Despite modern advances in medicine, nausea and digestive disorders are very stubborn and resistant to treatment. Lemon benefits for digestion are appealing because it is a safe and a potentially beneficial add-on for almost any digestive issue that you may have.
What Causes Digestive Issues?
The Standard American Diet gets in the way of a healthy digestive tract. Inflammation and indigestion, as well as heartburn and nausea, can be the end result!
Lack of healthy bacteria, antioxidants in the diet, and enzymes all add up to digestive illnesses.
Drugs for Digestion are Expensive and Can Be Dangerous
Many people continue to turn to drug therapies for digestive issues. Read my blog about Heartburn: Natural Versus Drug Options to find out more about why heartburn medicines specifically are a problem.
Nausea treatments are available but the cost can be insurmountable. 30 pills of Zofran are going to hurt your pocketbook at around $700.00 per month.
Side effects of some anti-nausea medications are numerous. They can include diarrhea, constipation, headache, sleepiness, heart palpitations, and itchiness.
Medicine side effects for nausea can be worse than the nausea itself. Find out about my journey to being free of motion sickness here.
Pregnancy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting
A pregnant woman is faced with little safe prescriptive options for nausea. For example, ondansetron (Zofran) is now linked to birth defects and only used in severe cases (1).
A review of anti-nausea research (Cochrane Review) during pregnancy concludes that medications are not usually a viable option unless the vomiting becomes life-threatening (2).
Ahhh, the joys of pregnancy. The anticipation of what is to come is an amazing experience, but also the physical side effects of nausea can be daunting from day to day.
Physical illness, loss of work days, lack of energy, fatigue, irritability, lack of enjoyment of life, and lack of preparation for childbirth are a few issues that are faced with pregnancy-related nausea.
When I was pregnant, nausea plagued me day and night. This dragged on into the 5th month of pregnancy! Morning sickness is a cruel misnomer for those who feel nausea every waking moment.
One food that would alleviate nausea during pregnancy, at least temporarily for me: citrus. I couldn’t get enough citrus; most every other kind of flavor induced nausea.
Since then, much more is known about natural nausea alternatives.
Lemon Nausea Benefits
Nothing brightens up a day as much as the scent and sight of lemon. Imagine slicing a lemon, if you will, and the aroma that instantly revitalizes your senses. Even the memory can trigger a positive thought and feeling!
A well-designed study looking at pregnancy-induced vomiting was conducted in 2014 (3).
Pregnant women received either lemon essential oil or placebo and were instructed to put 2 drops of oil on a cotton ball, and inhale the scent immediately at the first symptom of nausea.
The women inhaling the lemon essential oil had significantly reduced nausea and vomiting episodes compared to the placebo group by day 2. This study is the first of its kind during pregnancy.
Other studies find benefit of other types of essential oils for nausea, as well (4).
Let’s take a look at the evidence for pharmaceutical and other nausea treatments during pregnancy. Around 50% of pregnant women are turning to natural options because there are really no safe and effective prescriptions for the condition (5).
How does lemon reduce nausea?
While much of how our sense of smell affects our brain is unknown, olfactory sensors signal the brain undoubtedly.
When we smell lemon, tiny lemon molecules are being dissolved in the nasal cavity. This then stimulates neurons that give messages to the brain, especially the limbic system. From there, much remains a mystery.
We DO know that lemon has positive effects on the digestive tract, however.
Lemon Essential Oil Constituents
A primary antioxidant in lemon essential oil is D limonene. Almost 70% of the total lemon essential oil is limonene!
Limonene taken orally is protective against stomach ulcers in animal studies (6). It also increases gastric mucus, a protective layer of the stomach in animals.
Limonene Heartburn Benefits
Limonene also may be a natural alternative for treatment of heartburn. Patients receiving 1 g of limonene per day found relief of heartburn. In fact, 90% had complete resolution of heartburn symptoms after 14 days of using limonene (8).
Lemon May Reduce Infections
Lemon essential oil has strong antimicrobial properties. Citrus pulp containing limonene reduced parasitic infections in animal study (9).
Lemon and Gallstones
Some preliminary work showed that lemon essential oil may reduce gallstones. Given through a biliary drain to treat retained cholesterol gallstones limonene reduced any remaining gallstones in people after gallstone surgery (10).
Limonene May Reduce Colitis
In rats with colitis, limonene reduced inflammation markers and increased antioxidants (11).
The inclusion of lemon extract as part of weight loss was more effective at reducing inflammation than an equal-calorie weight loss strategy in people (12).
Sustainability of Lemon Essential Oil
Use of citrus essential oils is environmentally responsible because it uses the portion of the fruit that is generally thrown away when making juice or other fruit extracts (13).
50% of the fruit is thrown away when making citrus juices. Why not put it to use?
Lemon Essential Oil Precautions
Lemon, as a natural plant and food extract is generally recognized as safe.
If using lemon oil as a supplement, make sure you choose a high quality, food grade kind that is certified pure therapeutic grade (CPTG). Click here to find out how to find CPTG essential oils.
Lemon essential oil can cause skin sensitivity if rubbed on the skin. Make sure to dilute it with a neutral oil before application for topical use.
Large doses of limonene taken orally (>8 g/day) may cause nausea, but are otherwise found to be safe and had favorable effects in patients with advanced cancer (14).
Certain medications may interact with lemon. Click here for a review from Rxlist.com.
Lemon essential oil, which is rich in limonene, may benefit digestion in many ways and is a safe option to try.
A recent publication came out called Science’s War on Medicine. To sum it up, we must look at a medicines, vitamins, and natural plant compounds from numerous angles when we decide to help ourselves.
The information on this website has not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration or any other medical body and is shared for educational purposes only. Consult your doctor or healthcare provider before making changes to your supplement regimen or lifestyle.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 20 years, has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. Has researched supplements and plants as medicine throughout her career. Loves helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness.