When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Right?
Well… maybe not. If you look outside the pulp of this sour staple of the kitchen, you might find a wealth of uses and benefits you may not have expected. But first...
Where Did Lemons Come From? Where Did They Go? (Where Did They Come From, Cotton Eye Joe?)
If you can believe it, the origin of one of the most recognizable and versatile fruits in the modern world is actually shrouded in mystery.
Some scientists believe that the lemon is a crossbreed between a sour orange and the citron, a more acidic fruit thought to be the genetic ancestor of the citrus family, but nobody knows where it comes from for certain.
Today there are 47 different varieties of lemons, and the two most common varieties are known as the “Eureka Lemon” and the “Lisbon Lemon.”
Scientists agree that the lemon comes from a small evergreen tree native to Asia in the Rutaceae family, but several nations each claim that the plant originated in their borders.
Most evidence points to northwest India as the original culture to cultivate the fruit, while Alexander the Great brought the lemon tree to Europe in 200 AD and the plant was rapidly spread across the continent with the Crusades.
Lemons made their way to the Americas in the late 1400s when Christopher Columbus brought seeds with him to the new world.
My Top 5 Best Lemon Oil Brands In 2018
*The companies chosen above are based upon my personal opinion based upon me giving them a try and testing their quality.
The Fruit and The Tree
The lemon tree is smaller than many other evergreen trees, standing at about ten to twenty feet tall. It has a thin trunk and the leaves are arranged at the top in a bush-like pattern.
The oval-shaped leaves have a red tint until maturity, when they turn green. The flowers smell sweet and the leaves house some sharp thorns to be wary of if you’re ever cultivating.
Lemon trees survive well in warmer climates, particularly subtropical regions, as the plants prefer to stay above 45 degrees fahrenheit.
They currently grow wild across the mediterranean with the most presence in Spain and Portugal. Lemon trees produce fruit year-round once they have reached maturity.
Lemons grow green and turn yellow as they ripen. They tend to be oval in shape, with a sour and acidic segmented pulp inside.
The white pith (known as the mesocarp or albedo) directly on the inside of the peel is a major source of commercial pectin.
Medicinal Uses Across The Millenia
This sour yellow fruit has been used as medicine for centuries in various disciplines and cultures. It has been recorded being used up to and around 1000 years ago in Ayurvedic Medicine to treat a wide variety of ailments.
It's use in Europe starting as early as the 15th century AD was generally as a cure-all, treating anything from malaria to typhoid and being a notable preventative medicine for scurvy.
It was prized for its high antioxidants (known as bioflavonoids) and ability to treat or help manage almost any ailment, and it’s still used in modern medicine to treat things like tinnitus (ringing in the ears) and even the H1N1 Swine Flu!
Lemon Oil vs. Lemon Juice - Wait, There’s a Difference?
Yes, there is! Lemon juice can be found easily by simply taking a lemon (you probably have one) and cutting it open.
The juice inside the lemon is what’s known as… well, lemon juice.
You can drink this raw and undiluted, and while it may make your face pucker up, drinking lemon juice this way is harmless.
The pleasant smelling oil you get on your hand by holding the lemon is a trace amount of lemon oil.
Drinking a bunch of this undiluted, besides being almost impossible to do for how difficult it is to get large quantities of the stuff, is highly cautioned against because of how potent it is (basically, you’d get really sick).
Lemon essential oil is phototoxic, and is also not recommended for undiluted use on skin because it raises the risk of sun damage.
Don’t let those qualities fool you, though! Lemon oil, when used safely, can be used for a wide range of household and DIY projects, adding health benefits and a refreshing scent to your everyday chores and routines.
A few words of warning: lemon oil can sometimes, in error, be referred to as citron oil, despite the citron being an entirely different plant with its own oils.
Other synonyms can pop up on websites trying to make it seem more exotic than it is; one such name is citrus limonum oil.
Additionally, while lemons do come in a wide variety of distinct species, not all essential oils that have the word “lemon” in them are actually made from lemons… or anything even close to or related to lemons.
While they do all have purposes (and smell divine), they are not lemon essential oils, so be sure to look closely when you’re shopping.
These oils include:
What Do I Do With Lemon Oil?
This is the fun part! Lemon essential oil is my absolute favorite, and one reason for that is how amazingly versatile it can be.
If I tried to list every potential use for this oil I would be writing this forever, but I’ll take a stab at providing some of the best and easiest uses for it.
In the new day and age where an awareness of dangerous chemicals in the home is at an all-time high, it’s only natural that some people are turning to more natural solutions to keep their homes clean.
Lemon oil is particularly prized for its antibacterial properties and refreshing scent, so it’s no wonder it shows up in a lot of DIY home cleaning solutions.
Along with most essential oils, lemon oil is antibacterial, but it has more properties than that; lemon oil is also, anti-fungal, antiviral, and antiseptic, as well as disinfectant and effective at killing odors when used in an air freshener.
Lemon oil can be used in all sorts of home cleaning and upkeep, including (but not limited to):
The more well known cousin of lemon oil, lemon juice, is generally more known for its use in the kitchen.
Most cooks have a bottle of it or even a lemon on hand for the flavor, but lemon essential oil has an edge over the juice.
It’s absolutely packed with vitamins A, B, and C, minerals, and antioxidants. What’s more, it takes only a drop or two (due to the potency) to infuse that refreshing and light flavor into a salad or baked good.
It can even make you feel a little less guilty for having one more sweet treat-- all those vitamins and minerals have to make up for the sugar, right? (You didn’t hear that from me.)
Most importantly, before using essential oils of any kind in cooking, be sure to do your research in order to get all the benefits safely.
Hair Care and Skin Care
Essential oils have a diverse set of benefits for skin and hair care. Lemon oil specializes in helping to manage oily hair and combating dandruff or scalp acne; by mixing 5-6 drops into a carrier oil (coconut oil works well for me but, jojoba oil is also highly recommended) and rubbing into the hair and scalp before a shampoo, you can nip those hair troubles in the bud.
Lemon oil can replace all sorts or commercial lotions and potions, either alone or with other oils. It can act as a toner, help fight acne, or even replace or supplement your anti-aging cream.
When added to epsom salts and used in a bath, it gently cleanses skin. It’s also a natural and safe skin bleaching agent when used with the proper care.
Lemon oil has many of these effects when added to any DIY cream or other skin care mix, and can replace or supplement large chunks of your skin care routine.
Always be safe when applying essential oils to any part of the body. Undiluted, they can cause more harm than good, so always dilute them appropriately with a carrier oil.
Thankfully, popular carrier oils are usually cheap and come with their own sets of benefits!
Also be aware that when applied to skin, undistilled lemon oil can make it more sensitive to sunlight.
Seek distilled lemon oil for skin care or take care to limit direct sunlight a few hours after application.
Lemon Essential Oil Benefits and Studies
Lemon essential oil has a wide range of health benefits backed up by real science. Aromatherapy and the use of essential oils (sometimes referred to as “volatile oils” or simply “volatiles”) has several proven positive impacts on various ailments.
Before you rush down to the doctor’s office for a cure for your sniffles or upset stomach, try these home remedies.
(As always, essential oils are meant to be a first line of defense and a supplement to professional medical care, not a replacement. If symptoms persist, go see a doctor!)
Eases Nausea and Upset Stomach
A double blind study done on pregnant women given the scent of lemon oil to smell had a statistically significant impact on their level of nausea when compared with the women who were not given the lemon oil.
It’s not recommended to ingest essential oils raw in any scenario for any reason, so to get the anti-nausea benefit of lemon, put some in a steam diffuser and inhale the scent.
While the research is still somewhat out on this one, in a study done on rats and their stress responses to various stimuli, the scent of lemon oil had an anxiolytic (or “anxiety reducing”) effect on their responses and how their brains handled stress. (source)
To get these anti-anxiety benefits for yourself, simply diffuse the oil like in the last example.
Reducing Weight Gain
In a study done on rats (again), inhaling the scent of lemon oil reduced weight gain by a statistically significant amount.
If you want to keep off those few extra pounds keeping you in your jeans, diffuse the lemon oil or add a drop or two into a hearty meal. (source)
Scents that come from recognizable foods can also impact appetite (i.e. increase it), so be careful you don’t accidentally eat more to compensate!
Promotes Restful Sleep
Okay, this is just a very nice way of saying that the scent of lemon oil can act as a mild sedative. Like the more well known lavender oil, diffusing lemon oil has an impact on one of the receptors in your brain that impacts alertness and wakefulness. (source)
In English, this means it can make you sleepy. Lavender oil is the more preferred scent for this use, but if it just doesn’t work for you, try diffusing lemon.
Possible Supplement For The Treatment Of Certain Cancers
Let me qualify this: you should never, ever, ever try to treat something as serious or dangerous as cancer with home remedies alone.
Additionally, before using herbal or essential oil supplements, always ask your healthcare provider if it’s safe and what dosages to use.
Modern medicine cannot and should not be ignored in favor of home remedies, and you don’t know what medicines may interact unfavorably with your supplements. In short, talk to your doctor!
In a phase I clinical trial, use of d-limonene, a terpene that is most represented in citrus oils such as orange or lemon, helped to fight the growth of cervical cancer in patients who used it in a concentrated form. (source)
While you should never ingest concentrated… well, anything without the direct supervision of a medical professional, it is suggested that inhaling or using small, safe amounts of oils rich in this terpene in foods may aid in the fight against cancer.
I cannot emphasize this enough: talk to your doctor before starting any home remedies or supplements!
Lemon Oil Side Effects and Precautions
I’ve hinted at or stated a lot of these throughout the guide so far, but it’s good to make sure all my readers know these important facts and precautions about lemon oil.
While it can be very helpful and I love how many uses it has, safety is super important.
Essential Oils and Pets
Always use caution when diffusing essential oils in a home where there are any pets. Cats and dogs, the most common household pets, both have long lists of essential oils that can be very harmful to them if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin.
Never put your oils or diffuser in a place your pets can access it. Lemon oil is toxic to cats if inhaled, ingested, or absorbed through skin, and dogs shouldn’t be exposed to it in an undiluted form as a precaution.
Anything smaller than a chihuahua should never be put in the same room as a diffuser, regardless of what oil you’re using.
Hamsters, for example, may react badly to any diffused oil, so only use the diffuser for short amounts of time in a room far away from the pet.
Birds are the only common pet that make it absolutely impossible to diffuse in the home at all. If you own a bird, find other ways of using the oil.
Always check with a veterinarian before using an essential oil on any pet in any way, no matter how diluted.
Lemon oil is phototoxic, meaning if it is applied to skin, it makes it more sensitive to the sun.
As with any other skin care products that caution about phototoxicity, you’ll want to do anything with lemon oil before bed, rather than before going outside.
The same compounds in lemon oil that cause photosensitivity also may cause a lightening of the skin, so test any lemon oil blend on a small patch of skin before general use to test for a lightening or a rash.
One way to avoid phototoxicity is to find steam-distilled lemon oil. This process removes the compound in lemon oil that causes the sensitivity, but it can also be more pricey.
It is always advised, especially if you’re on other medications, to consult your doctor before diffusing or ingesting any essential oils.
While lemon oil is not currently known to interact with any medications or treatments, it’s certainly better to be safe than sorry.
In the same vein, if you happen to have an allergic reaction to the oil or any other adverse effect (which is extremely rare, but still,) you’ll want to let your doctor know as soon as you can.
Some compounds within the oil may be present in other medications, and your doctor or physician will need to know that.
Dilute, Dilute, Dilute!
This applies to almost every essential oil: never use undiluted essential oil for any purpose. Undiluted essential oils are extremely potent and concentrated, and can burn the skin if used without heavy dilution.
As they are oils, essential oil does not mix with water. Always dilute essential oil either in a carrier oil or into another substance that mixes with oils.
Epsom salt also works for this. And remember: the smaller you are, the less you need. Dilute accordingly.
Lemon Essential Oil Research & Facts
Lemon essential oil is very popular for several reasons, and it has been for centuries! Here are a few facts about the oil.
Final Thoughts About Lemon Oil
When life gives you lemons, it turns out you’re pretty well off. You can use the oils contained within for everything from cooking and cleaning to getting a good night’s sleep.
Lemon oil is one of the cheapest, safest, and versatile oils on the market today. The refreshing scent and variety of benefits it brings to the table make it a must-have for budding aromatherapists and everyday people looking for all-natural solutions alike. Adding lemon oil to your repertoire is a no-brainer.
With that said, always be sure to be safe and responsible with your use of any essential oil. The benefits can be great, but even too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.
Make sure to get steam distilled oil for anything you intend to apply topically, and never add more than a few drops to any DIY project unless you want the full potency of the oil, which isn’t often.
Enjoy your new wealth of knowledge on lemon oil! Diffuse and dilute safely, and you'll be enjoying the all-natural benefits in no time.
What Company Should I Purchase Lemon Oil From?
I hope you enjoyed learning about all of the cool benefits and uses that lemon essential oil offers.
It is definitely one of the most versatile oils because it can be used to create so many different types of blends to solve your everyday problems.
My personal favorite brand that I purchase most of my oils from is doTERRA. I find that they offer the highest quality oils, starter kits, and diffusers. They are especially good if you are brand new to oils because they offer a lot of free resources and education once you become a customer.
I highly recommend giving them a try. You can read more about my story of using their oils here