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Lemon (Citrus limon) is a common citrus fruit, alongside grapefruits, limes, and oranges (1).

While the pulp and juice are used the most, the peel tends to be discarded.

However, studies have determined that lemon peel is full of bioactive compounds that may provide numerous health benefits.

Here are 9 potential benefits and uses of lemon peel.

1. High nutritional value

Despite being eaten in small amounts, lemon peels are very nutritious. One tablespoon (6 grams) provides (2):

  • Calories:
    3
  • Carbs: 1 gram
  • Fiber: 1 gram
  • Protein: 0 grams
  • Fat: 0 grams
  • Vitamin C: 9% of the Daily Value (DV)

Lemon peel packs a high amount of fiber and vitamin C, providing 9% of the DV in only 1 tablespoon (6 grams) (3).

Additionally, it boasts small amounts of calcium, potassium, and magnesium.

D-limonene, a compound that gives lemon its characteristic aroma, is also found in the peel and may be responsible for many of this fruit’s health benefits.

Summary Lemon peel is very
low in calories while high in fiber, vitamin C, and D-limonene. It also
contains several minerals.

2. May support oral health

Dental cavities and gum infections are widespread oral diseases caused by bacteria like Streptococcus mutans (4).

Lemon peel contains antibacterial substances that may inhibit microorganism growth.

In one study, researchers identified four compounds in lemon peel that have powerful antibacterial properties and effectively fight common oral-disease-causing bacteria (5).

What’s more, a test-tube study found that lemon peel extract combats Streptococcus mutans activity, with higher doses being more effective (6).

Summary Lemon peel has
antibacterial properties that may block the growth of microorganisms
responsible for oral diseases.

3. High in antioxidants

Antioxidants are plant compounds that prevent cellular damage by fighting free radicals in your body (7).

Lemon peel is high in antioxidants, including D-limonene and vitamin C (7, 8, 9, 10).

Intake of flavonoid antioxidants like D-limonene is linked to a reduced risk of certain conditions, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes (11, 12).

One test-tube study determined that lemon peel had stronger antioxidant activity than grapefruit or tangerine peels (13).

Animal studies also show that D-limonene increases the activity of an enzyme that helps reduce oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is associated with tissue damage and accelerated aging (14, 15, 16).

Additionally, the vitamin C in lemon peel acts as a powerful antioxidant and likewise promotes immune health (17).

Summary Lemon peel offers
several antioxidants, including D-limonene and vitamin C, that protect your
immune system and reduce your risk of disease.

4. May have antimicrobial and antifungal properties

Lemon peel may have several antimicrobial and antifungal properties (18, 19).

Notably, in a test-tube study, this peel significantly harmed and reduced the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria (20).

Another test-tube study showed that lemon peel extract fought a drug-resistant fungus that causes skin infections (21).

Despite these promising findings, human studies are needed.

Summary Lemon peel may
offer antimicrobial and antifungal effects — even against antibiotic-resistant
strains. However, more research is needed.

5. May boost your immune system

Lemon peel extract may bolster your immune system due to its flavonoid and vitamin C content (13, 22).

A 15-day study that gave fish dehydrated lemon peel showed improved immune responses (23).

What’s more, a review of 82 studies found that 1–2 grams of vitamin C per day reduces the severity and duration of the common cold by 8% in adults and 14% in children (24).

Vitamin C also accumulates in phagocytes, a type of cell that ingests harmful compounds (25).

Summary Lemon peel contains
flavonoids and vitamin C, which may stimulate your body’s immune system to
protect your health.

6. May promote heart health

High blood pressure, high cholesterol, and obesity are all risk factors for heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States (26).

Research suggests that compounds such as flavonoids, vitamin C, and pectin — the main fiber in lemon peel — may reduce your risk.

A review of 14 studies in 344,488 people found that an average increase of 10 mg of flavonoids per day reduced heart disease risk by 5% (27).

Additionally, in a study in mice with obesity, D-limonene lowered blood sugar, triglyceride, and LDL (bad) cholesterol levels, while increasing HDL (good) cholesterol (28).

A 4-week study in 60 children with excess weight noted that supplementing with lemon powder (containing peel) led to reductions in blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol (29).

The pectin in lemon peels may also reduce cholesterol levels by increasing the excretion of bile acids, which are produced by your liver and bind to cholesterol (30, 31).

Summary Flavonoids, vitamin
C, and pectin in lemon peel may promote heart health by
lowering blood cholesterol levels and other risk factors for heart disease.

7. May have anticancer properties

Lemon peel may have several cancer-fighting properties.

For example, flavonoid intake is associated with a reduced risk of several types of cancer, and vitamin C may bolster the growth of white blood cells, which help eliminate mutated cancer cells (29, 32, 33).

D-limonene may also have anticancer properties, specifically against stomach cancer (34).

One test-tube study found that this compound helped kill stomach cancer cells. Similarly, a 52-week study in rats noted that different concentrations of D-limonene inhibited stomach cancer by increasing the death rate of the mutated cells (35, 36).

Nevertheless, lemon peel should not be considered a treatment or cure for cancer. Human research is needed.

Summary Some compounds in lemon peel may have anticancer
potential. However, human studies are necessary to confirm these findings.

8. May treat gallstones

Some studies suggest that D-limonene may help treat gallstones — hard deposits that can develop in your gallbladder (37).

In a study in 200 people with gallstones, 48% of those injected with a D-limonene solvent experienced complete gallstone disappearance, suggesting that this treatment could be an effective alternative to surgery (38, 39).

All the same, follow-up research is necessary.

Summary Although more
studies are needed, the D-limonene in lemon peel may dissolve gallstones.

9. Other uses

Lemon peel likewise has many applications as a cosmetic or household item. Some of its most popular uses include:

  • All-purpose
    cleaner.
    Fill a lidded jar with lemon peels and white vinegar and let it sit for several
    weeks. Remove the peels and mix the remaining solution with equal parts of
    water.
  • Fridge
    and trash-can deodorizer.
    Place
    a few lemon peels inside your fridge or at the bottom of your trash can to
    absorb odors.
  • Stainless-steel
    cleaner.
    Spread some salt on the item you want to
    clean and scrub any stains using lemon peels. Remember to rinse afterward.
  • Kettle
    cleaner.
    Fill your kettle with water and lemon peel
    and bring it to a boil to remove any mineral deposits. Let the water sit
    for an hour before rinsing.
  • Body
    scrub.
    Mix sugar, olive oil, and finely chopped lemon peel,
    then massage onto wet skin. Make sure to rinse well once you’re done.
  • Face mask. Mix rice flour, lemon peel
    powder, and cold milk for an exfoliating and skin-cleansing mask.

Summary Lemon peel has
various applications as a household cleaner or beauty product.

Does lemon peel have side effects?

There are no reported side effects of lemon peel. It’s recognized as safe by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Although animal studies link high doses of D-limonene to carcinogenic effects, this finding is irrelevant because humans lack the protein responsible for this association (37, 40).

All the same, lemon peel may contain pesticide residue. Be sure to thoroughly scrub the fruit or wash it with a baking soda solution to remove any residues ( target=”_blank”41).

Summary Lemon peel has no
reported side effects and is recognized by the FDA as safe for human
consumption.

How to add it to your diet

You can boost your lemon peel intake in a variety of ways, such as:

  • adding
    lemon zest to baked goods, salads, or yogurt
  • grating
    the peel of frozen lemons and sprinkling it on soups, drinks, dressings, and marinades
  • dehydrating
    the peels by cutting them into strips and baking at 200°F (93°C), then adding them to
    tea
  • chopping dehydrated peels and mixing them with
    salt and pepper for a homemade seasoning
  • adding fresh peel to hot tea or your favorite cocktail

You can also buy this peel in powdered or candied form.

If you don’t want to grate the fruit on your own, you can buy lemon peel products online.

Summary Lemon peel can be
eaten fresh, dehydrated, frozen, powdered, or coated with sugar, which makes it
very easy to add to a variety of dishes.

The bottom line

Although lemon peel normally gets thrown away, research shows that it possesses numerous health benefits.

Its fiber, vitamin, and antioxidant contents may support oral, immune, and heart health. It may even have several anticancer properties.

The next time your recipe calls for this ubiquitous citrus fruit, hold onto the peel and put it to use.