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Lemon Essential Oil

Lemon (Citrus limon) essential oil is derived from the small, evergreen lemon bush. Lemon is a part of the Rutaceae plant family, which includes citrus species such as grapefruitlimetangerine and sweet orange. 7

As one of the most popular essential oils, it has a bright, tangy, pure scent, which is thought to help to clear the mind and relieve stress. Historically, this essential oil has been used to improve digestive and respiratory health and to dissolve tension in the body and mind.

Lemon essential oil is made by cold pressing the peel of a lemon.8 It is sometimes confused with lemon balm essential oil (also known as melissa essential oil) and lemon eucalyptus essential oil, which are different essential oils with unique properties and benefits.

Lemon essential oil is an effective antimicrobial agent, insect repellent, stress reliever, and nausea reliever.2,3,4,6

Lemon Essential Oil Uses

There are many uses for lemon essential oil, such as cleaning your home, improving the appearance of skin and hair, and relieving stress. Below are the most popular uses for lemon essential oil.

Skin Care
Lemon essential oil is said to improve your complexion and help restore balance to the skin. You can use lemon essential oil to make your own toner, oil cleanser, or exfoliating scrub.

To make the toner, simply add 1-2 drops of lemon essential oil to a cup of distilled water. Apply to your skin with a cotton ball or spray bottle.

To make a natural cleanser, mix 1 drop of lemon essential oil to ¼ cup of coconut oil. Massage the oil mixture into your skin, and let it sit for several minutes. Wipe away with a hot washcloth.

For an exfoliating scrub, mix 1 Tsp. baking soda with 1 drop of lemon essential oil. Add enough water to make a paste. Apply to skin in small, circular motions to exfoliate the skin. Wipe the mixture off with a cool cloth.

Hair Care
Lemon essential oil is said to help combat greasy hair and dandruff. Apply 3-7 drops of lemon essential oil to your palms and then distribute the oil through your hair using your fingers. Comb through your hair to distribute the oil evenly.

Aromatherapy
The scent of lemon essential oil has been used to improve mood and help relieve stress. For aromatherapy, put 2-4 drops of lemon essential oil in a diffuser and let the aroma fill the space. For a homemade diffuser, boil 2-3 cups of water until steaming. Transfer the water into a bowl and add 2-4 drops of lemon essential oil.

Bath
For a stress-relieving bath, add 5-10 drops of lemon essential oil to hot, running water. For a soothing experience, add 1 cup of Epsom salt. 

Natural Tooth Whitener
Lemon essential oil has also been used as a natural tooth whitener. To create your own, mix ¼ cup of coconut oil with 1 Tbsp. of baking soda. Then add 10 drops of lemon essential oil to the paste. Use your toothbrush to rub the whitener on your teeth for about two minutes.

Note: It is not recommended to ingest lemon essential oil. Make sure to completely rinse and spit out the whitener into the sink.

Laundry Freshener
Adding a few drops of lemon essential oil to the washing machine will give freshly washed clothes a clean, citrus scent.

Clean Tough Messes
Lemon essential oil is commonly used as a wood polish, because it can effectively dissolve grime that builds up on wood. This essential oil can also be used to clean other difficult messes. Use lemon essential oil to rid your hands or household surfaces of tough grease, remove stubborn whiteboard marker, sticker residue, or sticky messes.

Natural Disinfectant
Lemon essential oil has antimicrobial properties, so it can be used as a natural alternative to household disinfectants like bleach or alcohol.1,2 To make your own household cleanser, mix 1 cup of water, 1 Tbsp. of white vinegar, and 30 drops of lemon essential oil in a spray bottle. Gently shake to mix together. Spray the disinfectant on household surfaces, then wipe down with a wet cloth.

Natural Mosquito Repellent
Lemon essential oil has been noted in laboratory settings to be almost as effective as DEET in repelling mosquitos.4 To make your own homemade repellent, mix a ¼ cup of distilled water with 2 Tbsp. of witch hazel. Add 50 drops of lemon essential oil, and pour the solution into a spray bottle. Spray it on your skin.

Lemon Essential Oil Benefits

In recent years, lemon essential oil has been shown to have antimicrobial, anti-depressant, and natural insecticide properties. Below are some of the benefits of lemon essential oil that are supported by scientific evidence.

Antimicrobial
Multiple laboratory tests have shown that lemon essential oil is one of the most effective essential oils for inhibiting the growth of bacteria, including E. coli and two strains of staphylococcus bacteria.1,2 When tested amongst 21 essential oils, cinnamon, lemon, lime, geranium and clove essential oil demonstrated the strongest antimicrobial activity.

Relieve Stress
In a study published in the journal of Behavioral Brain Research, the vapors of several essential oils were evaluated for anti-stress properties. Researchers used vapors from roselavender and lemon essential oil on animal subjects who then performed several behavior tests.

Lemon essential oil was observed to have the strongest anti-stress effect. Further, researchers noted that the scent of the oil demonstrated anti-depressant like activity, that may help regulate serotonin and dopamine in the brain. While research is promising, further data is required to determine its effect on humans.

Studies done with mice in 2006 and 2013 have found that lemon essential oil may help relieve stress and depression.4,5 More research is needed to determine whether lemon essential oil produces the same results in human subjects, but the results from aforementioned studies suggest lemon essential oil aromatherapy might be a therapeutic tool for relieving symptoms of stress and depression.

Anti-Depressant Activity 
In a 2003 study, scientists were interested in the possible anti-depressant effects of lemon essential oil. They conducted six different behavioral tests on animal subjects who were administered lemon essential oil.

At the end of the trial, they noted that lemon essential oil had a significant anti-depressant effect on the subjects, increasing levels of norepinephrine, serotonin and dopamine. Further, the essential oil had no effect on bodyweight, and did not cause adverse side effects, which are a common trait of current anti-depressant medications. While further researcher is required, lemon essential oil may have potential as a therapeutic option for depression.

Note: While promising, the study above is preliminary research. Essential oils should not be replaced for conventional treatments.

Reduce Nausea During Pregnancy 
50-80% of pregnant women will experience some form of nausea or vomiting during their pregnancy. To avoid harm to the fetus, natural solutions are often highly sought after. In a recent, double-blind study, researchers noted that the scent of lemon essential oil may be a natural solution for pregnant women who experience nausea.6

Participants were instructed to inhale the lemon essential oil or placebo when they felt a nauseous episode coming on. During the 4-day trial, patients who used the lemon essential oil reported a significant reduction in nausea and vomiting on 2 separate days. This compared to participants who inhaled a placebo.6

While these results are promising, if you are pregnant, consult with your doctor before using lemon essential oil for nausea.

Repel Mosquitos 
A 2002 study found that lemon essential oil may be an effective, natural solution to help repel mosquitos. To test its efficacy, researchers selected 12 human subjects who had their hands covered in lemon essential oil, melissa essential oil, DEET or ethanol. The hands were then exposed to mosquitos in a controlled lab environment.3

Data indicated that lemon essential oil was approximately 71% effective at repelling mosquitos from human subjects. This result was comparable to DEET, which demonstrated 80 % efficacy.3

lemon essential oil uses and benefits

Side Effects of Lemon Essential Oil

Lemon essential oil is generally well-tolerated and considered safe for inhalation and diluted, topical use. As a citrus essential oil, lemon may cause phototoxicity (increased sensitivity to sunlight) when applied topically. Do not apply diluted lemon essential oil prior to sun exposure. Ingesting lemon essential oil is not recommended unless under the direct supervision of a health professional.

Essential oils are not recommended for use on children younger than two years old. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not use lemon essential oil without first consulting a healthcare professional.

Scientific Research Referenced in this Article

  1. Kivanç, M. & Akgül, A. (1986), Antibacterial activities of essential oils from Turkish spices and citrus. Flavour & Fragrance Journal, 1: 175–179. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ffj.2730010409/full
  2. Prabuseenivasan, S., Jayakumar M., & Ignacimuthu, S. (2006). In vitro antibacterial activity of some plant essential oils. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 6:39. Retrieved from https://bmccomplementalternmed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6882-6-39
  3. Oshaghi, M.A., Ghalandari, R., Vatandoost, H., Shayeghi, M., Kamali-nejad, M., Tourabi-Khaledi, H., Abolhassani, M., & Hashemzadeh, M. (2002). Repellent Effect of Extracts and Essential Oils of Citrus limon (Rutaceae) and Melissa officinalis (Labiatae) Against Main Malaria Vector, Anopheles stephensi (Diptera: Culicidae). Iranian Journal of Public Health, 32:4:47-52. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/237594136_Repellent_Effect_of_Extracts_and_Essential_Oils_of_Citrus_limon_Rutaceae_and_Melissa_officinalis_Labiatae_Against_Main_Malaria_Vector_Anopheles_stephensi_Diptera_Culicidae – View reference
  4. Komiya, M., Takeuchi, T., Harada, E. (2006). Lemon oil vapor causes an anti-stress effect via modulating the 5-HT and DA activities in mice. Behavioral Brain Research, 172:2:240-249. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166432806002798
  5. Cherng-Wei, H., Wen-Sung, L., Chi-Tang, H., & Lee-Yan, S. (2013). Antidepressant-like effect of lemon essential oil is through a modulation in the levels of norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin in mice: Use of the tail suspension test. Journal of Functional Foods, 5:1:370-379. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1756464612001740
  6. Yavari, P., Safajou, F., Shahnazi, M., & Nazemiyeh, H. (2014). The Effect of Lemon Inhalation Aromatherapy on Nausea and Vomiting of Pregnancy: A Double-Blinded, Randomized, Controlled Clinical Trial. Iranian Red Crescent Medical Journal, 16:3. Retrieved from: http://ircmj.com/?page=article&article_id=14360
  7. The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. (2016, December 7). Lemon. Retrieved March 17, 2017 from https://www.britannica.com/plant/lemon – View reference
  8. The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. (2016, April 6). Essential oil. Retrieved March 17, 2017 from https://www.britannica.com/topic/essential-oil#toc2154 – View reference
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