Lemon, Citrus limon, belongs to the Rutaceae family. Lemon is a small evergreen tree with very fragrant flowers. It can grow up to about 6 meters high and although native to Asia is now cultivated worldwide. The fruit reached Europe via Persia and the Middle East sometime in the twelfth century. Christopher Columbus carried seeds to the West Indies in the fifteenth century and lemons were distributed by Catholic missionaries throughout South America. Missionaries were also responsible for introducing lemons into California in the late eighteenth century and today this State is probably the largest single producer of lemon oil. Other major producers of lemon oil include the United States, Italy, Guinea, and Cyprus.
The essential oil is found in the rind of the fruit. Traditionally a pale yellow to mid green essential oil has been obtained from the fruit peel through cold expression, however a steam distilled oil is also available. According to E.A. Weiss in his bookEssential Oil Crops steam distillation produces a higher yield. The chemical composition of the two oils will be a little different and many find the steam distilled oil inferior in aroma. Lemon oil is composed mainly of monoterpenes, approximately 90%, of which around 70% is limonene. Martin Watt in his Plant Aromatics Set 4reports that a study done by F. Urbach et al in 1972 recorded that expressed lemon oil was phototoxic while the steam distilled oil was not. In his Essential Oil Monographs Martin Watt also suggests that it is safer to only use distilled lemon oil on the skin. The expressed oil will smell very much like the fruit. Lemon blends well with lavender, neroli, ylang ylang, rose, sandalwood, chamomile, benzoin, fennel, geranium, eucalyptus, juniper, oakmoss and other citrus oils.
Lemon oil is used as a flavoring agent in pharmaceuticals as well as a fragrance ingredient in soaps, detergents, creams, lotions and perfumes. Lemon oil and terpenless lemon oil are used extensively as flavor ingredients in many food products, including alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages, frozen dairy desserts, candy, baked goods, gelatins and puddings, meat and meat products, breakfast cereals and fats and oils.
Psychologically, Lemon has calming and clarifying properties. It can help one to think clearly and aid concentration. It is also thought to be helpful in promoting spiritual and psychic awareness. It may be helpful when one is faced with anger, anxiety, confusion, depression or general feelings of being run down.
On the physiological level Lemon has anti-fungal, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antiviral, bactericidal and calming properties and could be helpful for combating warts, boils and corns. It is often included in formulas for nail and hair products. Also may be helpful for fighting sore throats and sinus and respiratory infections.
Contraindications: Cold expressed Lemon Oil has mild phototoxic properties so care should be taken not to expose the skin to sun or UV rays for 12 hours after use. Steam distilled Lemon oil is considered safe to use on the skin.
Albert Leung & Steven Foster , Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients used in Food, Drugs, and cosmetics, John Wiley & Sons, Inc , New York, Chichester, Brisbane, Toronto, Singapore, 1996
E.A. Weiss, Essential Oil Crops, CAB International, Oxon, UK & New York, NY, 1997
Martin Watt, Plant Aromatics Set 4
Martin Watt, Essential Oil Monographs Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy, 1995
Beverley Hawkins, Aromatherapy 101 Course 1999 revised 2000, 2001