How Lemons May Help to Fight Cancer – How a Little Bit of Chemistry Goes a Long Way


Recent studies have emerged showing that some elements in lemons can help to alleviate the effects of cancer and the side effects of medical treatment for cancer. They can also help in the prevention of cancer and possibly, the movement or growth of cancer cells.

Whether it is taken in the form of lemon juice, as a lemon essential oil or as the lemon itself to flavor another type of food or drink, one can access the cancer prevention and treatment qualities of the wonderful fruit that is a lemon.

Here is a list of some ways that lemon can help a person who is afflicted with cancer:

1. Lemons have phytochemicals. The limonene that is found in the rind of lemons is a powerful phytochemical. Take note: Phytochemicals are not nutrients. They are plant chemicals which the lemon plant produces as a means of self-protection. One could equate it in this way with the body’s immune system.

New research shows that phytochemicals can also help to protect humans against disease, too. The anticancer qualities of limonene work by increasing the number of enzymes in our bodies that detoxify carcinogens. We refer here to Glutathione S-transferase, or GST, in particular. Limonene promotes the levels of GST in our small bowel and liver. With more GST in our bodies, more carcinogens are destroyed.

There have also been studies conducted with animals which show that limonene helps to reduce the growth of mammary tumors. This has enhanced hopes about the possibility of limonene in lemon rinds helping in the treatment of breast cancer in humans. The terpenes in lemons can stimulate enzymes that render estrogen less effective, and it is thought that in this way, it can perhaps reduce the risk of breast cancer in humans.

Limonene also functions by inhibiting the effects of free radicals which may sometimes lead to cancer. Because limonene works as an antioxidant, the free radicals are destroyed.

To get the most out of your lemon, don’t throw the peel away. Just wash the rind very well, then zest it (don’t include the bitter white pith). Add this to baked goods, hot tea, yogurt and soups and you can take advantage of the full health and cancer prevention benefits of limonene.

2. Lemons bring out anticancer ingredients in green tea. We refer in particular to the catechins of green tea. Catechins are unique antioxidants that help to reduce the risk of cancer by inhibiting cancer cell activity and strengthening one’s immunity. Unfortunately, after digestion, only 20 percent of total catechins from green tea remain in the body. This is because catechins are volatile and are unstable in non-acidic settings such as the intestines.

However, a Purdue University study showed that citrus juice (like lemon juice) can increase catechin levels in our bodies to more than five times, and lemon juice had the best results of all citrus fruit causing up to 80 percent of the green tea’s catechins to remain.

When the tea is taken with lemon juice, the catechins interact and the lemon’s stabilizing power permits the greatest percentage of ability to withstand the degradation brought about in the intestines.

Lemon essential oil when used with aromatherapy is an acceptable form of supportive care, the National Cancer Institute says. Supportive care is defined as care that is rendered to enhance the quality of life of cancer patients. The goal in supportive care is not to cure, but to prevent the symptoms of cancer, or to treat the symptoms when they occur. Supportive care with lemon essential oils in aromatherapy can also be used to treat the side effects that are brought about with medical treatment for cancer. Some of these side effects may be social, spiritual or psychological in nature. The anxiety and stress for example that a cancer patient may feel could be reduced with an aromatherapy massage using lemon essential oils. In a nutshell, supportive care has more to do with symptom management and comfort care than with cure.

Lemon essential oil is very concentrated. It is produced by special cells in the lemon plant that are usually found under the leaves of the plant or in its peel. It should be either distilled with steam or water or pressed. If chemicals are used in its making, it cannot be considered an essential oil.

How does lemon essential oil aromatherapy work? There are several theories, but the most adhered to belief is that the smell receptors in our nose react to the aroma of the lemon essential oil and conveys a message through the nerve endings to our brain’s limbic system. This is the part of our brain which is the center of our emotions and feelings. Imaging studies have backed the effects of smell on the limbic system.

Aromatherapy is administered in many ways, including through inhalation either indirectly by using a room diffuser or directly with the use of an individual inhaler; or through an aromatherapy massage. It is not advisable to take lemon essential oil orally.

A massage with lemon essential oil has the added benefits of helping a person to relax, relieve pain and stress, improve circulation and lower blood pressure. Studies are also being made to see how it can help other cancer symptoms such as experiencing a lack of energy, swelling and depression.

Studies have shown the benefits of aromatherapy in cancer patients and many have said aromatherapy treatment with lemon and other essential oils improved their sense of well-being, the National Cancer Institute said.

Aromatherapy is not regulated by law in the United States. However, there are two organizations that have national educational standards for aromatherapists. These are The Alliance of International Aromatherapists and the National Association for Holistic Aromatherapy.

There used to be a time when anything that was substandard was called a ‘lemon. ‘ There was also the saying, “when life hands you a lemon, make lemonade, ” which was another way of saying, make the most of anything you get that is below par. But today we know that lemons are among nature’s most precious gifts to us.

When life hands us a lemon, we should use every single part of it.