While many people have the notion that essential oils are only for bath and beauty, I’ve been telling people for decades that aromatherapy, when properly used, is the future of natural medicine. That’s because essential oils are highly concentrated versions of the therapeutic plants from which they are derived. Their potent scents travel via the olfactory system, stimulating a healing response from the brain and throughout the body, depending on the actions of particular essential oils.
Lemon essential oil is among my favorite essential oils, and it has a wealth of possible uses for health, including everything from boosting mood to aiding weight loss.
Healing with Lemon Essential Oil
Some of lemon essential oil’s many amazing healing properties include:
Anticancer Power: Lemons are well-documented to contain a variety of anticancer compounds, including one known as d-limonene, which is largely found in lemon peels. Lemon essential oil is extracted from the peels of lemon due to their high oil content. According to some reports, lemon essential oil may contain as much as 70 percent d-limonene. For skin cancer and other types of cancer, some experts recommend internal use of two drops two to three times daily; however, I don’t recommend using essential oils internally without the advice of a trained medical professional.
Antimicrobial Aid:Lemon has long been recognized as a natural antiseptic, having antiviral and antifungal properties. Adding several drops of lemon essential oil to your natural cleaning products (or homemade products such as the recipe for Lemon Fresh All-Purpose Scrub below) can help kill microbes while freshening the air. In a study published in the Journal of Food Safety, researchers found that lemon essential oil had antibacterial activity against all six of the bacteria they tested.
Mood Booster: Lemon has traditionally been used to elevate mood, and research in the medical journal Behavioural Brain Research supports this use. The researchers found that lemon essential oil diffused into the air reduced depression and anxiety in mice.
Protection Against Side Effects of Aspirin: While many people take aspirin as a blood thinner and protector against heart disease, the drug is known to irritate the intestines. In a lab study published in the medical journal Applied Physiology, Nutrition & Metabolism, researchers attempted to determine whether lemon essential oil could protect against damage to rat cells. They concluded that the oil has a potent protective effect on the cells, helping prevent damage from aspirin exposure. Other research in the journal Biomedicine and Pharmacotherapy studied rats dosed with aspirin and found that lemon essential oil also prevented liver and kidney damage.
To obtain the heart-health benefits and liver and kidney protection from aspirin use, I recommend applying a drop or two to the palms of your hands and rubbing your hands together. Apply a few times daily. Essential oils are quickly absorbed through the skin and into the bloodstream. Some experts also recommend taking one to two drops in a glass of water or juice three times daily; again, seek a certified medical professional before using essential oils internally.
Skin Repair:Lemon essential oil is widely used for acne, hydrating skin and repairing damaged skin. It is naturally astringent and detoxifying and is reported to rejuvenate tired or sagging skin. You can make your own Invigorating Lemon Lotion using the simple recipe at right.
Weight Loss Wonder: Exciting research suggests that scent could potentially play a role in weight loss. An animal study published in the journal Experimental Biology and Medicine found that the scent of lemon (the real stuff, not the synthetic ones added to some commercial cleaning products) activated the nerves in fatty deposits, suggesting it may increase the rate of fat burning and suppress new weight gain.
Using Lemon Essential Oil
While there are many lemon essential oil products on the market, most have been diluted with cheaper oils or contain harsh solvents used during their processing. This makes it critical to choose an essential oil that has independent third-party laboratory testing and, ideally, organic certification. Sadly, few companies have done this type of research so it can be difficult to find suitable products. Lemon essential oil is generally recognized as safe (GRAS) for human consumption by the FDA. However, many lemon essential oil products on the market are not pure enough for internal use. Consult a medical professional.
For the purpose of massage or for sensitive skin, dilute three to five drops of lemon essential oil in one teaspoon of carrier oil such as sweet almond or fractionated coconut oil (a liquid version of coconut oil). Always conduct a 48-hour skin test of lemon essential oil diluted in the carrier of your choice prior to more extensive use. Avoid sun exposure or UV light for up to 12 hours after using the oil on the skin as lemon essential oil can make the skin more photosensitive during that time frame.
In addition to using lemon essential oil in skin care or household cleaning products, you can also diffuse it to disinfect and freshen the air and to reap the health benefits of inhaling microscopic droplets. Simply add about five drops of lemon essential oil to a diffuser and diffuse for up to an hour. Add two to three drops to your dishwasher detergent or liquid dish soap to boost their antimicrobial action.
Lemon is classified as a top note, meaning that, when added to essential oil blends, it is one of the first scents we smell, but it also tends to fade quickly. Usually top notes should comprise between 5 and 20 percent of a blend, and lemon adds a lovely citrus note to scents.
Lemon Fresh All-Purpose Scrub
Forget lemon-scented cleaners with synthetic lemon oils. Instead, freshen your home and take advantage of the antimicrobial properties of pure, natural lemon essential oil.
• 2 cups baking soda
• 1/2 cup liquid castile soap
• 1/2 cup water
• 10 drops lemon essential oil
Mix all ingredients well. Pour into a squirt bottle and label. Be sure to shake before each use. Use to scrub sinks, countertops, bathtubs and toilet bowls. Rinse well after use. Makes about 3 cups.
Invigorating Lemon Lotion
One of the best ways to appreciate the invigorating scent of lemon essential oil is to incorporate it into your body lotion or, better yet, make your own lemon body lotion.
• 3/4 cup pure oil, such as sweet almond oil
• 2 tablespoons shaved beeswax (avoid using other waxes as they are frequently made with petroleum products)
• 30 drops lemon essential oil
• 1 cup filtered water
• One 16-ounce glass jar or two 8-ounce glass jars for storing lotion
1.Pour oil and beeswax into a small saucepan and heat over low to medium heat until beeswax dissolves. Remove from heat immediately. Allow to cool for 1 to 2 minutes. Add lemon essential oil.
2.Pour water into blender and begin blending on high speed with the lid on (with a hole left in the lid for pouring the beeswax-oil mixture). Slowly pour oil-beeswax mixture into water. It will begin to emulsify as you continue pouring the oil.
3.Pour lotion into glass jars. The lotion lasts for about 6 months and is best kept at cool temperatures to prolong shelf life. You can also store it in the fridge if you choose.
Makes about 2 cups.
Both recipes in this article were adapted with permission from Weekend Wonder Detox by Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, ROHP (DaCapo).