Citrus x limon / Citroen


Citrus x limon

Family: Rutaceae


The lemon tree is an evergreen citrus that grows to about 20 feet.1 It has stiff thorns and fragrant, white flowers1 followed by small, oval fruits that turn yellow as they ripen.2 The lemon is native to Asia but is now cultivated in subtropical climates worldwide, especially in California and Florida.1,2 Parts of the lemon that are used include the juice, peel, twigs, leaves, and undeveloped fruits.1

History and Cultural Significance

Lemon was considered a traditional medicine in Spain and other European countries.3 In the 17th century, physicians became aware that taking lemon juice daily would aid sailors with diets low in Vitamin C during long voyages.2 English law requires that ships carry adequate lemon or lime juice for every seaman for trips longer than ten days.4

Lemons are a good source of vitamin C and potassium. They have long been used to promote bodily functions and to nurture body systems.2 Topically, lemon is used to soothe irritated skin.3

Modern Research

One study suggests that the consumption of lemon juice may help increase iron absorption.5

Future Outlook

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimated lemon and lime production together was 9.25 million metric tons in 1996-98, and is expected to increase to 10.6 million metric tons in 2010.

The United States is one of the two largest citrus producing countries. More than 80% of commercially-grown lemon and lime are used fresh, with the remaining 20% being utilized in processed products. This consumption allocation is expected to stay the same in the near future.6


1 Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. New York: John Wiley and Sons; 1996.

2 DerMarderosian A, Beutler JA. The Review of Natural Products. 3rd ed. St. Louis, MO: Facts and Comparisons; 2002.

3 Lawless J. The Encyclopaedia of Essential Oils. Dorset, UK: Element Books, Inc; 1992.

4 Grieve M. A Modern Herbal. Vol. 2. New York: Dover Publications; 1971.

5 Ballot D, Baynes RD, Bothwell TH, Gillooly M, MacFarlane BJ, MacPhail AP, et al. The effects of fruit juices and fruits on the absorption of iron from a rice meal. Br J Nutr. 1987;57:331-343. Cited in DerMarderosian A, Beutler JA. The Review of Natural Products. 3rd ed. St. Louis, MO: Facts and Comparisons; 2002.

6 Spreen TH. Projections of world production and consumption of citrus to 2010. FAO Corporate Document Repository Web site. Available at: Accessed April 19, 2005.