences all bodily processes -- as an antioxidant, in collagen synthesis and as a component of the immune system.
Essential oils in lemon juice offer antimicrobial benefits against bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites and insects. A study published in the August 18, 2012 issue of the journal "Parasitology Research" found that lemon and other citrus essential oils killed larvae of the tiger mosquito, a carrier and transmitter of West Nile virus, dengue fever and St. Louis encephalitis. Lemon essential oil also exhibited strong toxicity against larvae of the common house mosquito in a Greek study published in the September 2009 issue of the journal "Parasitology Research."
Lemon juice can be used as a healthy salt substitute. Similar to salt, it adds a tanginess that enhances the natural flavor of foods with which it is mixed. However, unlike salt, which causes your body to retain water and your blood pressure to rise, lemon juice has diuretic effects that encourage the production of urine and help to decrease blood pressure. Create a salt-free spice blend including lemon juice mixed with cayenne pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder and other favorite herbs and spices. Or, for a less complicated approach, simply replace your salt shaker with fresh lemon wedges at mealtime.
As a digestive aid, lemons assist weight loss by increasing the production of saliva and digestive juices. Lemon juice increases the flow of bile, thereby promoting efficient nutrient absorption, improved fat metabolism, healthy elimination and detoxification, all of which can lead to healthy weight loss and improved weight management. A small amount of lemon juice in the morning also boosts your metabolism and helps you burn more calories, according to Texas A&M University Department of Health and Kinesiology.
Lemon juice, with a pH of 2.2, is highly acidic, and sucking on lemons or drinking a lot of lemon juice can erode tooth enamel. Increased risk for dental cavities may result, and extensive and expensive procedures such as laminates and veneers to repair damage may be necessary. Decrease the risks associated with consuming lemon juice by drinking through a straw or rinsing your mouth with water after drinking lemon juice, according to Tufts University
- Texas A&M University Department of Health and Kinesiology: Weight Control Athlete: Got Honey?
- Tropical and Subtropical Fruit Processing and Packaging; Muhammad Siddiq
- Parasitology Research: Evaluation of Bioefficacy of Three Citrus Essential Oils Against the Dengue Vector Aedes Albopictus (Diptera: Culicidae) in Correlation to Their Components Enantiomeric Distribution
- Parasitology Research: Citrus Essential Oils and Four Enantiomeric Pinenes Against Culex Pipiens (Diptera: Culicidae)
- The Lemon Juice Diet; Theresa Cheung
- Purdue University Consumer Horticulture: Lemon
- University of Texas Health Center at San Antonio: A Bitter Lesson
- Tufts University: What Lies Beneath
Tracey Roizman, DC is a writer and speaker on natural and preventive health care and a practicing chiropractor. She also holds a B.S. in nutritional biochemistry.