Lemons are the fruits of lemon trees (Citrus limonium), small evergreen trees in the Rutaceae (Rue family, native to India and South-East Asia. It has long been recognized for its numerous health benefits and medicinal properties.
Introduced in Europe by the Arabs at the beginning of the Christian era, cultivation of this citrus slowly crept upwards and reached Europe in the XVIIth century.
- Gardening: how to grow lemon trees.
Health benefits of lemon
Lemons have very high water content, and provide very little proteins and fats. Carbohydrates and fiber are the most important of this fruit’s components. Lemons have strong assets that help us sustain good health and should definitely be part of our daily diet. However, in order to benefit from all of their therapeutic benefits, lemons must have been grown untreated. Scrupulously check where and how they were grown.
- With very high vitamin C contents (lemons are the citrus fruits with the highest vitamin C levels), lemons are good antioxidants that are involved in fighting free radicals, defend us from foreign bodies, help us deal with allergies, reinforce our immune system and prevent formation and development of various cancers. Lemons are also excellent allies against exhaustion.
- Since they have high vitamin and mineral contents and have low calorie intake, lemons are perfectly suited to hypocaloric (low-calorie) diets.
- Lemons are very refreshing in case of flu, fever, or simply hot weather. Their juice can be drunk directly, or lemonade can be made (macerate two sliced lemons with their peels with a little sugar in 1 quart (1 liter) water).
- Flavonoid-rich lemons have anti-inflammatory properties and prevent cardiovascular diseases.
- Purgative and antiseptic, lemons can be used to treat infectious diseases. Drink warm lemon juice with a spoonful of honey as a natural remedy for colds, flu and bronchitis, and to generally help our immune system fight off winter microbes.
- Thanks to their diuretic effect, lemons help soothe pain due to rheumatism and arthritis.
- Early morning liver tonic: mix lemon juice with warm water and drink it before breakfast. This will also ease digestion. Lemons can help reduce many digestive disorders (nausea, heartburn, bloating).
- Fresh or dried lemon peels also boast tonic properties. They are used in to prepare certain appetite-enhancing drinks.
- Lemons work like dentists, too: they whiten teeth, fight plaque formation, soothe canker sores and inflamed gums.
- Lemons are excellent back-up antiseptic agents when used externally. Lemon juice stops bleeding and speeds wound-healing.
- Rinse your hair with lemon juice added to water for your last rinse after having used shampoo, and your hair will grow shiny and soft.
- Finally, lemon peels are great against acne, and astringent lemon juice works wonders against black spots and dilated pores for persons with oily skin. Use pure or thin with mineral water.
Growing lemon trees to take advantage of lemon health benefits
- Lemon trees require warm, sunny exposure with gradual temperature changes, and must be protected from wind.
- Choose rich, fertile, light and well-drained soil.
- Since they are vulnerable to cold, lemon trees appreciate dry and mild climates, like around the Mediterranean or along warm climate lines. In colder regions, it is best to plant them in pots that can be brought indoors during winter. Take care, though, that surrounding temperatures never rise higher than 60 to 68°F (15 to 20°C): if lemon trees are too hot, their leaves and flowers turn yellow and fall off.
- Lemon trees bloom several times a year (they are indeterminate) and thus produce fruits all year long.
- Scale insects colonize young shoots, and citrus blossom moth caterpillars chew on flowers and inhibit fruit formation. Watch out for whiteflies when keeping your tree in a sheltered place.
→ Read also: how to grow a lemon tree
Cooking with lemons to reap their benefits
- Lemon juice can be savored cold or hot, pure or thinned with water, with sugar or honey. It flavors cakes, mousses, pies and jams, and also many main courses.
- In salad dressing it can serve as an alternative to vinegar.
- Candied lemons are unavoidable in lamb or chicken tajine.
Nutritional content of lemon
34 kcal / 3.5 oz (100 g). Lemons are diuretic, and have high vitamin C and mineral contents. Their leaves are antispasmodic, astringent and relaxing.