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Lemon: Uses, Benefits, Side effects By Dr. Smita Barode

By Dr Smita Barode +2 more


“When life gives you lemons, make lemonade” is a famous proverbial phrase that tells us to look at the bright side and keep moving forward in life. Just like the saying, lemons or Citrus limon are bright yellow, oval-shaped edible fruits with a pronounced bulge on one end. Lemons are available in different sizes, with the raw ones being green in colour and the ripe ones turning a beautiful bright yellow. Lemons are native to the Himalayan foothills of Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and North India. In India, they are the third largest crop after bananas and mangoes and thus, they have become an economically important crop.  

This flavoured fruit has a juicy yellow flesh that is sour in taste. Their tartness and citric fragrance make them a kitchen favourite. James Lind, the pioneer of clinical research, carried out the very first clinical trial in history with lemons as his focus. The findings of this trial supported the use of lemons for treating scurvy. Let’s find out more about this lovely fruit!1,2 

lemon benefits

Nutritional Value of lemons: 

Lemons are packed with the goodness of minerals and vitamins, especially Vitamin C and polyphenols like polymethoxyflavones. The nutritional components of lemons are mentioned in the table below.  

Nutritional components Value per 100 g 
Total carbohydrates  6.9 g 
Protein 0.4 g 
Fibre 0.3 g 
Fat 0.2 g 
Potassium 120 mg 
Calcium 25.9 mg  
Phosphorus  21.8 mg 
Magnesium 9.86 mg 
Selenium 2.77 mg 
Sodium 1.86 mg 
Iron 0.31 mg 

Table 1: Nutritional value of lemons3,4 

Properties of Lemons: 

Scientifically proven properties of C.limon include: 

  • It may have anti-microbial properties. 
  • It may have anti-cancer properties. 
  • It may have anti-oxidant properties. 
  • It may have anti-inflammatory properties. 
  • It may have anti-parasitic properties. 
  • It may have anti-tussive properties (relief from cough). 
  • It may have cardio-protective properties. 
  • It may have hepato-protective properties.2,5 

Potential Uses of lemons for Overall Health: 

Some of the potential benefits of lemons are described below. 

Potential uses of lemons in obesity 

Plant constituents like polyphenols may help manage obesity. Fukuchi et al. conducted a study in 2008 to assess the effect of lemon polyphenols on obesity in white mice. Polyphenols in lemons might be responsible for suppressing fat accumulation and weight gain in the body. This indicates that the consumption of lemon may help in managing obesity. However, scientific evidence supporting this claim is limited, and this warrants the need for conducting further research.6 

Potential uses of lemons in cancer  

Cancer is the leading cause of death, and literature reviews have shown a clear positive relationship between dietary polyphenols (which are strong antioxidants) and cancer. Al-Ataby conducted a study in 2022 to assess the effect of lemon and ginger administration on breast cancer tumour growth in mouse models. The findings of this study support that 50% of mice consuming the lemon-ginger combination did not develop tumours due to the presence of alpha-pinene and alpha-terpineol. This indicates that the consumption of lemon may show anti-cancer properties. However, we need more studies to support these claims.7 

Potential uses of lemons for blood pressure  

Along with antihypertensive medications, herbs and CAM (complementary and alternative medicines) have increased to manage hypertension. A literature review conducted by Zuhal et al. in 2012 suggests that lemon juice may help reduce systolic blood pressure. Tezel et al. conducted a study in 2003 in turkey to assess the therapeutic potential of lemon juice on blood pressure maintenance. The findings of this study support the use of lemon juice as an alternative therapy for decreasing blood pressure. This indicates that consuming lemon juice may help manage blood pressure. However, scientific evidence supporting these claims is limited, and this warrants the need for more clinical studies to support these claims.8 

Potential uses of lemons for asthma 

Asthma is a chronic inflammatory disorder of the airways known to impair normal breathing. The use of natural products as a complementary or alternative treatment for asthma has increased. For almost 5000 years, the use of plant-based products as traditional medicine for the treatment of asthma has been reported. Costa et al. conducted a study in 2010 to identify plant-based natural products for managing asthma. This study identified lemon as a potent anti-asthmatic agent. Additionally, lemons may help reduce cough (anti-tussive property). This indicates that lemons may have the potential to manage asthma and may provide symptomatic relief, but we need more scientific evidence to support these claims.3,9 

Potential uses of lemons in scurvy 

Scurvy is a disease caused by a deficiency of Vitamin C and is characterised by generalised weakness, bleeding and bruising gums, etc. Dr. James Lind was the first physician to conduct a controlled clinical trial in 1796. Due to the high mortality from scurvy amongst the sailors, he planned a comparative trial to assess the effect of citrus fruits like lemons and oranges on scurvy. To his surprise, Lind found that citrus fruits (lemons and oranges) were better than other treatments for scurvy. Additionally, Vitamin C is required to form collagen, which plays an important role in stopping bleeding. Therefore, lemons may help in healing wounds. This indicates that lemons, a rich source of Vitamin C, may help manage scurvy. However, more studies should be conducted to increase the reliability of these results.10,11 

Other potential uses of lemons:11 

  • Lemons contain Vitamin C, which aids the absorption of iron from vegetarian diets and may help lower the risk of anaemia. 
  • Lemons increase saliva secretion, and thus, they may help in improving digestion. 
  • The presence of antioxidants and high vitamin C content in lemons may help boost immunity. 
  • Kidney stones are formed when citric acid salt citrate binds to calcium; consumption of lemon juice increases the urinary excretion of citrate and, thus, may reduce the risk of kidney stones. 
  • Lemons, when consumed in combination with standard antimalarials, promote early parasite clearance.12 

Though there are studies that show the benefits of Lemons in various conditions, these are insufficient, and there is a need for further studies to establish the true extent of the benefits of Lemons on human health.  

How to Use Lemons? 

  • Lemons are used in sweet and savoury dishes. 
  • Lemons, due to their acidic taste, bring out flavours in dishes. 
  • Squeeze lemons to make a rejuvenating lemon juice. 
  • Lemon zest prepared by grating or shredding the skin of lemon is used in salad dressings, garnishing curries, stews, soups, etc.13  

You must consult a qualified doctor before taking any herbal supplements. Do not discontinue or replace an ongoing treatment of modern medicine with an ayurvedic/herbal preparation without consulting a qualified doctor.   

Side Effects of Lemons: 

Likewise, a few side effects related to the consumption of lemons include: 

  • Neda et al. conducted a study in 2021 which showed that daily consumption of citrus fruits like lemons can increase the risk of gastric reflux disease.14 
  • Lemons can increase the risk of migraines due to the presence of tyramine which can trigger migraines.11 
  • Consuming lemons in excess can exaggerate canker sores (painful mouth ulcers).11 
  • Due to a high content of Vitamin C, lemons are acidic and can cause dental erosion (loss of the top layer (enamel) of teeth) over time.  
  • Daily consumption can result in mild irritation to the throat.11 

However, if you experience any adverse reactions to lemons, it is advised to discontinue its intake and immediately contact a doctor or your Ayurvedic physician who has prescribed it. They will be able to guide you appropriately for your symptoms. 

Also Read: What is a Kumquat? Exploring the Unique Characteristics and Benefits

Precautions to take with Lemons: 

Eating lemons is okay if taken in moderate amounts. However, general precautions must be followed in the following conditions: 

  • There isn’t enough data regarding the safety of lemons or lemon juice consumption during pregnancy or breastfeeding, so it is recommended to consult with your doctor for proper advice. 
  • Like other fruits and vegetables, it is always advised to wash lemons before using them. 

Interactions with Other Drugs: 

There is no significant interaction of lemons with other drugs. However, you must always seek the advice of your Ayurvedic physician about the possible interaction of lemons with other drugs and follow the prescription thoroughly, as they will know your health condition and other medications you are taking. 

Frequently Asked Questions: 

1) What is the scientific name of lemons? 

The scientific name of lemons is Citrus limon.1 

2) Can lemons help in weight loss? 

Yes, studies show that lemons may help in managing obesity and promoting weight loss. However, scientific evidence to support this claim is limited. Therefore, you should consult a doctor if you have any weight-related issues.6 

3)  Can lemons help in managing blood pressure?  

Yes, lemons may help manage blood pressure. This effect is attributed to the presence of Vitamin C. However, the exact mechanism is unclear and more research is needed to support these claims. Therefore, it is advised to consult a doctor for proper treatment in case you have abnormal blood pressure.7 

4) Can the consumption of lemon juice help manage kidney stones? 

Kidney stones are formed when citric acid salt citrate binds to calcium. Consumption of lemon juice increases the urinary excretion of citrate and, thus, may reduce the risk of kidney stones. However, there is a need to conduct more studies to support these claims. It is recommended to consult a doctor for proper treatment in case you have kidney stones. 

5) What are the side effects of excess lemon consumption? 

Consumption of lemons in excess can increase the risk of gastric reflux disease. Lemons are acidic and can cause dental erosion over a long period. They can also increase the risk of migraines due to the presence of tyramine.11 


  1. Model profile of 1.0 ha citrus cultivation – agricoop.nic.in. Available at: https://agricoop.nic.in/sites/default/files/Citrus%20cultivation.pdf  (Accessed: December 2, 2022).  
  1. Klimek-Szczykutowicz, Marta et al. “Citrus limon (Lemon) Phenomenon-A Review of the Chemistry, Pharmacological Properties, Applications in the Modern Pharmaceutical, Food, and Cosmetics Industries, and Biotechnological Studies.” Plants (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 9,1 119. 17 Jan. 2020, doi:10.3390/plants9010119. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31963590/ 
  1. Lemon juice, raw (no date) Lemon juice, raw nutrition facts and analysis. Available at: https://www.nutritionvalue.org/Lemon_juice%2C_raw_nutritional_value.html?size=100%2Bg (Accessed: December 2, 2022).  
  1. Czech, Anna et al. “Mineral Content of the Pulp and Peel of Various Citrus Fruit Cultivars.” Biological trace element research vol. 193,2 (2020): 555-563. doi:10.1007/s12011-019-01727-1. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6944645/ 
  1. Singh, Nitika et al. “Features, Pharmacological Chemistry, Molecular Mechanism and Health Benefits of Lemon.” Medicinal chemistry (Shariqah (United Arab Emirates)) vol. 17,3 (2021): 187-202. doi:10.2174/1573406416666200909104050. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32901586/ 
  1. Fukuchi, Yoshiko et al. “Lemon Polyphenols Suppress Diet-induced Obesity by Up-Regulation of mRNA Levels of the Enzymes Involved in beta-Oxidation in Mouse White Adipose Tissue.” Journal of clinical biochemistry and nutrition vol. 43,3 (2008): 201-9. doi:10.3164/jcbn.2008066. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19015756/ 
  1. Al-Ataby, Israa A, and Wamidh H Talib. “Daily Consumption of Lemon and Ginger Herbal Infusion Caused Tumor Regression and Activation of the Immune System in a Mouse Model of Breast Cancer.” Frontiers in nutrition vol. 9 829101. 13 Apr. 2022, doi:10.3389/fnut.2022.829101. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC9043650/ 
  1. Bahar, Zuhal et al. “Herbal therapies used by hypertensive patients in Turkey.” African journal of traditional, complementary, and alternative medicines: AJTCAM vol. 10,2 292-8. 31 Dec. 2012. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3746576/ 
  1. Amaral-Machado, Lucas et al. “Use of Natural Products in Asthma Treatment.” Evidence-based complementary and alternative medicine: eCAM vol. 2020 1021258. 13 Feb. 2020, doi:10.1155/2020/1021258. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7040422/#B49 
  1. Bhatt, Arun. “Evolution of clinical research: a history before and beyond James Lind.” Perspectives in clinical research vol. 1,1 (2010): 6-10. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3149409/ 
  1. Doctors, V.B.S.H. (2022) Lemon – health benefits, nutrition, side effects and more, Star Health. Available at: https://www.starhealth.in/blog/lemon (Accessed: December 3, 2022).  
  1. Shija, Kelvin M et al. “Effects of lemon decoction on malaria parasite clearance and selected hematological parameters in Plasmodium berghei ANKA infected mice.” BMC complementary medicine and therapies vol. 20,1 24. 30 Jan. 2020, doi:10.1186/s12906-020-2820-1. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7076818/pdf/12906_2020_Article_2820.pdf 
  1. Food revolution network (2022) How (and why) to use lemon in recipes, Food Revolution Network. Available at: https://foodrevolution.org/blog/lemon-recipes/ (Accessed: December 2, 2022).  
  1. Heidarzadeh-Esfahani, Neda et al. “Dietary Intake in Relation to the Risk of Reflux Disease: A Systematic Review.” Preventive nutrition and food science vol. 26,4 (2021): 367-379. doi:10.3746/pnf.2021.26.4.367. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8747955/ 


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