We are blessed to have five mature rangpur lemon trees (scientic name Citrus limonia, known as limón mandarina in Costa Rica) at the Ardent Light Motherland. Limón mandarina is a hybrid between the mandarin orange and the lemon. It is preferred over other varieties of lemons or limes in Costa Rica because it is easier to peel, juicier (and therefore easier to squeeze), has beautiful orange pulp, and is slightly more sweet than the regular lemons or limes yet still very sour.
Limón mandarina can have an orange or green peel with orange-colored flesh and off-white seeds. The peel usually starts out green and can turn orange when it is allowed to ripen or grow larger on the tree. The sectioned fruit of all citrus, which you can see when you peel it, is actually a modified berry with a resilient, leathery rind. Like other lemons or limes, limón mandarina is a small evergreen tree and is thought to be native to Asia, originating particularly from India at the base of the Himalayan mountains. The interesting thing about the limón mandarina tree is that it will continue to produce pretty flowers as the fruits ripen to ensure a constant, perennial supply. Lemons are used for culinary and non-culinary purposes. A good number of homes in Costa Rica have a limón mandarina tree in their yard as an ornamental, for consumption, quick and easy medicine, and other household uses.
Lemons in general (limón mandarinas may have a slightly different nutrient profile) are packed with vitamin C (187% of Daily Value), B-complex vitamins (B1 thiamin, B2 riboflavin, B5 pantothenic acid, B6 pyridoxine, B9 folate), potassium, iron, copper, phosphorus, and calcium and magnesium (in optimum ratios to each other). Lemons also have antioxidants such as hesperetin and naringenin (flavonoid glycocides found in most citrus fruits which enhance the antioxidant capability of vitamin C), limonene, citric acid, β-carotenes, beta-crytoxanthin, zeazanthin, lutein, and vitamin A. Limón mandarina, due to its orange color, has more vitamin A and β-carotenes than other varieties. For an in-depth nutrient profile of lemons and limes in general, see The World’s Healthiest Foods Lemons and Limes.
Lemons are probably one of the most popular natural medicines in the world due to their potency and multifunctional uses. Being a powerful antimicrobial (bacterial and viral), anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, it can be used to treat a variety of ailments including cancer, polyps, cysts, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, high LDL cholesterol, palpitations, hypertension, arterial calcification, epilepsy, dizziness, headaches, colds/flu, cough, phlegm, sore throat, cold sores, thrush, asthma, fever, scarlet fever, smallpox, scurvy, diphtheria (upper respiratory tract infection caused by Corynebacterium diphtheriae bacteria), typhus (bacterial disease spread by lice or fleas), malaria, food poisoning, other bacterial infections, scabies, herpes, internal and external parasites (using lemon peel), diarrhea, constipation, appendicitis, indigestion, nausea, gastritis, ulcers, hemorrhaging, tuberculosis, lung disease, lymph diseases, immune system problems, heavy-metal poisoning, kidney stones, urethritis (inflammation of the urethra), bladder problems, edema (build-up of water in the body), liver disease, gout, arthritis, rheumatism, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis (using lemon juice and rind), gum and teeth problems (e.g., bleeding gums, toothache), acne, corns, calluses, eczema, psoriasis, dandruff, seborrheic dermatitis (e.g., cradle cap), nerve problems, anxiety, depression, hypochondria, loss of appetite, listlessness, lack of concentration, insomnia, and beriberi (disease caused by lack of thiamine).
Always get your lemons from a healthy organic source, otherwise the health benefits will be greatly reduced. Limes (see right image) have a similar nutritional and medicinal profile and can be used as a good substitute for many lemon remedies, recipes, personal care, or household uses.
Protect DNA & Blood Circulatory System From Free-Radical Damage & Cancer
Vitamin C together with flavonoids glycosides esperetin and naringenin provides powerful protection from free-radicals which can do serious damage to DNA, blood vessels, contribute to cholesterol build-up in arterial walls, atherosclerosis, and even heart disease and cancer. The bioflavonoids improve capillary permeability and overall blood flow which is especially important for oxygenating tissues, maintaining normal blood pressure, and reducing swelling, varicose veins and edema.
The rind contains up to 10 times the vitamins and bioactive compounds of the juice. The peel stops tumor proliferation according to a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. Likewise, research in the journal of Nutrition and Cancer found a striking reduction of squamous cell carcinoma in those who ingested citrus peel, compared to participants who only consumed the juice. The team believes these findings are due to the concentration of d-limonene oil in citrus fruit rinds, a known inhibitor of breast, lung and colon cancers.
Detoxification, Digestive Aid, Dissolves Stones, Fatty Liver & Excess Abdominal Fat
Lemons are a great aid in detoxifying the body. The pith in lemon peel contains pectin, which helps chelate toxins and heavy metals. It stimulates the liver to produce more enzymes so it can remove toxins like excess uric acid, liquefy congested bile, and work more efficiently. Lemon peel reduces cramping and gas pains while it aids digestion, increases circulation, stimulates urination and strengthens the immune system.
Lemon juice is commonly mixed with water for water fasts with sometimes cayenne pepper, sage or rosemary infused in the water for additional detoxification. As a natural diuretic, it helps flush water-soluble toxins out of the body through the kidneys. The citric acid in lemons has a similar atomic structure to saliva and hydrochloric acid which aid in digestion, help dissolve kidney, pancreatic and gallbladder stones, remove calcium deposits on arterial walls, uric acid (the cause of gout), loosen and flush out toxins from the digestive tract, and cleanse the liver of fat. Lemons are also very high in citrates (derivatives of citric acid), which inhibit the growth of kidney stones. It also hydrates the colon and stool (which helps to move the bowels in the morning) and stimulate bile production (which helps neutralize toxins and digest fats). Better digestion of food leads to better assimilation of nutrients (less indigestion, heartburn, bloating and gas), and therefore better elimination of wastes. The generous amount of vitamin C in lemons also help you absorb iron from the foods you eat.
Why You Need to Kick the Coffee Habit
Drinking a 16 oz. glass of room temperature water with juice squeezed from a half a lemon (or a whole lemon with 32 oz. of water if you weigh more than 150 pounds or 68 kilograms) first thing in the morning shortly after waking is a great way to re-hydrate the body after so many hours of fasting, flush out toxins from the body that have been processed overnight during sleep, wake up or energize the cells, relieve edema, fight hunger cravings, and freshen your breath. Be sure to also eat the membranous parts of the lemon where the majority of the pectin fiber and citrus bioflavonoids are located. This yogic or Ayurvedic ritual was used to stimulate digestion, eliminate ama (Ayurvedic term for toxic slime that builds up in the gastro-intestinal or GI tract during the night), help purify and stimulate the liver, stimulate a bowel movement, dispel depression, anxiety, fogginess, and forgetfulness due to low potassium, and reduce or dislodge phelgm. Wait at least 20 minutes or ideally up to an hour (if you can) before eating. Doing yoga or exercising during this waiting period will eliminate any hunger and allow the amount of time needed for the full benefits of the lemon water.
It is a very healthy substitute for coffee as the water with lemon juice will activate and cleanse your kidneys, liver, and eventually bowels which will leave you feeling lighter, awakened, energized naturally and in good spirits. If you add a teaspoon of raw honey to the drink, you can effectively dissolve excess abdominal fat as honey has astringent properties which is the opposite qualities of oily fat so it helps scrape away and dissolve fat. Lemons also help fight hunger cravings by making you feel full and help boost your metabolism.
The caffeine in coffee, on the other hand, stimulates the adrenals to pump out the instant energy hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine. These hormones stimulate the body to breakdown stored sugar and release it into the bloodstream. Coupled with any additional sugar added to the coffee, this causes abnormally high blood sugar levels that increases oxidative stress, free radical formation and overall tissue damage. In addition, your pancreas needs to pump out insulin in order for the cells to absorb all this glucose in the bloodstream for energy. If coffee is drank on a daily basis and even several times a day, the pancreas will either burn out (resulting in Type I diabetes) or the cells will become insulin resistant due to being regularly overstimulated (resulting in Type 2 diabetes). The energy generated from coffee can be referred to as “dirty” energy because it produces a rampant amount of damage to the body in order to generate energy. Clean energy, like that from lemon water, produces cellular energy without an excessive amount of oxidative stress.
In general, avoid stimulants like caffeine, processed sugar, and MSG (monosodium glutamate) because they bypass natural cellular energy production and go directly either towards stimulating the adrenals (e.g., caffeine and processed sugar) or the pancreas and neurons (e.g., MSG). Also, the goal is to become more sensitive (and therefore more perceptive and intelligent), not to numb or dumb us down with stimulants. Constant exposure to stimulants will dull down your senses over time and you will require even more of the stimulant to get an effect. To learn about more the damaging effects of roasted coffee, see The Link Between B12 Deficiency & Coffee.
One of the Only Anionic Foods on the Planet
Foods we eat can provide electrically charged molecules that initiate energy production in our body. An ion is part of a molecule that carries an electrical charge. Positively charged ions are called “cations,” while negatively charged ions are called “anions.” Most of the food we put into our bodies comes in a cationic form, while our natural digestive processes (hydrochloric acid, digestive enzymes, saliva) are anionic. Lemon is one of the only anionic foods on the planet. This means that it carries a very strong negative charge and is extremely electrically active which is why fresh lemon helps oxygenate the body and maximizes enzyme function. In fact, the liver produces more enzymes from lemon/lime water than any other food, according to A.F. Beddoe, author of Biological Ionization as Applied to Human Nutrition.
Healthy Mucous Membranes, Skin & Vision
The β-carotenes, beta-crytoxanthin, zeazanthin, lutein, and vitamin A in lemons promote healthy mucus membranes (reduces mucus, phlegm, bleeding gums and toothache), skin and vision. Vitamin C helps to maintain the skin’s elasticity to prevent the formation of wrinkles and decrease blemishes and scars. The vitamin C, citric acid and alkaline properties fight bacteria both internally and on the skin.
Lemon juice blended with aloe vera helps cleanse and exfoliate the skin. For oily skin, gently rub the skin of the face with a cotton ball soaked in lemon juice and let it dry. This will also help draw out blackheads or pimples during the day and reduce acne. You should see improvements after several days of treatment. To remove grease, make a mask of corn starch or almond mixed with lemon juice. Spread the mask over the face and leave it on for about 15 minutes, then remove with warm water. Other homemade skin remedies include:
- Instead of buying expensive skin lightening creams, apply lemon juice directly to liver/age spots or freckles to lighten them.
- To remove warts,apply a dab of lemon juice directly to the wart using a cotton swab. Repeat for several days until the acids in the lemon juice dissolve the wart completely.
- To remove corns and calluses, make an overnight home remedy with a slice of lemon as a poultice.
- Relieve eczema with lemon oil, honey and warm water poultices.
To treat dandruff, massage two tablespoons lemon juice into your scalp and rinse with water. Then stir one teaspoon lemon juice into one cup water and rinse your hair with it. Repeat daily until your dandruff disappears.
To soften dry, scaly elbows, mix baking soda and lemon juice to make a paste, then rub it into your elbows for a soothing, smoothing, and exfoliating treatment. Rinse your extremities in a mixture of equal parts lemon juice and water, then massage with olive oil and dab dry with a soft cloth.
Famous Cold/Flu or Soar Throat Remedy
Fresh lemon juice mixed with raw honey and fresh grated ginger is a potent cold/flu remedy. Lemons help loosen and reduce mucus and phlegm. If you do not have raw honey or ginger, fresh lemon juice mixed with olive oil is also another effective remedy. Otherwise, just fresh lemon juice in water will also be good if that is all you have. Just make sure the lemon juice is pretty substantial (e.g., juice from three lemons if possible). Other cold/flu remedies include:
- Mix lemon juice and water and swish to relieve a sore throat or canker sores. Add salt and gargle for tonsillitis.
- Add lemon juice and raw honey to hot tea (after it has cooled down a bit) to reduce a fever, fight the flu, relieve nausea, and lessen chills.
- Warm lemon water relieves chest congestion and coughing, reduce allergies, clear the palate and freshen breath.
Alkalinize, Boost Brain Power, Combat Fatigue, Depression, Stress & Stay Hydrated
Although lemons have a acidic taste, they are one of the most alkalizing food sources on Earth due to their rich mineral content which helps buffer the effects of acids. Too much acidity can cause inflammation, obesity, and major diseases like cancer, diabetes Alzheimer’s, arthritis, fibromyalgia and rheumatism. The high levels of potassium and magnesium have beneficial effects on our brain and nerve health. The alkalinizing lemon water helps fight fatigue, depression and stress and create mental clarity and focus, making it a great drink for students or people with busy and stressful jobs. It also encourages people to drink more water throughout the day to keep hydrated since it adds a nice, refreshing flavor to plain water. The hydration together with the higher potassium levels help control high blood pressure. Lemon oil will also help relieve fatigue, increase alertness and cognitive function.
Much Better Than Pedialyte Electrolyte Drink or Gatorade Sports Drink
Instead of paying more than $5 for a quart of Pedialyte, make a much healthier version at home for just pennies. Pedialyte claims to replace lost electrolytes and trace minerals that are lost due to dehydration (e.g., from diarrhea or stomach flu vomiting). However, the minerals in Pedialyte are synthetic (not organically bound) and therefore just passes through your system through urine. In addition, Pedialyte has toxic artificial coloring and flavoring known to cause hyperactivity in children and cancer. The same can be said of the Gatorade sports drink and similar brands. The following recipe is only second to fresh coconut water for electrolyte replacement. Mix together:
- Juice squeezed from 2-3 lemons
- 1/3 cup raw honey (for babies under one year of age substitute evaporated cane juice, called tapa de dulce in Costa Rica, or fresh cane juice if possible)
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 quart warmed (not hot) water to dissolve honey and salt
You can also just drink lemon juice mixed with some water to fight fatigue and replace electrolytes after vigorous exercise or overheating.
Other Homemade Remedies
The following are just some more examples of numerous homemade remedies you can make with lemons:
- To reduce asthma attacks or severity of symptoms, drink 2 tablespoons of lemon juice before each meal, and before going to sleep
- To relieve or eliminate pain from gout, rheumatoid arthritis, or fibromyalgia, mix together the juice from one lemon (about 2 oz.) with 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda and let it fizzle until it is flat. Then mix in 8 oz. of water and drink immediately.
- Stop a nose bleed with lemon juice applied to cotton and placed in the nostril
- Eliminate gall stones with lemon juice and olive oil
- Mix lemon oil and honey and apply to soothe a bug bite
- Combine lemon oil and water to make natural insect repellant
- Eliminate varicose veins with applications of lemon oil mixed with almond, avocado or jojoba oil
For hangover headaches or any other headache, drink lemon juice with a few teaspoons of hot tea added.
To treat diphtheria, skip the toxic vaccine and drink 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of lemon juice every hour or two. This cuts loose the false membrane in the throat and permits it to come out.
- To make a safe and effective drug and chemical-free vaginal douche, use diluted lemon juice. Also effective for vaginal thrush.
- Stop bleeding and disinfect cuts and scrapes by putting a few drops of lemon juice directly on the cut. You can also apply the juice with a cotton ball and hold firmly in place for one minute.
- To soothe poison ivy rash, apply lemon juice directly to the affected area.
In Costa Rica, limón mandarinas are commonly made into lemonade, squeezed over salads as a simple dressing with salt, and squeezed over fried fish. Chefs and cooks all over the globe squeeze lemon juice over fresh fruits (e.g., sliced apples, bananas, pears or avocados) or cauliflower (prior to cooking) to prevent browning or oxidation. I like to add them to our daily green (100% vegetable) smoothies to prevent oxidation during the blending process and to help the bitters go down easier. Make soggy lettuce crisp again by mixing juice of a half of lemon into a bowl of cold water and soak the soggy lettuce leaves in it for an hour in the refrigerator. Then dry the lettuce and add it to your salad.
Mix a tablespoon of lemon juice into a spray bottle of water to use as a fruit and vegetable wash if you are concerned with agrichemicals and the dangerous microbes conventional agriculture tends to breed. Lemon wedges are also commonly added to hot or cold tea for an extra vitamin C boost and flavor kick. The zest (the colored outer part of the rind excluding the more bitter white inner part) is used in many salty and sweet dishes to give it a nice citrus flavor without the sourness. Put a whole lemon in the freezer and then take it out when it is frozen solid and grate/shred bits of it over salad, ice cream, soup, cereals, noodles, spaghetti sauce, or whatever else you can think of to give it a delicious and very healthy twist. In India and Sicily, lemon peel is pickled in a salt and water brine for three months to a year and used as a delicious and probiotic-rich condiment (called chutney in India), relish, garnish, or salsa. If you pickle moldy lemon skin, the fermentation can be done in just a few weeks. The blue-green penicillium mold on citrus skin is harmless as it is the same mold eaten in blue cheese, but it will be killed by the salt and the pickling process, anyway. Do a keyword search for “lemon recipes” more culinary ideas.
Lemon also has household cleaning and personal care uses such as the following (note that limón mandarina because of their orange-colored juice can stain and since it is half orange, its juice will not work as well for stain removing and cleaning):
- Ferment lemon and orange peels with brown sugar to make a potent multipurpose enzyme cleaner, tough stain and odor remover for laundry, carpet, and upholstery
- As an effective bleach alternative that is color-friendly, add one cup of lemon juice to a load of laundry along with your usual detergent. For delicates, soak in a mixture of baking soda and lemon juice at least a half an hour before washing. Bleach cannot remove rust, but lemon juice can as well as the usual chocolate, ketchup, juice, tea and coffee stains. For tough rust stains, wet the stain with lemon juice and then hold over the steam of boiling water for a few minutes and then wash as usual. For juice stains, soak the stain in a solution of 1/3 cup lemon juice with 2/3 cup water before washing. For mold and mildew stains, apply a paste made with lemon juice and salt to the stain, dry the stain in the sun, and then wash preferably in hot water.
- Keep ants, roaches, fleas and other unwanted insects out of the kitchen — (1) squirt lemon juice on all surfaces you do not want them on; (2) mix the juice of four lemons (including the juice from the rinds and seeds) with 1/2 gallon or 2 liters of water and wash the floors with it
A French custom to keep closets free from moths is to take ripe lemons and stick them with cloves all over the skin. The heavily studded lemons slowly dry with their cloves, leaving a marvelous fragrance throughout the closets and rooms.
- To get rid of tough stains on marble (only do this as a last resort as the acids in lemons can damage marble),
Cut a lemon in half, dip the exposed flesh into some table salt, and rub it vigorously on the stain.
Remove stains from coffee and tea cups
- Remove berry stains from your hands with undiluted lemon juice
- Deodorize the garbage disposal by simply adding lemon juice and lemon rind to it
- Deodorize a humidifier by adding 3 or 4 teaspoons of lemon juice to the water to remove and replace the odor with a refreshing lemon scent. Repeat every couple of weeks to keep the odor from returning.
- Freshen the refrigerator by cleaning the inside of the fridge with lemon juice
- Polish mirrors, chrome, brass, copper, or stainless steel with a paste of lemon juice and salt (or substitute baking soda or cream of tartar). Coat the affected area and let stay for 5 minutes. Then wash in warm water, rinse and polish dry. For chrome, simply rub lemon rind over it and watch it shine! Rinse well and dry with a soft cloth.
- Shine and polish leather shoes with a soft cloth dampened with lemon juice
- Multi-purpose disinfectant (e.g., sanitize and deodorize cutting boards)
- As bath oil and in potpouri
- For salon-style highlights or to increase shine, add 1/4 cup lemon juice to 3/4 cup water and rinse your hair with the mixture. Then, sit in the sun until your hair dries. To maximize the effect, repeat once daily for up to a week.
Clean and whiten your nails by adding the juice of 1/2 a lemon to 1 cup warm water and soak your fingertips in the mixture for 5 minutes. After pushing back the cuticles, rub some lemon peel back and forth against the nail.
- Eliminate fireplace odor by throwing in a few lemon peels into the flames
- Remove odor from a small room by cutting a couple lemons in half and placing them around the room
Limón mandarina (as well as regular lemons and limes) thrive in moderately warm to tropical climates and almost need a constant supply of sunlight. Lemons are the most sensitive to cold out of all the citrus trees so be sure to plant it in a sunny spot sheltered from wind (e.g., plant near the house or in a valley). The tree will suffer in below frost conditions. It takes 3-6 years for a tree to begin producing fruit from cutting (faster method) or seed (slower method). If growing from a cutting, cut at an angle and about 6 inches of a stem or branch to increase the surface area for roots and remove all the leaves except for the top two leaves and allow it to root first in water and in a sunny spot before planting in soil. Just remember to change the water every 2-3 days to prevent root rot.
Though lemon trees can even tolerate poor soils, it prefers well-drained, slightly acidic soil, and kept constantly damp. To prevent it from sitting in stagnant water, have the tree sit slightly above ground so excess water can drain off more easily. You can do this by digging a hole somewhat shallower than the length of the root ball, placing the tree in the hole, replacing the soil, and tamping down firmly around it. When young, feed the sprout organic fertilizer. Put mulch around the tree to keep it moist and water deeply once a week. If needed, prune the trees to maintain their shape and keep the height low and convenient for harvesting. Many natural, wild, or planted from seed varieties of lemons have thorns on their branches so be careful when harvesting them.
Choose raw lemons over bottled lemon juice as much as you can to maximize the nutrients available to you. For example, vitamin C in raw lemons compared to bottled lemon juice drops from 187% to 100% of the daily value per serving, with calcium from 7% to 3%. Bottled lemon juice and other processed lemon fruit beverages also usually have other harmful additives such as isolated or processed sugars, artificial preservatives and coloring. Avoid conventionally grown and choose organic because conventionally grown ones are treated with chemical fungicides and pesticides that cause cancer and thyroid problems. These chemicals are sprayed on them so that they will not rot during long shipments. They also grow them in monocrops which makes them susceptible to pests, have significantly less nutrients, and the toxic petroleom-based fertilizer used makes its way into the fruit.