Creates a sunny, uplifting and citrusy note in an essential oil blend.
Plant name (Latin): Citrus limon
Plant family: Rutaceae (the citrus family of flowering plants)
Native region: Hot, humid regions of Asia and east India
Growing habit: Small evergreen tree with shiny, dark green leaves and fragrant white blooms
Parts used: Fruit and peel as food, peel for extracting essential oil
Essential oil extraction method: Cold pressing
Sunny, yellow lemon is a powerfully uplifting and invigorating ingredient, and is instantly recognizable around the world. Throughout the world, it has been used in many ways, including to boost vitamin C in diets, as an ingredient in many fragrances; and as a component in uplifting essential oil blends.
Why we use lemon
Astringent and fresh, lemon essential oil helps relieve colds and flu and skin conditions, while providing a sunny and uplifting aroma.
How and where lemon grows
The lemon tree originated in Asia, and spread to Italy almost 2,000 years ago. Lemon trees need to grow in climates of at least 7 degrees Celsius (45 degrees Fahrenheit), and prefer much more heat than that – most are grown in sunny spots around the world like Mexico, the European Union, Argentina, the United States and Turkey.
In the United States, 90% of all lemons come from California, with the rest coming from Arizona, Texas and Florida. Because they can’t tolerate low temperatures, lemon trees can’t survive a Canadian winter, but they can be grown in pots, and moved indoors during the winter months.
Lemon trees can be up to 3-6 metres (10-20 feet) tall, with sharp thorns on their twigs. Lemon leaves are dark green on top and pale green underneath, and are long and narrow. Lemon flowers are small, with five white petals emerging out of a pale purple bud with a mild fragrance. Because lemons bloom continuously, it’s possible to have blossoms and ripe lemons on the same tree, all year round.
Lemon in all its forms
The bright, astringent powerhouse of lemon also has a mysterious side: it is unknown when lemons were discovered, but most believe that lemon is a hybrid between bitter orange and an ancient citrus variety known as citron. What we do know is that the tart, energizing aroma of lemon has been enjoyed for hundreds of years on almost every continent, in many different forms.
Lemon Essential Oil
Used in aromatherapy to relieve symptoms related to acne, herpes, warts, insect bites, colds and flu. Is sometimes referred to as 'liquid sunshine' for its ability to brighten your mood and your outlook.
Versatile and astringent lemon juice is an effective, natural home cleaning agent. Use with water to clean away kitchen grease and counter stains. Lemon juice is also used to brighten the skin: try as a toner to clear away dead skin cells and lighten the complexion.
Add lemon to hot water for a cleansing and pH-balancing morning drink. Squeeze half a lemon into a mug, then pour hot water to mix. Drink in the morning before you've ingested anything else.
Preserved lemon rind originated in the Middle East, and is now popular all over the world for its unique, tart flavour. Add to salad dressings and braised vegetable dishes for a bright taste addition.
The use of lemon in Ayurveda
In Ayurveda, lemons and lemon essential oil are thought to aggravate pitta dosha, and pacify kapha and vata doshas. Lemons and lemon essential oil are known for their ability to stimulate four of our five senses (unless you are lucky enough to hear the wind rustling through lemon tree leaves), which is important in the holistic healing philosophy of Ayurveda.
- Sight: The bright, cheerful yellow colour of lemons can promote mental clarity and energy, and increases communication.
- Smell: The aroma of lemon is thought to be beneficial to mood, energy, concentration and productivity.
- Taste: The flavour of lemon helps dispel excess kapha from the stomach, helps relieve nausea and is thought to help stimulate the body to get rid of toxins.
- Touch: To stimulate the sense of touch, lemon essential oil can be incorporated into skin treatments and massage. Lemon oil is thought to assist in rejuvenating and toning the skin naturally by improving blood circulation. Lemons and lemon essential oil is believed to have antiseptic, disinfectant, astringent, antiviral and soothing properties and in can be added to many beauty and massage treatments.
The symbolism of lemon
The origin of the word “lemon” may be Middle Eastern. The word draws from the Old French limon, then Italian limone, from the Arabic laymūn or līmūn, and from the Persian līmūn, a generic term for citrus fruit, which comes from Sanskrit (nimbū, “lime”).
The lemon has come to symbolize many — sometimes opposing — ideas, depending on the cultural reference point. Sometimes it is considered a symbol of longevity, purification, love, and friendship, and other times it is seen to be symbolic of bitterness and disappointment. Catholic tradition linked the fruit to fidelity. Because it was imported at great expense to some countries it became a symbol of wealth.
Bitter oranges and lemons are found in portraits since the 15th century. Various meanings are tied up with the fruits. In the Baroque age, it was popular to symbolize the descent of a portrait subject from the Dutch ruling dynasty of Orange by a small fruit-bearing orange tree. Often a citrus fruit represented the social or moral status of the portrait subjects. But citrus fruits could also point to personal botanical preferences and to dream destinations in Southern climates.
In the 17th century, many portraits of children included a citrus fruit in their hand and a dog by their side. According to the ideas of the time, the child as the fruit of the parents gradually gained maturity – hinted at by the citrus fruit – through the upbringing, symbolized by the dog. Later, the Victorians used lemon blossoms in flower arranging to symbolize discretion. In the Victorian language of flower arranging, lemon blossoms meant discretion.
In magical applications, lemons are often associated with the moon and have been used to honor lunar deities. Lemon juice is also associated with water because it is purifying and cleansing. Lemon blossoms have been used in love spells, and lemon rind can be added to baked goods made with loving intentions.
The history of lemon
The origin of the lemon is unknown, though lemons are thought to have first grown in Assam (a region in northeast India), northern Burma or China.
Lemons entered Europe near southern Italy no later than the second century AD, during the time of Ancient Rome. However, they were not widely cultivated. They were later introduced to Persia and then to Iraq and Egypt around 700 AD. The lemon was first recorded in literature in a 10th-century Arabic document on farming, and was also used as an ornamental plant in early Islamic gardens. It was distributed widely throughout the Arab world and the Mediterranean region between 1000 and 1150.
The first substantial cultivation of lemons in Europe began in Genoa in the middle of the 15th century. The lemon was later introduced to the Americas in 1493 when Christopher Columbus brought lemon seeds on his voyages. Spanish conquests throughout the New World then helped spread lemon seeds, and the trees were mainly used as ornamental plants and as medicine. During the Victorian era, lemons were grown in greenhouses on British estates, and lemons were used in many beauty rituals.
In 1709, the first “Eau de Cologne” was created by Italian perfumer Giovanni Maria Farina, out of a blend of citrus and other essential oils, including lemon oil. Eau de Cologne became a valuable luxury, used by most royals across Europe. In 1747, James Lind's experiments on seamen suffering from scurvy involved adding lemon juice to their diets, though vitamin C was not yet known.
In North America, the Spanish planted lemons in California in the mid-1700s, and in the 19th century, lemons were increasingly planted in Florida and California. Lemons became an important commercial crop in California during the Gold Rush. Fresh fruits and vegetables were hard to come by, so the miners borrowed a play from the British navy, and starting taking lemon juice to keep scurvy away.
During the winter of 1894-95, the Florida lemon crop was destroyed by a killer freeze, and commercial cultivation didn’t resume in Florida until 1953, when a market emerged for frozen lemon concentrate and for cold-pressed lemon oil.