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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.
1. High Nutritional Value
Despite being eaten in small amounts, lemon peels are very nutritious. One tablespoon (6 grams) provides (2):
- Calories: 3
- Carbs: 1 gram
- Fiber: 1 gram
- Protein: 0 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Vitamin C: 9% of the Daily Value (DV)
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.
Lemon peel is very low in calories while high in fiber, vitamin C, and D-limonene. It also contains several minerals.
2. May Support Oral Health
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 (5Trusted Source).
What's more, a test-tube study found that lemon peel extract combats Streptococcus mutansactivity, with higher doses being more effective (6Trusted Source).
Lemon peel has antibacterial properties that may block the growth of microorganisms responsible for oral diseases.
3. High in Antioxidants
Antioxidants are plant compounds that prevent cellular damage by fighting free radicals in your body (7Trusted Source).
One test-tube study determined that lemon peel had stronger antioxidant activity than grapefruit or tangerine peels (13Trusted Source).
Animal studies also show that D-limonene increases the activity of an enzyme that helps reduce oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is associated with tissue damage and accelerated aging (14Trusted Source, 15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source).
Additionally, the vitamin C in lemon peel acts as a powerful antioxidant and likewise promotes immune health (17Trusted Source).
Lemon peel offers several antioxidants, including D-limonene and vitamin C, that protect your immune system and reduce your risk of disease.
4. May Have Antimicrobial and Antifungal Properties
Despite these promising findings, human studies are needed.
Lemon peel may offer antimicrobial and antifungal effects — even against antibiotic-resistant strains. However, more research is needed.
5. May Boost Your Immune System
Vitamin C also accumulates in phagocytes, a type of cell that ingests harmful compounds (25Trusted Source).
Lemon peel contains flavonoids and vitamin C, which may stimulate your body's immune system to protect your health.
6. May Promote Heart 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 (26Trusted Source).
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% (27Trusted Source).
Additionally, in a study in mice with obesity, D-limonene lowered blood sugar, triglyceride, and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol (28Trusted Source).
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 (29Trusted Source).
Flavonoids, vitamin C, and pectin in lemon peel may promote heart health by lowering blood cholesterol levels and other risk factors for heart disease.
7. May Have Anticancer Properties
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 (29Trusted Source, 32Trusted Source, 33Trusted Source).
D-limonene may also have anticancer properties, specifically against stomach cancer (34Trusted Source).
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 (35Trusted Source, 36Trusted Source).
Nevertheless, lemon peel should not be considered a treatment or cure for cancer. Human research is needed.
Some compounds in lemon peel may have anticancer potential. However, human studies are necessary to confirm these findings.
8. May Treat Gallstones
Some studies suggest that D-limonene may help treat gallstones — hard deposits that can develop in your gallbladder (37Trusted Source).
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 (38Trusted Source, 39Trusted Source).
All the same, follow-up research is necessary.
Although more studies are needed, the D-limonene in lemon peel may dissolve gallstones.
9. Other Uses
Lemon peel likewise has many applications as a cosmetic or household item. Some of its most popular uses include:
- All-purpose cleaner. Fill a lidded jar with lemon peels and white vinegar and let it sit for several weeks. Remove the peels and mix the remaining solution with equal parts of water.
- Fridge and trash-can deodorizer. Place a few lemon peels inside your fridge or at the bottom of your trash can to absorb odors.
- Stainless-steel cleaner. Spread some salt on the item you want to clean and scrub any stains using lemon peels. Remember to rinse afterward.
- Kettle cleaner. Fill your kettle with water and lemon peel and bring it to a boil to remove any mineral deposits. Let the water sit for an hour before rinsing.
- Body scrub. Mix sugar, olive oil, and finely chopped lemon peel, then massage onto wet skin. Make sure to rinse well once you're done.
- Face mask. Mix rice flour, lemon peel powder, and cold milk for an exfoliating and skin-cleansing mask.
Lemon peel has various applications as a household cleaner or beauty product.
Does Lemon Peel Have Side Effects?
There are no reported side effects of lemon peel. It's recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Although animal studies link high doses of D-limonene to carcinogenic effects, this finding is irrelevant because humans lack the protein responsible for this association (37Trusted Source, 40Trusted Source).
Lemon peel has no reported side effects and is recognized by the FDA as safe for human consumption.
How to Add It to Your Diet
You can boost your lemon peel intake in a variety of ways, such as:
- adding lemon zest to baked goods, salads, or yogurt
- grating the peel of frozen lemons and sprinkling it on soups, drinks, dressings, and marinades
- dehydrating the peels by cutting them into strips and baking at 200°F (93°C), then adding them to tea
- chopping dehydrated peels and mixing them with salt and pepper for a homemade seasoning
- adding fresh peel to hot tea or your favorite cocktail
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.
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.
The Bottom Line
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.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Healthline.
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