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Lemon Essential Oil Uses, Benefits and Warnings

Lemon Essential Oil

What is Lemon Essential Oil?

Lemon essential oil is the pale yellow substance extracted from the peel or zest of the fruits of Citrus limon (L.) Burm. f.  It has a top note aroma, which is sharp, citrus, slightly sweet and refreshing.

There are two methods to extract the volatile oil from the fruit: Expression or Steam Distillation, being the first product, the most used for therapeutic purposes.

The essential oil of lemon blends well with: grapefruit, ginger, tea tree, Eucalyptus globulus or E. radiata, lavender, juniper berry, Pinus species (e.g., Scots pine), cypresscedarwood, Douglas fir, cinnamon, black spruce, bergamot, ravintsara, sandalwood, palmarosa, elemi, Frankincense (Boswellia carterii), myrrh and niaouli essential oils.

Differences between Distilled and Expressed (cold pressed) lemon oil

Both distilled and expressed lemon oils has a similar composition, with slight differences in amounts of each component.

Distilled lemon tends to be used in food flavoring instead of aromatherapy, as the aroma of expressed lemon oil is considered to be superior to that of the distilled one.

As for safety, cold pressed lemon has a low risk for phototoxicity.  However,  it is recommended that topical applications be kept to lower than 2% dilution or that the affected skin not be exposed to sunlight or sunbed rays for at least 12 hours after.

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On the other hand, distilled lemon, is not considered to be phototoxic but can be a dermal sensitizer when oxidized.

About Citrus limon 

Lemon tree (Citrus limon (L.) Burm. F.) is one of the most important members of the large Rutaceae family, including about 130 genera in seven subfamilies.

Citrus limon is a perennial that grows up to 3 meters high. Its fragrant flowers have white petals with rosy edges, and the intense-yellow fruits (when ripe) can reach up to 12.5 cm.

Generally, it grows in warm Mediterranean climates such as Italy, and the islands of Cyprus and Sicily, but also in the USA and Argentina.

Although its origin is not well defined, it probably descends from the species Citrus medical L., native from India.

Other names/synonyms for Citrus limon (L.) are: Citrus medica ssp. limonum Hook, and Citrus limonum Risso.

Chemical Composition of Lemon Essential Oil

Cold pressed 

Expressed or cold pressed lemon essential oil contains over forty-seven unique components.  The main components include: limonene (47.45-67.02%), -terpinene (8.81-13.7%), β-pinene (10+%), ⍺-pinene (1.89-3.35%), myrcene (1.44-1.92%), sabinene (1.6+%), geranial (1.09-2.17%), neral (0.68-1.42%) and b-bisabolene (0.44-1.6%).


In the case of distilled lemon oil, the main components are: limonene (56.3%), -terpinene (6.42%), β-pinene (8.81%), ⍺-pinene (1.34%), myrcene (1.30%), sabinene (1.6+%), sabinene (0.75%), linalool (1.78%), ⍺-terpineol (2.25%), 4-terpineol (2.25%), nerol (2.29%), geranial (4.96%), neral (3.83%) and neryl acetate (1.11%).

Lemon Essential Oil Uses and Benefits for Health

Properties of Lemon Essential Oil

Among the known therapeutic properties of lemon essential oil are: antibacterial, anticholinesterase, antidepressant, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic, antiviral, anxiolytic, astringent, depurative, diuretic, hypotensive, immune enhancer, lipolytic and nervine.

Uses of Lemon Essential Oil

Among the well known uses of lemon oil are:

  • Improves circulation.
  • Remedy for poor or sluggish digestion.
  • Detoxifies the organism.
  • Strengthens immune system.
  • Prevents and treats lymphatic congestion and contagious and infectious illnesses.
  • Fights asthenia (general weakness) and general fatigue.
  • Calms anxiety, depression, stress, anger and irritability.
  • Relieves headache.
  • Reduces nausea and vomiting during pregnancy.
  • Prevents and alleviates venous stasis and varicose veins.
  • Soothes muscular or joint aches and pains, arthritis, cellulite, rheumatism, joint swelling and gout.
  • Treatment for skin conditions such as acne, boils, comedones, etc. 
  • Relieves heavy legs.
  • Eliminates localized fats in tissues.
  • Strengthens the scalp.
  • Alleviates hemorrhoids.
  • Purifies and disinfects environments.

Benefits of Lemon Essential Oil

Antioxidant activities

Essential oils with radical scavenging property and antioxidant capacity are useful for medicinal applications and as food additive.

Monoterpenes found in lemon essential oil may act as radical scavenging agents, which, according to research, can protect the hippocampus from the oxidative damage that often accompanies neurodegenerative diseases.

It seems to be a general trend that the essential oils which contain monoterpene hydrocarbons, oxygenated monoterpenes and/or sesquiterpenes have greater antioxidative properties.

Lately, interest has increased noticeably in the research of naturally occurring antioxidants for use in foods or medicinal materials as an alternative to synthetic antioxidants, which are being limited because of their possible toxicity.

Antibacterial and antifungal Activity

The antibacterial activity of lemon essential oil was evaluated against Gram + positive (B.cereus, E.faecalis, S. aureus, S. epidermis, B. subtilis, L. monocytogenes and M. luteus) and Gram-negative (P.aeruginosa, E.coli, S. enteritidis and K. pneumoniae) bacteria.

Lemon oil showed varying degrees of antibacterial activity against all strains tested.

These findings supported the results that essential oils from Citrus limon have a strong efficacy as natural anti-microbial agents.

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On the other hand, Limonene contained in lemon oil has been shown to have remarkable antifungal properties.

The antifungal activity was evaluated against Aspergillus sp., Fusarium sp. and Alternaria alternata. Results showed a strong inhibitory effect of Citrus limon oil on the growth of A. niger and A. flavus.

Also, lemon oil exhibited an antifungal activity against Fusarium sp. and Aspergillus sp., which are responsible for spoilage of many foods.

Benefits for skin

Lemon essential oil is a great ally for the health of the skin.  It can be useful for the treatment of skin conditions such as acne, boils, comedones, premature aging (preventative), oily complexions, mouth ulcers, cellulite, herpes, and rosaceae (couperose). 

Also, it helps tired, sagging and grayish (smoker’s) skin, capillary fragility and broken capillaries.

In case of ulcers where a large amount of puss or debridement is present, use 1.5 percent dilution in distilled water with lemon and tea tree oil, and apply via a mister to whole area of ulcer at frequent intervals.

Emotional and psychological benefits

The essential oil of lemon supports ability to focus and communication for those who may have limited communication skills.

In addition, lemon oil heightens consciousness, and is generally activating, stabilizing, and calming during potential emotional outbursts, due to its cooling, clearing, and refreshing effect.

Antidepressant, hormonal and immunological effects

The essential oil extracted from citrus lemon was found to induce various behavioral responses in both humans and animals. In humans it was found to have antidepressant effects and, in addition, able to improve creativity, mood and perceived health.

A study conducted on twelve patients treated with aromatherapy, showed that the combination of essential oils of lemon, orange and bergamot with cis-4-hexanol exerts antidepressant effect, while leveling hormones and strengthening the immune system.

Central nervous system activity

The use of Citrus limon is very popular in daily life for a variety of problems including its use as nerve tonic and other central nervous disorders.

Many studies also support and demonstrate that the inhalation of lemon oil, and some other species of the Citrus genus, are a great alternative and/or complementary therapy, to reduce anxiety due to its sedative effects. 

In addition, researches showed that lemon essential oil has anxiolytic and antidepressant effects through direct interactions with the 5-HTnergic pathway, especially via 5-HT(1A) receptor, and dopamine metabolism within the hippocampus.

Lemon Essential Oil Benefits

Lipolytic effects

In an in vitro study, Lemon (Citrus limon) essential oil exhibits lipolytic activity. Lipolysis breaks down fats or lipids in the body to remove unwanted fat tissue deposits. 

Besides, lipolysis helps prevent diseases associated with ectopic fatty acids deposition in tissues, such nonalcoholic steatohepatitis, β-pancreatic cell dysfunction and cardiotoxicity.

Warnings and Precautions when using Lemon Essential Oil

Lemon essential oil is generally recognized as safe (GRAS).  However, it is always advisable to perform a patch test before topical applications, since some people could  have allergic reactions to any of its chemical component.

Also, to avoid skin irritations or unwanted effects, lemon oil should be diluted with a carrier oil to apply on the skin.

Because the limonene content, it is important that the essential oil be stored properly (e.g., in a dark container in the refrigerator or in a cold room away from sunlight and heat) in order to avoid oxidation.

When limonene oxidizes, essential oils rich in this component can potentially cause dermal sensitization.

Oxidized citrus essential oils should not be used in body care products or formulations designed for dermal application. The essential oil can, however, be used for cleaning products.

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After a topical application of lemon essential oil, you should wait at least 12 hours for solar exposure.

Always keep lemon and other essential oils out of the reach of children and pets.

You may also like:

Bergamot Essential Oil Benefits, Uses and Warnings

Where to Buy Lemon Essential Oil?

Generally, good quality oils, can be found in specialized natural herb stores. If you can not reach a trusted naturist or herbalist shop near you, here are some recommendations:

Lemon SWB

Lemon Essential Oil

Scent Characteristics: Light, fresh, citrus scent and is similar to fresh lemon rinds, but richer and more concentrated.

Our 100% Pure Essential Oils are extracted from the root, bark, wood, seed, fruit, leaf, or flower of a freshly harvested plant.

We source only the finest quality essential oils from highly regarded suppliers and distillers from around the world, many with whom we’ve worked with for decades.

Many of our oils are steam-distilled or cold-pressed, therefore retaining the essential odor, aroma, taste, medicinal, and therapeutic properties of the plant, resulting in a superior quality, and highly concentrated essence.   Shop here.

The followings are also good quality essential oils that you can find on Amazon:

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Tips for a better performance and duration of your oils:

  • Store them in a dark glass bottle, never plastic, not even when blended with a carrier oil.
  • Keep them in cool, dark places, away from sources of heat and light.
  • Maintain the container that holds it tightly closed, since they are very volatile and also, their properties would be lost or modified.

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