Anti-cancer foods: Lemon & lemon products

Anti-cancer foods: Lemon & lemon products

Citrus fruits are one of the highly-valued fruits with potential medicinal and therapeutic value. In traditional Asian medicinal systems as well this fruit has a significant space. Evident from various analyses, it has been evaluated that nutritional consumption of lemon and associated products exhibited an inverse association with certain infectious ailments and cancers.

Diet always played an essential role in preventing and treating various health concerns, majorly including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, cancer and obesity. In the halt of cancer development and progression of cancer, cancer fighting foods like intake of low-fat diets and high fibers play a potential role.

The anticancer actions exhibited by these dietary products can be based on certain mechanisms. For instance, enhancing the immunity, inhibition of metastasis, augmenting therapeutic effects of chemotherapeutic drugs and inducing apoptosis.

Out of many anti-cancer fruits, citrus fruits have also emerged as potent anti cancer agents. Being enriched with potent active ingredients, , these fruits possess potential efficacy to prevent and inhibit the progression of cancer.


Recent studies assessed potential anticancer activity of citrus peels. Out of these lemon peels exhibited the superior activity. Also, daily intake of such fruits is associated with reduced risk for gastric cancer.

In India, the variety which is most popular and used is acid lime.

Lemon is one of most renowned citrus fruits in the all over the globe. Being enriched with potent nutritional content like vitamins (vitamin C, vitamin B complex), fibers and minerals (magnesium, zinc, potassium, manganese, iron and copper), this fruit exhibits various health benefits. This fruit is known to enhance immunity, neutralize the free radicals and improve cardiovascular health.

Other than these, this fruit also possesses potential anticancer actions. These anticancer properties of lemon and lemon products are attributed to the variety of phytochemicals present in it. Let's explore these phytochemicals and their role in cancer prevention -


• Limonoids
• Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)
• Essential oils
• Flavonoids
• Citrus fatty acids
• Coumarins

Let's explore these chemical constituents deeply -


Limonoids are the phytochemicals which provide lemons peels their zesty aroma and bitter taste. Majorly found lemon limonoids are nomilin and limonin.

Evaluated from scientific evidence, both nomilin and limonin has a significant potency to inhibit the progression of carcinogen-induced cancers. In one of the analysis, it is found that -

• Limonin is more active while the promotional stage of carcinogenesis
• Nomilin is more active while initiation phase of carcinogenesis

Overall, limonoids known to possess anti-cancer action via these mechanisms -

• Stimulation of immune system
• Initiation of cancer cell apoptosis
• Detoxification of harmful chemicals and carcinogens
• Alter estrogen metabolism
• Maintain and repair normal DNA function
• Reduce cell proliferation
• Inhibits the formation of various forms of free radicals

Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)

Ascorbic acid is an essential water-soluble vitamin. It significantly acts as a potent antioxidant. It is known to scavenge reactive oxygen and nitrogen species. This further significantly helps to protect the other biomolecules from oxidative stress.

Vitamin C also acts as co-antioxidant by restoring alpha tocopherol (vitamin E) from alpha tocopheryl radicals. The alpha tocopherol can act as a pro-oxidant in the absence of co-antioxidants like ascorbic acid.

Vitamin C can lower the risk of cancer through various mechanisms, for instance -

• Antioxidant action
• Chemoprotection against mutagenic components
• Prevention of nitrites reaction with amines (prevents formation of nitrosamines, a potent carcinogen)
• Inhibits DNA oxidation

Essential oils

Essential oil emanates from the leaves and fruits of citrus species via either cold-pressed or steam pressed. The major component of lemon essential oil is monoterpene.

These terpenoids are known to be potent citrus components in improving and maintaining the overall health and well-being. This class of phytochemical possesses certain anti-cancer actions like anti-carcinogenesis and free radical scavenging activity.

In one of the studies, it is found that perillyl alcohol (oxygenated monoterpene) a potent Phytoconstituents of the citrus essential oil, is known to exhibit considerable impact upon the clinical treatment of malignant brain tumors.


Flavonoids are the main ingredient of the citrus peel, peculiarly in terms of anticancer activity and in preventing degenerative disorders.

These flavonoids are known to repress the cancerous events via modulating multiple cellular proteins. These proteins impede cell proliferation by down-regulating oncoproteins.

Quercetin is the highly evaluated flavonoid. This is present in significant quantities in the lemon. This flavonoid possesses potential action upon cell proliferation.

Citrus fatty acids

The peel and seed of lemon are known to contain potent amounts of efficacious fatty acids. These fatty acids show substantial role in down-regulating development of various cancers. Linoleic, palmitic and oleic acids are the three major fatty acids studied in the citrus fruits.


Lemon peels contain a variety of coumarins. The major mechanism via which these coumarins show good anti-cancerous actions is via stimulating carcinogen detoxifying enzymes.

In a recently done analysis, it has been seen that osthole (a potent lemon coumarin) is known to initiate the process of apoptosis against lung cancer cell line.

Coumarins are known to exhibit potential impact against renal, prostate and leukemia cancerous cell lines. These phytochemicals are also known to counteract the adverse effects led by radiotherapy.

Due to these phytochemicals, lemon and lemon products are known to possess significant anti-cancer activities and act as anti-cancer foods.


Various lemon products other than lemon, which we can consume in our daily life are:

• Lemon juice
• Lemon peel extract
• Lemongrass oil

Drinking lemon water in the morning empty stomach. This is the best way to detox your body and get rid of harmful free radicals, toxins and carcinogens.

You can use a drop of lemon grass oil in means of garnishing or in enhancing the flavor of dishes. You can also add this into steaming water, while taking steam.

Cautionary -

Essential oils can catch flame. Therefore, must take care while using essential oils and keep them away from flame.
Do not consume lemongrass essential oil orally without the guidance of a healthcare professional.


Overall, significant well-established evidence is there which confirmed that lemons and lemon products like lemon extract, lemon peel, and lemongrass oil show an outstanding array of effective biological actions, especially in anti-tumorigenesis. Lemons and its associated products exhibit significant bioavailability, which draws the attention of researchers to execute further analyses for efficacious cancer prevention and management.

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