Jan 05, 2009
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Lemon works wonders, let me count the ways.

Question: What do you give an ill lemon?

Answer: Lemonade.

Jokes aside, lemon juice has for centuries aided the home doctor in curing ills like indigestion, bad breath and sore throats.

With the just-past Christmas and Chinese New Year gorging seasons, there is no better time to stock up on lemons and cleanse your overloaded digestive system.

You can picture what it does inside your body by squeezing a few drops of lemon on a greasy plate: the lemon trail leaves a clear path. It's for good reason that lemon is called nature’s cleanser.

If you want to lose a few kg, look no further. A new book published in January this year called "The Lemon Juice Diet" by health writer Theresa Cheung suggests that lemon is a “natural powerhouse” when it comes to boosting digestion so your body burns fat more effectively.

All you need to do is to include lemon – whether it be the peel or the juice – as part of a meal daily.

In Malay herbal medicine, what is more commonly used is lime or limau kasturi, which is smaller than a lemon, is green and is quite often grown in the back gardens of Asian homes.


What else about lemon makes it one of nature’s best medicines?

  • Lemon juice is about  5% citric acid and has a pH of 2 to 3. Some believe this can change the body's acid condition into an alkaline one, which is desirable.

  • As it contains antioxidants - which scientists have discovered aid in cell rejuvenation - lemon helps fight disease-causing free radicals in the body.

  • It contains lashings of good vitamins C, A, B, potassium, magnesium and folic acid. Vitamin C is particularly good for warding off colds.

  • Antibacterial and antiseptic, lemon retards the presence of disease-causing bacteria in the digestive tract.

Historically, lemon has a colourful past. In the 17th century, ladies in the royal French court would suck on lemons to keep their lips red. The Romans valued lemons as an antidote for all poisons. The Chinese brought the fruit along with them on their long sea voyages. The English made lemon consumption mandatory for sailors, so they could stave off scurvy.

As to origins, nobody quite knows, but lemon is believed to have grown in the wild in India and China. The Chinese used the fruit as a cough reliever and as a dietary supplement during pregnancy.

Traditional Chinese medicine doctors believe that it can relieve body heatiness – a concept that relates to the balance of "yin" and "yang" in the body – phlegm and prevent hypertension. One is perceived to be "heaty" when one feels feverish, has a sore throat, constipation, rashes and indigestion.

Ayurveda, the traditional natural system of medicine from India, uses lemon in combination with other substances, to ward off nausea, vomiting and digestive disorders.

In ayurvedic medicine, however, the use of food is a little more complicated as it is believed that one man’s meat is another man’s poison: Hence, while lemon could be good for one, it may be detrimental to another.

Another note of caution: If you were to suck on a lemon all day, the acid would erode tooth enamel, causing pain and sensitivity. The key word here is moderation: Lemon juice diluted with water or used in cooking is fine. If you are still worried, rinse your mouth out with water after your lemon fix. Lemons from the fridge should be allowed to warm up to room temperature. You get more juice that way. Here are some humble lemon remedies.



Blend enough limes into a paste to apply all over the stroke-affected area. In Malay herbal medicine, it is believed that the lime mixture helps to stimulate the damaged nervous system.


Women who have just given birth

Mix the juice from a lime with a little kapor (white calcium carbonate powder) and apply the paste on the stomach. As part of the traditional Malay post-natal massage, the masseuse leaves the mixture on and binds the stomach tightly with a piece of cloth. The lime-kapor mixture is believed to help with post-natal slimming.


Body heatiness

Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners recommend mixing 150ml of lemon juice with sugar cane juice and drinking this 2–3 times a day.


Flu or sore throat

Juice one lemon and add it to a cup of hot water with honey. Drink the solution every couple of hours. The honey helps to sooth the sore throat. For those who also have phlegm, traditional Chinese medicine may prescribe mixing 100g of lemon and the following Chinese herbs: 12g of jie geng, 10 pieces of pang da hai, 9g of gan cao. All these should be boiled in water and drunk once a day.



Boil one piece of lemon and 10 pieces of water chestnut in water and drink it once a day.



Squeeze some lemon juice into a cup of black tea and down the mixture. In traditional Chinese medicine, lemon is a sour fruit that is deemed suitable for a weak liver.



Drinking lemon or lime juice with warm water first thing in the morning is a very common practice that is believed to flush out toxins from the body. Ashley Judd practises this.


Thirst quencher

Squeeze a few drops of lemon into your drinking water. Not only does the water taste better, cleaner and more refreshing – the reason why swankier restaurants place lemon slices in their water – the lemon-enriched water apparently quenches thirst better than plain water.



After shampooing, rinse out your hair with the juice from half a lemon mixed with 500ml of water. It helps with the dandruff, sweeps out the soap film and gets rid of excess oil.


Tired facial skin

Mix equal quantities of lemon and honey and apply onto the face and neck. Wash off with cold water after 10 minutes. Lemon contains alpha hydroxy acids, highly valued as a beauty product ingredient, as it helps to keep skin radiant and fresh.



Apply some lemon on the cut – if you can tolerate the sting. The juice serves as a disinfectant and an antiseptic.