Lemons, as all of the citrus fruits, are from the family Rutaceae. This family is also known as the rue family and contains flowering plants that generally have a strong scent. The genus Citrus includes lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits. These fruits have been cultivated since ancient times. They have probably originated from Australia, New Caledonia and New Guinea, although some research points to them originating in Southeast Asia. Many of the species are hybrids and there is speculation that even the wild true-breeding species are actually hybrids originally.
The lemon tree (Citrus limon) is an evergreen that is sensitive to extended periods of cold and frost and can grow anywhere between 1 to 7 metres tall. Lemon trees are commonly grown from grafted rootstock, which produces fruit in about five years. Depending on the cultivar, freshness of the seed and growing conditions, fruit production from seed-grown lemon trees can take from five to 15 years.
Vitamins and minerals
Lemons are good sources of:
Vitamin C - plays a vital role in the body, including the maintenance of bones and teeth. Vitamin C also boost your sleep, reduce sleep disturbances, relieve movement disorders, and decrease the dangerous effects of sleep apnoea. It also lowers the levels of stress hormone cortisol and your blood pressure.
Thiamine,also known as vitamin B1, plays an important role in the metabolism of lipids, amino acids and glucose in the human body. Thiamine is an important dietary supplement occurring naturally in bitter leaves that helps to oxidize fatty acids in order to produce the synthesis of lipids, which is one of the body’s essential processes.
Riboflavin, also known as vitamin B2, it plays a crucial role in protecting the body from potentially harmful free radicals, which can do damage to everything from skin, to hair, energy levels and even disease resistance.
Pyridoxine, also known as vitamin B6, has been associated with lowering the risk of heart disease, as well as reducing inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis. It also helps to regulate sleep and contributes to busting stress.
Folate is also known as vitamin B9 or folic acid. Folate is a natural form of vitamin B9 and is water soluble. It is found in many food plants. It is essential for DNA production, the development of red blood cells, and preventing anaemia. Folate is also important for preventing memory loss and boosting mood.
Pantothenic acid, also known as vitamin B5, helps turn the food we eat into the energy we need. It is important for many functions in the body, especially making and breaking down fats.
Iron - an important mineral that helps maintain healthy blood.
Calcium – a mineral most often associated with healthy bones and teeth, although it also plays an important role in blood clotting, helping muscles to contract, and regulating normal heart rhythms and nerve functions.
Potassium - an essential mineral that is needed by all tissues in the body. It is sometimes referred to as an electrolyte because it carries a small electrical charge that activates various cell and nerve functions. Oranges are a good source of potassium. High intake of potassium can lower blood pressure in people who already have high levels and may reduce your risk of heart disease.
Magnesium - plays an important role in assisting more than 300 enzymes to carry out various chemical reactions in the body such as building proteins and strong bones, and regulating blood sugar, blood pressure, and muscle and nerve functions. Magnesium also acts as an electrical conductor that contracts muscles and makes the heartbeat steadily.
Phosphorus - an essential mineral that is needed by all tissues in the body. It is sometimes referred to as an electrolyte because it carries a small electrical charge that activates various cell and nerve functions. Lemons are a good source of phosphorus. High intake of phosphorus can lower blood pressure in people who already have high levels and may reduce your risk of heart disease.
Manganese – helps the body form connective tissue, bones, blood clotting factors, and sex hormones.
Copper - Often lacking in the Western diet, copper is an essential trace element, important for strong bones and healthy neurons.
Other plant compounds
Citric acid -The most abundant organic acid in lemons, citric acid may help prevent the formation of kidney stones.
Hesperidin - This antioxidant may strengthen your blood vessels and prevent atherosclerosis — the build-up of fatty deposits (plaque) inside your arteries.
Diosmin - An antioxidant used in some drugs that affect the circulatory system, diosmin improves muscle tone and reduces chronic inflammation in your blood vessels.
Eriocitrin - This antioxidant is found in lemon peel and juice. It may improve metabolic, inflammatory and oxidative stress parameters across multiple biomarkers and thus shows a potential to delay the development of inflammatory complications.
D-limonene - Found primarily in the peel, d-limonene is the main component of lemon essential oils and responsible for the lemon’s distinct aroma. In isolation, it can relieve heartburn and stomach reflux.
Health benefits of lemons
Lemon has many health benefits, including anti-cancer, anti-tumour and anti-inflammatory nature, and also serves as an important ingredient in the formulation of several ethnic herbal medicines. These properties are mediated by the presence of different phytochemicals, vitamins and nutrients in the citrus fruits.