Herb: Lemon

Latin name: Citrus limon

Synonyms: Citrus limonum, Citrus x limonia

Family: Rutaceae (Rue Family, Citrus Family)

Medicinal use of Lemon:

Lemons are an excellent preventative medicine and have a wide range of uses in the domestic medicine chest. The fruit is rich in vitamin C which helps the body to fight off infections and also to prevent or treat scurvy. It was at one time a legal requirement that sailors should be given an ounce of lemon each day in order to prevent scurvy. Applied locally, the juice is a good astringent and is used as a gargle for sore throats etc. Lemon juice is also a very effective bactericide. It is also a good antiperiodic and has been used as a substitute for quinine in treating malaria and other fevers. Although the fruit is very acid, once eaten it has an alkalizing effect upon the body. This makes it useful in the treatment of rheumatic conditions. The skin of the ripe fruit is carminative and stomachic. The essential oil from the skin of the fruit is strongly rubefacient and when taken internally in small doses has stimulating and carminative properties. The stem bark is bitter, stomachic and tonic. An essential oil from the fruit rind is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is "Refreshing". Citrus species contain a wide range of active ingredients and research is still underway in finding uses for them. They are rich in vitamin C, bioflavonoids, acids and volatile oils. They also contain coumarins such as bergapten which sensitizes the skin to sunlight. Bergapten is sometimes added to tanning preparations since it promotes pigmentation in the skin, though it can cause dermatitis or allergic responses in some people. Some of the plants more recent applications are as sources of anti-oxidants and chemical exfoliants in specialized cosmetics. The bioflavonoids in the fruit help to strengthen the inner lining of blood vessels, especially veins and capillaries, and help counter varicose veins and easy bruising.

Description of the plant:


3 m
(9 3/4 foot)

January to


Habitat of the herb:

Original habitat is obscure, probably a hybrid involving C. medica x C. aurantifolia.

Edible parts of Lemon:

Fruit - raw or cooked. A very acid taste. Mainly used as a drink and as a flavouring. It is also used in salad dressings etc where it acts as an antioxidant as well as imparting an acid flavour. The juice is used to help set jam. The fruit can be up to 15cm long and 7cm wide. The dried rind of the fruit is often used as a flavouring in cakes etc. The dried leaves are sometimes mixed with tea leaves for use as a flavouring. An essential oil from the rind is used as a food flavouring. The flowers are eaten in ice creams, fritters, jams etc.

Other uses of the herb:

A semi-drying oil obtained from the seed is used in soap making. An essential oil from the peel is used as a food flavouring and also in perfumery and medicines. A higher quality essential oil is obtained from the flowers. The peel contains 0.4% essential oil. An essential oil obtained from the leaves and young twigs is called "petitgrain oil". Yields are around 0.4%. The dried fruit rind has been used as an insect repellent in the clothes cupboard and also in pot-pourri. The juice of the fruit is used for polishing bronze and other metals that have been neglected. It can also be used for removing ink stains. The juice is used as a bleaching agent. Wood - nicely veined, it takes a beautiful polish.

Propagation of Lemon:

The seed is best sown in a greenhouse as soon as it ripe after thoroughly rinsing it. Sow stored seed in March in a greenhouse. Germination usually takes place within 2 - 3 weeks at 13C. Seedlings are liable to damp off so they must be watered with care and kept well ventilated. The seed is usually polyembrionic, two or more seedlings arise from each seed and they are genetically identical to the parent but they do not usually carry any virus that might be present in the parent plant. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least three growing seasons before trying them outdoors. Plant them out in the summer and give them some protection from the cold for their first few winters outdoors. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, July/August in a frame. Layering in October.

Cultivation of the herb:

Original habitat is obscure, probably a hybrid involving C. medica x C. aurantifolia.

Known hazards of Citrus limon:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.