Health Benefits Of Lemon Oil + How To Use It In Your Everyday Life
The saying "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade" means you should make the best out of the sour situation you're in. But honestly, being handed a random bag full of lemons sounds like a pretty stellar situation, if you ask me.
This iconically bright yellow citrus fruit is one of the most versatile (and functional) foods. From lemon meringue pie to lemon-scented cleaning products, it's hard to imagine life without it.
Lemons are wildly useful for everyday use, whether you're deep cleaning or caring for your body. Long used for their medicinal properties, lemons and lemon oil can offer a range of health benefits—including supporting digestion, glowing skin, and even a positive mood.*
Plus, how dull would life be without lemon water and lemonade? I mean, can you imagine summer without them? I can't.
To see how the oh-so-iconic lemon oil fares when put to the test, we sought out scientific research to back up its presumed effects. As it turns out, there are quite a few ways you can incorporate this essential oil into your life—so many, in fact, that the saying really should be "When life gives you lemons, use them for everything."
What is lemon oil?
"Lemon is a very versatile fruit that is commonly used in herbal medicine because it has a high antibacterial and astringent profile. It has high levels of vitamin C, antioxidants, and flavonoids that provide immunity support,"* shares integrative holistic health practitioner Neeyaz Zolfaghari.
Lemon oil is extracted from the skin of fresh lemons through cold pressing or steam extraction and carries some of the properties of the original fruit.
"The major constituent of the volatile oil (or 'essential oil') of citrus peels is the terpene limonene," explains Rachelle Robinett, R.H. (AHG), registered herbalist, holistic health practitioner, and founder of Pharmakon Supernatural.
Terpenes are the phytonutrient compounds in plants responsible for their unique scent and flavor. Limonene is a specific type of terpene also found in other key botanicals (e.g., hemp, rosemary, chamomile, ginger, turmeric, juniper, and peppermint) that has anti-inflammatory properties and mood-boosting effects.*
According to Robinett, limonene's citrus fragrance (which is delivered to us as essential oils) has been shown to support immune function, regulate hormone levels to help balance the endocrine system, and even support a healthy mood.
Let's take a look at how limonene and other components of this bright citrus can benefit your body.
Benefits of lemon oil.
Lemon oil has beneficial effects—largely in its aromatherapy use but also in its topical applications. Here are a few of lemon oil's health benefits:
- Encourages glowing skin: Lemon oil's antimicrobial and antifungal properties1 make it good for cleansing and caring for the skin, while its antioxidant properties promote a healthy glow. (That said, you should proceed with care: Read this article to learn how to safely incorporate lemon into your skin care routine.)
- Calms the stomach: Lemon essential oil aromatherapy was found to reduce the occurrence of stomach upset2 in a clinical study of healthy pregnant women.
- Supports your mood: In a Psychoneuroendocrinology scientific review3, smelling lemon oil was found to both boost norepinephrine release and yield a positive effect on self-reported and assessed mood.
- Promotes alertness: In one study published by the Irish Journal of Education, a group of fourth-graders in Turkey who attended class in a room with a lemon oil diffuser performed better on their exams than the control group.
- Supports gut integrity: In preclinical research4 published in Chemico-Biological Interactions, lemon oil demonstrated gastroprotective properties in rats, indicating it may prove beneficial for promoting the integrity and function of the gastrointestinal lining. (Though human research is needed.)
- May help promote regularity: Research indicates that essential oil massages can help promote healthy bowel movements. In one study, healthy older Korean adults that received massages using rosemary, peppermint, and lemon oil5 had better regularity than the control group who received a "placebo massage" (i.e., sans the essential oil cocktail). Lemon oil's potential to promote healthy bowel movements makes it an exciting possible approach to support healthy digestion and regularity.
- Aids lymphatic drainage: The anti-inflammatory activity of lemon oil means it may be able to support lymphatic drainage. Case in point: In a 2013 pre-clinical study6 published by Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, lemon oil was found to help regulate and dampen pro-inflammatory mediators.
How to use lemon oil.
There are myriad ways you can utilize lemon oil's benefits throughout your house—from your kitchen to your bathroom! "Lemon essential oil can be diffused in the home, mixed into body care products (e.g., mists, toners, and hydrosols), used in cleaning products, and more," says Robinett.
Add a few drops of lemon oil to a diffuser to perhaps brighten your mood or increase your alertness. She suggests using it in the morning for a little emotional lift, or midday when attention tends to dip. It's also a great ally during winter when you may notice your mood plummet.
Zolfaghari says that the energizing aroma will not only prompt an uplifting energy to your space but also help cleanse and purify the air since lemon oil has antibacterial properties.
Have lemon oil that you want to incorporate into your skin care routine? Zolfaghari suggests adding a drop to your evening moisturizer to help give your skin a natural glow. "Just be sure your skin is not sensitive following sun exposure, and do not combine with any retinols," she notes.
For an at-home spa night, make a lemon body scrub to stimulate lymphatic drainage. "Add 10 drops of lemon oil and a tablespoon of jojoba oil into an ounce of Himalayan salt. Use it all over in the shower, giving particular attention to areas that might benefit from its anti-inflammatory actions," Leigh Winters, M.A., M.S., previously wrote for mbg.
Lemon oil dosage.
For oral consumption, no recommended dosage nor daily need of lemon oil exists, as it's an essential oil extracted from a fruit (lemons, of course) used to complement other ingredients or formulas typically.
In certain supplements, lemon oil may be leveraged in milligram quantities (e.g., around 100 to 200 milligrams), like in omega-3 potency+, to produce a fresher, lemony aftertaste experience. What's more, the organic lemon oil provides this formula and consumer with incremental antioxidant benefits (i.e., in addition to the leading omega-3 ingredients EPA and DHA) intrinsic to lemon oil.*
For other uses of lemon oil, the dosage depends on the use. For example, to enjoy the aromatherapy benefits, try adding just three to four drops to your diffuser and set it to diffuse for around 30 minutes. The key thing about the amount of time you use it is to keep your sensitivity to the scent up and prevent becoming nose-blind to it, which might affect some of the olfactory benefits.
Additionally, when using it on your skin, add lemon oil to a carrier oil to dilute it.
Potential side effects.
Barring a dietary sensitivity or allergy (certainly possible in some individuals), lemons and the oils from lemons are food-grade and very safe ingredients.
Since genuine food allergens are most commonly related to the protein component of a food, and lemon oil is, well, oil (fatty component), the potential for reactions is lessened even further. But anyone with citrus-specific concerns should partner with their health care provider to be sure.
When it comes to topical application, it's important to test any new product on a small patch of skin to ensure your skin reacts well (many people are sensitive to topical essential oils). Additionally, lemon oil does make the skin more sensitive to the sun, and therefore it's recommended that you use it on your skin at night.
Lemon oil can be used in your evening moisturizer, in your diffuser, and even in a thoughtful supplement formula like mbg's omega-3 potency+.
Its wide range of uses can adapt to your lifestyle needs, so much so that lemon may just become your new wellness and lifestyle aesthetic. To be honest, I'm not opposed because you know what? Life gave us lemons, so we're going to use them.
Josey Murray is a freelance writer focused on inclusive wellness, joyful movement, mental health, and the like. A graduate of Wellesley College, where she studied English and Creative Writing, her work appears in Women’s Health, Cook & Culture, and more. By expressing her own vulnerability, she writes with warmth and empathy to help readers find self-compassion and true wellness that’s sustainable for body, mind, and planet.