The lovely lemon

February 27, 2012

Detox, Food, Fruits and Vegetables, Recipes

Choose lemons that are heavy for their size, thin-skinned and have a visible fine-grained texture.

by Karen Langston — 

Do you ever marvel at the lemon trees growing all across the Valley? Do people pick the lemons and eat them or curse them for making a mess on the ground? Do some ever follow the old adage and make lemonade? Most importantly, do people know the true power of the lemon?

Although lemons have been used throughout the centuries in many parts of the world, there is a bit of mystery about the exact origin of the lemon tree. It seems the lemon has been quite the traveler. Some experts believe that the lemon originated in India, Burma and China. Eventually it was introduced to Persia, Iraq and Egypt, around A.D. 700. By 1150, the lemon had made its way across the Mediterranean region.

Historians have recorded ancient Rome as having lemons, with cultivation beginning in Genoa in the 15th century — which may have taken quite some time, as it was once believed that the lemon’s yellow color was associated with condemnation. Alarmists claimed that the devil had deformed the fruit, since it was not a perfect sphere like the orange.

In 1493, Christopher Columbus encountered the lemon and introduced the seeds to Hispaniola and the Americas. By the late 1800s, California and Florida were planting lemon seeds and Arizona began planting and developing small-scale lemon orchards. By 1957, California was producing 11 million gallons of frozen lemon concentrate annually. Arizona and California are the primary sources of lemons in the U.S.

Currently, foreign markets such as Italy, Spain, Greece, Turkey, Cyprus, Lebanon, South Africa, Australia and Mexico export their lemon wares, so much so that they are more in demand than our locally grown. This makes no sense. Why would we want to pay dearly for the heavy carbon footprint of a lemon that ripened on a truck or pay crazy prices for lemons when they are readily available and tree-ripened, right here in the Valley?

If people only understood the health benefits of lemons, they might be more inclined to take advantage of their abundant availability. There is much more to a lemon than you might think.

Therapeutic benefits of lemons

Due to their high vitamin C content, lemons, along with other citrus fruits, were famous for preventing scurvy, a common disease among sailors, pirates and others who spent months aboard ships. Miners also used lemons to avoid scurvy during the California Gold Rush. Unlike animals, humans cannot synthesize their own vitamin C; therefore, it must be obtained through our diet. Around the world, lemons are used for medicinal purposes such as diuretics, antiscorbutics, astringents and febrifuge.

All parts of the lemon have medicinal properties, from the white pith to its oil and seeds. Even the root is medicinal; Cubans use it to treat fever, while West Africans use it for gonorrhea, as well as the peel and bark to relieve colic.

Besides vitamin C, lemons contain water-soluble plant pigments called flavonoids, which help strengthen capillaries and other connective tissue. Flavonoids contain anti-inflammatory, antihistamine, antiviral and antioxidant compounds. In animal studies and lab tests with human cells, citrus fruit compounds called limonoids have been shown to help fight cancers of the mouth, skin, lung, breast, stomach and colon.

Scientists, from the US Agricultural Research Service have now shown that our bodies can readily absorb and utilize a very long-acting limonoid, called limonin, that is present in lemons in roughly the same quantity as vitamin C.

Lemon detox

Mother Nature naturally and conveniently provides the perfect tool for detoxification with the lemon. Start your mornings with a cup of hot water and half to one full juiced lemon; this will kick start your digestion, acting as a blood purifier, improving your body’s ability to cleanse itself of toxins, and preventing constipation and diarrhea. As a powerful antiseptic, lemon juice can keep your insides free from harmful bacteria.

During the day, a glass of water with a squeeze of lemon juice can help to alkalize our body. Lemons may be acidic and tart in the mouth, however, once digested, they actually become alkalinizing, thus helping to balance delicate pH levels, which is essential for keeping illness and disease at bay.

Lemons’ high potassium content may actually help prevent cardiovascular disease. Lemon juice mixed with olive oil not only makes a delicious salad dressing, but also helps keep your liver and gallbladder in tip-top shape, and may actually dissolve kidney and gallbladder stones. This dressing is a perfect remedy for those suffering from gout, as it clears excess uric acid from the blood and liquefies bile, while strengthening liver enzymes.

Selecting and storing lemons

The best way to pick a lemon is right off the tree. A freshly picked lemon has higher levels of nutrients and fresh live enzymes. If you do not have access to a lemon tree, choose fully ripened lemons that are completely yellow for higher antioxidant levels. Organics are truly superior to conventional lemons and have a 35 percent higher nutrient value.

Choose lemons that are heavy for their size, thin-skinned and have a visible fine-grained texture. Avoid overmature fruit displaying wrinkling, soft or hard spots, and dull coloring. If there is any white on it, consider it rotten.

Lemons will stay fresh at room temperature (if kept away from sun exposure) for about a week. If they will not be used within a week, store in the refrigerator for up to four weeks.

Although lemon juice can be frozen or stored in a jar in the refrigerator, there is no therapeutic value to this, as once a lemon has been juiced, it begins to oxidize and lose its nutrients and enzymes. Lemon zest must be stored in a cool, dry place in a glass container. Choose only organic lemon peels for zest to avoid unwanted wax, pesticides and herbicides.

Before cutting into a conventional lemon, wash the skin thoroughly with a food-grade detergent or grapefruit seed extract. Run the fruit under warm water to melt the wax coating.

Simple Healthy Lemonade


  • One 12-ounce glass of water
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 1/2 to 1 teaspoon maple syrup


Add fresh lemon juice and maple syrup to water and stir. Enjoy over ice or at room temperature.

Real Lemon Chicken with Ginger Sauce


  • 4 organic boneless chicken breast halves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons organic grain mustard
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 lemon, thinly sliced
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1 pinch ground black pepper
  • 1 piece of peeled fresh ginger root, 2 inches long
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1 whole orange, peeled with seeds removed
  • 1/2 to 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce or pinch of sea salt


In a glass or stainless steel bowl, combine chicken, basil, thyme, olive oil, mustard, lemon juice, sliced lemons, salt and pepper; stir to thoroughly coat chicken. Seal and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours or overnight. Remove chicken; discard marinade. Make sauce before cooking chicken. Mince ginger and garlic in a blender or mini food processor. Add remaining ingredients and process until blended. If mixture is too thick, add a little water. Grill or broil chicken for 5 to 7 minutes on each side, depending on thickness, or until cooked through. Remove to serving platter. Drizzle sauce over chicken.

Serve with brown basmati rice and fresh steamed broccoli for a complete meal. The ginger sauce is great over the rice and vegetables as well. Serves 4. Sauce will keep refrigerated for up to four days.


Karen Langston is an extreme nutritionist and chief body reorganizer who helps clients get to the nutritional root of their health and fitness issues. 623-203-HEAL (4325), or

Reprinted from AzNetNews, Volume 28, Number 6, Dec 2009/Jan 2010.

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