There is no distinct line between food and medicine when it comes to plants and lemon is an excellent example of a food that can also act as a medicine. It’s something we purchase at the grocery store, use in food, and can also use for healing.
My first herb teacher, Edward Milo Millet, recommended that I drink the juice of half a lemon in a glass of water to cleanse my system first thing in the morning. That was in 1980, shortly after Stanley Burroughs published his book The Master Cleanser (1976) advocating fasting on natural lemonade made with maple syrup and a little capsicum.
Although I omit the capsicum when I do it, I’ve used lemon water sweetened with real maple syrup as an aid to fasting and detoxification for over 40 years. Whenever I start to feel heavy, congested, sluggish, tired, and stuffy, I find that doing even a short lemon juice fast makes me feel refreshed, lighter and more energized.
This may be due, at least partially, to the alkalizing effect of lemon. It helps flush waste acids from the body, dissolves fatty congestion and stimulates energy production in the mitochondria of the cells.
Doing a Lemonade Cleanse
When I do a lemon cleanse, I juice fresh lemons and add an equal amount of grade B or C maple syrup to the juice. I put this mixture in a bottle in the fridge. Then, I dilute this with plain water or sparkling water. The addition of sparkling water is great for rehydrating the body and cooling the body during the hot days of summer. Warm water is an alternative when it is cold out.
I've also found it beneficial to add an antioxidant juice drink containing mangosteen, lycium, sea buckthorn, and other cooling herbs to this cleanse. I came up with this variant to help someone who was getting heat exhaustion from working in attic crawl spaces and installing heating and air conditioning in the hot St. George summers. It really helped them.
I later found the same mixture helpful for reducing the allergic reactions I was having to dust in my garden. I’ve also recommended it as a remedy for reducing systemic inflammation.
Lemon’s Health Benefits
Even though it is an acid, lemon has an alkalizing effect. It’s a great antioxidant; you can put the juice into a little water to keep apple slices or other fruits from turning brown. It’s also a refrigerant, which means it helps to cool the body during summer heat, inflammation, and fever. People make tea with it using lemon, ginger, and honey as a remedy for colds and flu. This blend helps loosen phlegm, relieve congestion, and settle the stomach.
Lemon also acts as a tonic for the pancreas and liver. It can help settle an acid stomach and is helpful for acid conditions such as gout, rheumatism, and arthritis. It can also help relieve sore throats and strengthen blood capillaries because of its vitamin C and bioflavonoids. Lemon juice can also be applied topically to acne, bites and stings, sunburn, topical fungal infections, and warts.
Specific Lemon Cleanses
Lemon juice is also used with olive oil to flush gallstones, as part of the gallbladder flush. I’ve done this several times and if had continued to do it regularly I might have saved my gallbladder instead of waiting until it got so bad it had to be removed. The directions for the flush can be found in the article The Gallbladder Flush.
Another use for lemon juice is to flush kidney stones. I don’t remember who first shared this with me, but you put the juice of four lemons in a gallon of distilled water. You fast and drink this water throughout the day. You also take four capsules of hydrangea every two hours. This has worked very well for many people.
Lemon for Infection
A really good lemon remedy for respiratory infections involves peeling the yellow part of the lemon, leaving the white pith, which is rich in bioflavonoids. Cut this in quarters and put it in a blender. Add a couple of cloves of peeled garlic and about one Tablespoon of honey or maple syrup. Add one quart of water and blend the entire mixture and strain it. Then drink it throughout the day. It tastes better than it sounds, but it really works for congestion in the lungs, including pneumonia.
The yellow lemon zest is actually a good herbal remedy as well. If you peel organic lemons, cut the peeling into pieces, and dry them, you can use this as part of formulas for boosting the immune system and fighting infection. I’ve added lemon peel to formulas containing herbs like echinacea, thyme, oregano, and other herbs to help the immune system.
Lemon Essential Oil
The scent of lemon is heavily associated with cleaning and disinfectants.Think of all the lemon-fresh cleaning products, dish soaps, and furniture polishes that are on the market. There is a sound reason behind this as lemon essential oil is a very good antiseptic. It is also an immune stimulant.
People have added a drop of lemon oil to a small glass of water to help settle the stomach and fight infection. You can also make a pleasant-smelling, antibacterial hand cleaner just by adding a few drops of an essential oil like lemon to a natural liquid soap.
Besides being antiseptic, lemon oil is also an immune stimulant and digestive stimulant. Not only does it help reduce blood fat and cholesterol by stimulating liver and bile function, it can also help break down cellulite and abscesses. Topically, it can be helpful for greasy skin, cuts, and boils. The fact that the oil helps cut grease is another reason why it’s a good oil for cleaning both your house and your body.
Emotional Properties of Lemon
The smell of lemon oil is emotionally uplifting, relieving depression, intellectual fatigue, moodiness, obsession, and exhaustion. Which is still another reason why it’s a great fragrance to use for cleaning, it lifts your mood while you’re doing the chores.
Lemons are a completely safe food remedy, but the over use of lemon oil internally may cause nausea. Externally, lemon oil may cause dermal irritation. Lemon oil is phototoxic, so avoid using it on skin that is exposed to light.
I hope this gives you some ideas about how to use this food as medicine and helps clarify why Hippocrates suggested we should let our food be our medicine and our medicine be our food. If you try some of the remedies listed in this article I think you’ll find they are very effective.