Lemon (Citrus limon) is a common citrus fruit, alongside grapefruits, limes, and oranges (1).
While the pulp and juice are used the most, the peel tends to be discarded.
However, studies have determined that lemon peel is full of bioactive compounds that may provide numerous health benefits.
Here are 9 potential benefits and uses of lemon peel.
Despite being eaten in small amounts, lemon peels are very nutritious. One tablespoon (6 grams) provides (2):
Lemon peel packs a high amount of fiber and vitamin C, providing 9% of the DV in only 1 tablespoon (6 grams) (3).
Additionally, it boasts small amounts of calcium, potassium, and magnesium.
D-limonene, a compound that gives lemon its characteristic aroma, is also found in the peel and may be responsible for many of this fruit’s health benefits.
Summary Lemon peel is very low in calories while high in fiber, vitamin C, and D-limonene. It also contains several minerals.
Dental cavities and gum infections are widespread oral diseases caused by bacteria like Streptococcus mutans (4).
Lemon peel contains antibacterial substances that may inhibit microorganism growth.
In one study, researchers identified four compounds in lemon peel that have powerful antibacterial properties and effectively fight common oral-disease-causing bacteria (5).
What’s more, a test-tube study found that lemon peel extract combats Streptococcus mutans activity, with higher doses being more effective (6).
Summary Lemon peel has antibacterial properties that may block the growth of microorganisms responsible for oral diseases.
Antioxidants are plant compounds that prevent cellular damage by fighting free radicals in your body (7).
One test-tube study determined that lemon peel had stronger antioxidant activity than grapefruit or tangerine peels (13).
Additionally, the vitamin C in lemon peel acts as a powerful antioxidant and likewise promotes immune health (17).
Summary Lemon peel offers several antioxidants, including D-limonene and vitamin C, that protect your immune system and reduce your risk of disease.
Notably, in a test-tube study, this peel significantly harmed and reduced the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (20).
Another test-tube study showed that lemon peel extract fought a drug-resistant fungus that causes skin infections (21).
Despite these promising findings, human studies are needed.
Summary Lemon peel may offer antimicrobial and antifungal effects — even against antibiotic-resistant strains. However, more research is needed.
A 15-day study that gave fish dehydrated lemon peel showed improved immune responses (23).
What’s more, a review of 82 studies found that 1–2 grams of vitamin C per day reduces the severity and duration of the common cold by 8% in adults and 14% in children (24).
Vitamin C also accumulates in phagocytes, a type of cell that ingests harmful compounds (25).
Summary Lemon peel contains flavonoids and vitamin C, which may stimulate your body’s immune system to protect your health.
High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity are all risk factors for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States (26).
Research suggests that compounds such as flavonoids, vitamin C, and pectin — the main fiber in lemon peel — may reduce your risk.
A review of 14 studies in 344,488 people found that an average increase of 10 mg of flavonoids per day reduced heart disease risk by 5% (27).
Additionally, in a study in mice with obesity, D-limonene lowered blood sugar, triglyceride, and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol (28).
A 4-week study in 60 children with excess weight noted that supplementing with lemon powder (containing peel) led to reductions in blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol (29).
Summary Flavonoids, vitamin C, and pectin in lemon peel may promote heart health by lowering blood cholesterol levels and other risk factors for heart disease.
Lemon peel may have several cancer-fighting properties.
For example, flavonoid intake is associated with a reduced risk of several types of cancer, and vitamin C may bolster the growth of white blood cells, which help eliminate mutated cancer cells (29, 32, 33).
D-limonene may also have anticancer properties, specifically against stomach cancer (34).
One test-tube study found that this compound helped kill stomach cancer cells. Similarly, a 52-week study in rats noted that different concentrations of D-limonene inhibited stomach cancer by increasing the death rate of the mutated cells (35, 36).
Nevertheless, lemon peel should not be considered a treatment or cure for cancer. Human research is needed.
Summary Some compounds in lemon peel may have anticancer potential. However, human studies are necessary to confirm these findings.
Some studies suggest that D-limonene may help treat gallstones — hard deposits that can develop in your gallbladder (37).
In a study in 200 people with gallstones, 48% of those injected with a D-limonene solvent experienced complete gallstone disappearance, suggesting that this treatment could be an effective alternative to surgery (38, 39).
All the same, follow-up research is necessary.
Summary Although more studies are needed, the D-limonene in lemon peel may dissolve gallstones.
Lemon peel likewise has many applications as a cosmetic or household item. Some of its most popular uses include:
Summary Lemon peel has various applications as a household cleaner or beauty product.
There are no reported side effects of lemon peel. It’s recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
All the same, lemon peel may contain pesticide residue. Be sure to thoroughly scrub the fruit or wash it with a baking soda solution to remove any residues ( target=”_blank”41).
Summary Lemon peel has no reported side effects and is recognized by the FDA as safe for human consumption.
You can boost your lemon peel intake in a variety of ways, such as:
You can also buy this peel in powdered or candied form.
If you don’t want to grate the fruit on your own, you can buy lemon peel products online.
Summary Lemon peel can be eaten fresh, dehydrated, frozen, powdered, or coated with sugar, which makes it very easy to add to a variety of dishes.
Although lemon peel normally gets thrown away, research shows that it possesses numerous health benefits.
Its fiber, vitamin, and antioxidant contents may support oral, immune, and heart health. It may even have several anticancer properties.
The next time your recipe calls for this ubiquitous citrus fruit, hold onto the peel and put it to use.
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