According to the classic herbal medicine text "A Modern Herbal," 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 been long 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.
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. (See Resources.)
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. (See Resources.)
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. (See Resources.)
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 counteracts narcotic poisoning, and has long been recognized for its value as a hangover cure.
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.