Usually, after squeezing the juice from lemons, the peels are discarded. If you are throwing away lemon peels, you are missing out on the many benefits and uses they provide. You will be surprised to know that lemon peels are more nutritionally dense than lemons! Keep reading to learn the benefits of and interesting ways to include lemon peels in your diet, beauty routine, and household remedies.
Studies have shown that lemon peel is good for oral hygiene, weight loss, skin, heart and bone health, and immunity. It is also handy around the house because it can be used as a natural and non-toxic cleaner, deodorizer, and insect repellent.
It is rich in fiber, vitamin C, AHAs, potassium, calcium, pectin, and bioactive flavonoids such as d-limonene that provide numerous health benefits. The various uses and health benefits of lemon peels are discussed in detail in this article.
Table Of Contents
10 Potential Health Benefits Of Lemon Peel
Let’s look at a few purported health benefits of lemon peel.
1. May Fight Acne And Pigmentation And Help In Anti-Aging
Lemon peel contains ascorbic acid and vitamin C in huge quantities (1). It also has a high concentration of antioxidants that help in detoxification. These ingredients are good for the skin as they help in delaying the onset of wrinkles, reducing blemishes, and slowing down the aging process (2), (3).
The vitamin C in lemon peel may brighten the skin and help reduce age spots. Vitamin C helps stimulate the production of collagen, which can, in turn, help in firming the skin (4).
Lemon peel also contains citric acid. Citric acid helps in skin rejuvenation and sloughing away dead skin cells. It can gently peel away the sun-damaged outer layer of the skin, which leads to a reduction in brown spots, fine lines, and wrinkles (5).
Alpha-hydroxy acids treat acne and improve acne-prone skin by working on the inner layers of the skin (5).
Folk remedies claim that traditional ubtans (Indian skincare scrubs) made with lemon and orange peels help in reducing cellulite and acne. However, there is no scientific research that supports this claim as these herbal compositions are not scientifically formulated and regulated.
2. May Promote Weight Loss
Lemon peel is rich in antioxidants, bioflavonoids, and various essential vitamins and minerals. The pectin in the lemon peel helps in weight loss and combating obesity (6).
Citric pectin was found to exhibit anti-inflammatory effects on certain gut bacteria linked with fighting obesity in a stimulated study using SHIME (Simulator of the Human Intestinal Microbial Ecosystem). These beneficial bacteria – such as Lactobacillus and Megamonas – responded positively to the extracts from the lemon peel (6).
A study conducted at the University of Southern California Medical Center has shown that pectin, which is a soluble fiber, decreases gastric emptying and increases satiety in people with obesity (7). These factors also play a major role in maintaining weight and reducing obesity. In fact, a recent study conducted on rats found that pectin increases the production of digestive enzymes and hormones (GLP-1) which leads to a decrease in food intake, fat content, and body weight (8). Experimental evidence on humans is needed to further validate these claims.
3. May Help Maintain Oral Health And Hygiene
Lemon peel is also great for oral health and maintaining good oral hygiene. The deficiency of vitamin C is linked with bleeding gums, scurvy, and gingivitis (9). Lemon peel is abundant in vitamin C, so consuming it in various ways – such as lemon peel water or lemon peel tea – can combat dental issues such as dental abscesses and cavities.
A study conducted at the Tokaigakuen University (Japan) has shown that microbial growth can be inhibited by lemon peel as it contains compounds like 8-geranyloxypsolaren, 5-geranyloxypsolaren, 5-geranyloxy-7-methoxycoumarin, and phloroglucinol 1-β-D-glucopyranoside (phlorin) (12). More research is needed to understand the correlation between these compounds and the antimicrobial activity attributed to lemon peel.
4. May Improve Bone Health
A study conducted on mice has found that osteoporosis may be managed by administering ascorbic acid on a specific gene (14). Thus, lemon peel – which is rich in ascorbic acid – may have the potential to manage bone diseases and improve bone health. These observations are also promising leads for further research in this direction.
As mentioned earlier, lemon peel is rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants may help in reducing inflammation, which can aid in the management of autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis (15).
5. May Treat Oxidative Stress And Detoxify The Body
Lemon peel is rich in vitamin C. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that controls cellular damage by scavenging free radicals or toxins released during stress or certain biological processes linked to cell death and aging (16).
Eliminating these harmful toxins helps in detoxifying the body and reducing stress at a metabolic level (15). Certain citrus bioflavonoids are also helpful in reducing oxidative stress, which, if left untreated, can cause cancer (17), (18).
An experimental study conducted on rats has found that limonene – which is found in lemon peel – accelerates enzyme activity and mucous production, which, in turn, reduces the oxidative stress associated with tissue damage (19).
In fact, a study conducted in Egypt has shown that the antioxidant activity of lemon peel is stronger than that of grapefruit and tangerine peels, making it a superior choice to detoxify the body (20). Thus, it may prevent cellular damage and detoxify the system from harmful chemicals.
6. May Have Anticancer Properties
Lemon peel has been linked to cancer prevention and treatment due to the compounds it contains, such as salvestrol Q40 and limonene. D-limonene has been found to increase the death rate of mutated cells and help in the inhibition of cancer cell propagation of gastric cancer in rats (21), (22).
The other cancer-fighting substances found in the lemon peel are flavonoids. The intake of flavonoids has been shown to reduce the risk of breast and gastric cancers (23), (24). The citrus flavonoids called polymethoxyflavones (PMFs) exhibit anticarcinogenic activity by blocking the metastasis cascade inhibiting cancer cell mobility (25).
Despite these studies, the lemon peel should not be considered as a cure for cancer as more research is needed to validate these findings.
7. May Prevent Heart Conditions And Lower Cholesterol
Lemon peel can help manage cardiovascular disorders by preventing heart diseases, diabetes, and improving blood circulation due to the presence of flavonoids, vitamin C, and pectin (4), (18), (23), (26).
The pectin and d-limonene present in the lemon peel can help decrease cholesterol levels and promote good heart health (26). Studies conducted on hamsters have found that the pectin found in the lemon peel can bind to cholesterol and lower plasma and cholesterol levels (28), (29). Regulating cholesterol levels can help in reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity since they are all interlinked lifestyle diseases.
A study conducted on obese mice showed that d-limonene lowers blood sugar and LDL levels (30). A short-term experiment on overweight children who were given pulverized lemon peel showed lower LDL and blood pressure levels (26). A systematic review of multiple studies has found that increased flavonoid uptake in humans reduces the risk of heart disease (31), (32).
Experimental data from clinical trials can give a more accurate analysis of the benefits of d-limonene and other compounds present in lemon peel in humans.
8. May Treat Bacterial And Fungal Infections
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the ingestion of lemon peel tea wards off infections such as common cold, flu, ear infection, and urinary tract infections (UTIs). This could be due to the antibacterial properties of lemon peel (33).
Research has found that lemon peel reduces the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and drug-resistant fungi (34), (35). Despite these promising findings, research is required to prove this benefit in humans.
9. May Treat Gallstones And Improve Digestion
Traditionally, lemon zest or peel was thought to act as an appetizer or a good digestive. The scientific reasoning for this could be the high pectin (soluble fiber) content of lemon peel that relieves constipation and indigestion and increases bile secretion (28), (29). This may help in improving the digestive function.
Studies suggest that lemon peel can help treat gallstones. The d-limonene in lemon peel – a solvent of cholesterol – has been found to dissolve gallstones dissolve cholesterol-containing gallstones (36), (37), (38). Thus, under medical supervision, lemon peel has the potential to be used as an alternative to surgery for treating gallstones.
10. May Improve Immunity
The high concentrations of flavonoids and vitamin C in the lemon peel can boost your immunity (20). The major components of our body’s defense system consisting of white blood cells or B cells and T cells. In vitro studies have shown that vitamin C is essential in the development and proliferation of T cells or lymphocytes (39).
Vitamin C is also present in neutrophils (a type of white blood cell) that helps in phagocytosis, a process by which the body’s immune cells engulf harmful or foreign cells such as toxins or bacteria and destroy them. Vitamin C is also essential in helping to reduce tissue damage (40).
Lemon peel powder has been found to improve immunity in fish (41). The fish were fed lemon peel in a dehydrated form, which led to an increase in their immunoglobulins and peroxidase activity. Immunoglobulins are proteins that the immune system produces to bind against antigens or foreign substances. These complexes are then broken down safely by the body so the antigen does not harm the body (42).
A meta-study of data from 82 research studies found that consuming vitamin C helps reduce the symptoms of the common cold in both adults and children (43). Further experimental research can provide a definitive conclusion to how the compounds found in lemon peel boosts immunity.
A serious deficiency of vitamin C can result in a severely compromised immune system, so make sure to consume the recommended daily allowance. Supplementing this by dietary intake of lemon peel is a healthy and nutritious choice.
Now that you have learned all about the multiple benefits of lemon peel, let us see how you can use it practically in your day-to-day life.
Uses Of Lemon Peels
Lemon peel can be incorporated into your skin and hair care regimen. It can also be used to keep your house sparkling clean and fresh.
1. Uses Of Lemon Peels For Skin And Hair Care
1. Skin Brightening Body Scrub
What You Need
- A handful of lemon peels
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Olive oil
- Grind the lemon peels into a paste.
- Mix the sugar with the lemon peel pastes
- Add olive oil according to your skin type. Dry skin needs more hydration, hence more olive oil.
- Massage on wet skin in gentle circular motions to exfoliate the dead skin cells.
- Rinse it off with water.
- Use this scrub no more than once a week as it could lead to excess exfoliation and dryness.
2. Scrub To Soften Dry Elbows
What You Need
- A handful of lemon peels
- 1/2 cup sugar OR baking powder
- Dunk the lemon peels in baking soda or sugar
- Scrub your elbows or any rough areas of the body.
3. Lemon Peel Exfoliating Face Mask
What You Need
- Lemon peel powder
- 2 tablespoons rice flour
- Mix the rice flour, a pinch of lemon peel powder, and cold milk until you get a thick paste.
- Spread the paste evenly on wet skin.
- Wash your face before the mask dries completely so it does not strip away your skin’s natural oils and moisture.
4. Lemon Peel Spot Treatment
Lemon peel contains alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) that exfoliate your skin.
What You Need
- Fresh lemon peels
- Grind the lemon peels and mix them in water to make a thick paste.
- Apply the paste on age spots or areas of pigmentation and leave it on for an hour.
- Wash it off with water.
Caution: Avoid sunlight during and right after this treatment as lemon peel makes your skin photosensitive.
5. Lemon Peel Hair Lightener
The citric acid in lemon peel has a bleaching effect, so it can be used as a hair lightener.
What You Need
- 2 cups of lemon peels
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- Boil the lemon peels in water for an hour.
- Strain out the water in a bowl.
- Mix coconut oil in the lemon peel water.
- Apply this mixture evenly to your hair and leave it on for an hour.
- Wash it off with shampoo and condition your hair.
Caution: Don’t keep this mixture on your hair for more than an hour as it can make your hair brittle or dry.
6. Lemon Peel For Cracked Feet
What You Need
- 1 cup lemon peels (dried)
- Petroleum jelly
- Grate the lemon peels into a powder.
- Mix the with petroleum jelly to make a paste.
- Apply this paste on your feet.
- Put on socks and leave the paste on overnight.
7. Lemon Peel For Fungal Infection On Feet
What You Need
- 3 cups fresh lemon peels
- 6-7 cups of water
- Milk/olive oil/Epsom salt/essential oils of your choice
- Boil the lemon peels in water for 20-30 minutes.
- Strain the water into a bowl.
- You can customize the rest of the ingredients according to your requirements. Mix in milk, olive oil, Epsom salt, or essential oils of your choice.
- Use this mixture as a foot bath for 30 minutes.
- Rinse and moisturize your feet.
8. Lemon Peel Nail Whitener
Using lemon peel on nails can remove discoloration.
What You Need
- A handful of lemon peels
- Grind the lemon peels into a paste.
- Apply the paste to your nails and leave it on for a few minutes.
- Wash it off with water.
Uses Of Lemon Peel For Your Home
1. Lemon Peel All-Purpose Cleaner
Lemon peel is a non-toxic alternative to clean and disinfect your house. The chemicals in the lemon peel are potent and work as effective cleaners to remove stubborn stains such as kettle rings with mineral deposits or coffee/tea stains in mugs. The refreshing citrus scent is an added benefit of using lemon peel to prepare a DIY cleaner. Mixing boiled lemon peel water with vinegar or baking soda makes it an even more potent all-natural cleaner.
2. Lemon Peel Deodorizer
Lemon peels can be used to absorb bad odors in the fridge or trash can. Adding a few lemon peels in water and microwaving can deodorize and clean the microwave.
Rubbing grated lemon peel with coarse rock salt on a cutting board can sanitize it and keep it smelling fresh.
3. Lemon Peel Potpourri
A homemade citrus-scented potpourri can be prepared using lemon peel, dried flowers, and essential oils. This refreshing, all-natural room freshener can be prepared at home easily with almost no extra cost as it uses lemon peels that would most likely have been discarded.
4. Lemon Peel Insect Repellent
Lemon peels can be placed at strategic places in the kitchen and house to ward off bugs such as ants and cockroaches. Research is scarce about the mechanism behind this process, but insects – especially mosquitoes – do not like the smell of lemon and its derivatives such as lemon peels. Using lemon juice directly on your skin could be harsh on the skin. The essential oil extracted from lemon peel is more concentrated and useful in keeping pesky insects at bay. Using lemon peels is a cost-effective and simple alternative to control pests.
Now, you must be wondering if you can eat the lemon peel. Scroll down the next section to find out.
Best Ways To Eat Lemon Peels
1. Culinary Uses Of Lemon Peel
Lemon zest or grated lemon peel is popularly used to flavor food as a garnish and to add flavor to soups, salads, flavored yogurt, and dressings.
Frozen lemons are grated to get lemon peel powder, which can be incorporated into marinades or used in seasonings to prepare dishes like lemon pepper fish and lemon pepper chicken. Lemon peel can be infused into cooking fats such as olive oil or butter to add a zesty flavor to dishes like noodles or pasta.
It can also be eaten as candied lemon peels and incorporated into various baked goods such as lemon meringue pie.
2. How To Make Lemon Peel Water
To get the health benefits of lemon peels, boil them in water and sip this delicious and healthy drink.
3. How To Prepare Lemon Peel Tea
Add lemon peel powder to boiling hot water. Mix in a tea powder or herbal mix of your choice. Adding ginger to this concoction makes for a delicious beverage.
4. How To Make Lemon Peel Powder
Lemons can be frozen and then grated the lemon peels to finely to get lemon peel powder. Another method is to bake Lemon peels at 200°F (93°C) and crush it to get a powdered lemon peel.
Nutritional Value Of Lemon Peels
According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, a 100 g portion of lemon peel contains:
- 134 mg of calcium (1)
- 160mg of potassium (1)
- 129 mg of vitamin C (1)
- 6 g of fiber (1)
- 160 mg of potassium (1)
Considering how nutritionally dense lemon peel is, you must be wondering…
How Much Lemon Peel Should You Eat?
Although lemon peel has a rich nutritional profile, it needs to be consumed in moderation since it also contains oxalates that can cause kidney and gallbladder stones(44). Not more than 80 mg of oxalates should be taken (RDA), and one teaspoon of lemon peels contain 25 mg of oxalates. Therefore, keep the intake of lemon peel to less than 3 teaspoons a day.
Precautions And Side Effects Of Using Lemon Peel
Though lemon peel is generally considered safe for consumption, there have been reports of some side effects. Though research on this is limited, it is better to avoid lemon peels if you suffer from stones in the kidney or gallbladder, are prone to allergies, or are pregnant or lactating. Always consult a medical supervisor before making radical changes to your diet.
- Gallbladder Or Kidney Stones: Although lemon peels have been found to dissolve gallbladder stones in experimental models, a high concentration of lemon peels can be detrimental. Lemon peels are high in oxalates that can form stones when they crystallize with other minerals, such as calcium. Therefore, it is not advisable for people suffering from gallbladder or kidney stones to consume lemon peel (44)
- Potential Carcinogenic Effect: In animal studies, excess d-limonene has been found to be carcinogenic. However, the enzyme involved in this mechanism (protein α(2u)-globulin) is absent. So, there is no evidence to conclude that it can cause cancer in humans. However, it is safer to regulate intake (45).
- Skin Irritant: Frequent use of lemon and its byproducts can be harsh and corrosive on the skin. It can make your skin dry and sometimes result in swelling. Since lemon peel is potent and concentrated with nutrients and chemical compounds, it is better to do a patch test before using it on your skin (46).
D-limonene is listed in the Code of Federal Regulations as generally recognized as safe (GRAS). Though the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has deemed lemon peel as safe, care should be taken to obtain lemons that are organically grown to avoid contamination with pesticides. Washing lemons with vinegar and baking soda thoroughly before grating the peel for lemon zest can help remove the pesticides (47).
Traditionally, the lemon peel was used for brightening skin, reducing acne, dissolving kidney or gallbladder stones, and fighting fungal infections or stomach flu.
However, ongoing research on lemon peel and its compounds are limited to animal models and short-term studies conducted on humans.
Though the evidence is inconclusive, you can incorporate lemon peel into your diet and self-care routine in moderation.
Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions
Can you substitute lemon zest for lemon peel?
Yes, both can be used interchangeably, even though zest is a small portion of the peel. Lemon peels are more concentrated in flavor, so when substituting for lemon zest, use only a third of the portion mentioned in the recipe. The potency of dried lemon peel is high, so the amount used can be reduced to accommodate the recipe.
How do you store lemon peels?
Lemons can be frozen for a week and grated. Alternatively, lemon peels can be dried or baked at 200°F for a minute. These dried peels can be crushed to make a fine powder, which can be safely stored in the refrigerator for a week.
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