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Investigating lemons:
debunking the "45 amazing ways to use lemons"

a clever report by the Phantom


I received an anonymous email the other day touting 45 amazing ways to use lemons. Everybody loves lemons. I live in California where they are plentiful. Nearly everybody owns or knows somebody who owns a lemon tree. Folks are begging me to take their lemons, free! Some of my favorite food includes lemons: lemon pie, lemon bread, lemon cake, lemonade, lemon pudding and bars, lemon slices in my iced tea or water. I could go on. Many of these delicious lemon concoctions contain lemon AND sugar to make the tart lemons taste palatable. Occasionally, we use lemons without sugar in such things as marinade, squeezed over fish or as a salad dressing. However, this 45 amazing ways" list suggests many medicinal ways to use lemons. Sounds like the perfect sugject for a Clever Investigation.

Lemons are expensive in many parts of the country. If you need a cup of lemon juice, that's a lot of lemons. One of the reasons some folks suggest using lemons instead of manufactured products is because they are more earth friendly. But there are many earth friendly products on the market that will do the job quicker, better, and more cheaply than buying tons of lemons, squeezing them, storing them, and tossing them when they go bad. Probably at one point in the history of lemons, they were the go-to medicine of choice, that would be the era when modern medicine had not yet been invented.

So I did some Google research on this "amazing" list. What I came up with is thought-provoking. There are maybe thousands of home remedies and wives' tales about the miracles that happen when you use lemons, most likely harking back to the day when there wasn't any other choice. Interesting enough, there was very little scientific verification of the "amazing" properties of lemons. That made me very suspicious, especially when it comes to using lemons to cure chronic maladies. And one of the biggest problems with this list is the vagueness of it all. The suggestions rarely say how much lemon juice is needed, whether to use it full strength or diluted and if diluted, how much lemon juice to water. I'm having a hard time figuring out why this list was constructed, because many of the suggestions are simply bogus. Lemon are easy to come by, but to glorify them for suspicious reasons makes no sense to me.

Below I have analyzed the "45 amazing ways to use lemons", with my comments in italics. For each entry that I investigated, I came up with a shorthand "warning", as well. My warnings are as follows:

Good idea
Harmless
Suspicious
Beware
Downright stupid

Here are the results of my investigation:

1. Freshen the Fridge - Remove refrigerator odors with ease. Dab lemon juice on a cotton ball or sponge and leave it in the fridge for several hours. Editor's note: Harmless. Make sure to toss out whatever it is that caused that bad order to begin with. An opened box of baking soda or some unused coffee grounds work just as well. Cleaning the fridge once in a while also helps.

2. High Blood Pressure - Lemon contains potassium which controls high blood pressure and reduces the effect of nausea and dizziness. Editor's note: Suspicious,  the Journal of Experimental Medicine did a study and found that lemons have no effect on BP rates.

3. Prevent Cauliflower From Turning Brown - Cauliflower tends to turn brown with even the slightest cooking. You can make sure the white vegetables stay white by squeezing a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice on them before heating. Editor's note: Harmless, lots of cauliflower recipes use lemons, does it matter if the cauliflower turns brown?

4. Mental Health - Lemon water can also pep up your mood and relieve you from depression and stress. Editor's note: Harmless, it's an old wives' tale. Lemons may have many health benefits, so why not add mental health to the mix. However, if you suffer from severe chronic depression, no amount of lemon water is going to help you. Maybe this is where that old adage "when life hands you lemons, make lemonade" came from.

5. Refresh Cutting Boards - No wonder your kitchen cutting board smells! After all, you use it to chop onions, crush garlic, and prepare fish. To get rid of the smell and help sanitize the cutting board, rub it all over with the cut side of half a lemon or wash it in undiluted juice straight from the bottle. Editor's note: Harmless, according to Consumer Reports, lemon juice is only one step in the process of cleaning up your cutting board. You also need soap and water. If it's really dirty, you also need to bleach it. There are lots of other ways to clean cutting boards, but if you wash them carefully after cutting up potentially bacteria-ridden items like fish or chicken, they are probably safe.

6. Respiratory Problems - Lemon water can reduce phlegm; and can also help you breathe properly and aids a person suffering with asthma. Editor's note: Suspicious, it probably won't hurt you. If the person is suffering an asthma attack, it is wiser to use an inhaler (modern science to the rescue) , or head to the ER if it is serious.

7. Treating Arthritis and Rheumatism - Lemon is a diuretic - assists in the production of urine which helps you to reduce inflammation by flushing out toxins and bacteria while also giving you relief from arthritis and rheumatism. Editor's note: Definitely Suspicious, I couldn't find any medical articles on the benefit of using lemons for arthritis. If peeing was the answer to treating arthritis, it wouldn't be such a painful chronic condition.

8. Prevents Kidney Stones - Regular consumption of the refreshing drink -- or even lemon juice mixed with water -- may increase the production of urinary citrate, a chemical in the urine that prevents the formation of crystals that may build up into kidney stones. Editor's note: Beware, drinking plenty of water is the best remedy for kidney stones. Apparently you would have to drink 1/2 cup of pure lemon juice for it to have any effect. That's a lot of lemon juice.

9. Keep Insects Out of the Kitchen - You don’t need insecticides or ant traps to ant-proof your kitchen. Just give it the lemon treatment. First squirt some lemon juice on door thresholds and windowsills. Then squeeze lemon juice into any holes or cracks where the ants are getting in. Finally, scatter small slices of lemon peel around the outdoor entrance. The ants will get the message that they aren’t welcome. Lemons are also effective against roaches and fleas: Simply mix the juice of 4 lemons (along with the rinds) with 1/2 gallon (2 liters) water and wash your floors with it; then watch the fleas and roaches flee. Editor's note: Harmless, apparently true, lots of anecdotal evidence on the web. I think it might depend on the amount of infestation. Talk to contractors about treating carpenter ants that are infesting the structural beams supporting a house. They would prefer chemicals to lemons every time.

10. Anti-Aging - Lemon water reduces the production of free radicals which are responsible for aging skin and skin damage. Lemon water is calorie free and an antioxidant. Editor's note: Harmless, more wives' tales, lemon water is harmless to most people. There are so many anti-aging schemes and scams "out there". At least this one is cheap.

11. Fruit and Vegetable Wash - You never know what kind of pesticides or dirt may be lurking on the skin of your favorite fruits and vegetables. Slice your lemon and squeeze out one tablespoon of lemon juice into your spray bottle. The lemon juice is a natural disinfectant and will leave your fruits and vegetables smelling nice too. Editor's note: probably harmless in most cases. Do you want all of your veggies to taste like lemons?

12. Treat Infections - Lemon water can fight throat infections thanks to its antibacterial property. Editor's note: Beware, acidy lemon juice on swollen throat membranes could be painful and cause more swelling. This is another suspicious home remedy.

13. Deodorize Your Garbage - If your garbage is beginning to smell yucky, here’s an easy way to deodorize it: Save leftover lemon and orange peels and toss them at the base under the bag. To keep it smelling fresh, repeat once every couple of weeks. Editor's note: Just plain stupid, come on, folks. When the garbage stinks, take out the garbage! And if your outside garbage can stinks, clean it with soap and water.

14. Keep Guacamole Green - You’ve been making guacamole all day long for the big party (that must be some big party!), and you don’t want it to turn brown on top before the guests arrive. The solution: Sprinkle a liberal amount of fresh lemon juice over it and it will stay fresh and green. The flavor of the lemon juice is a natural complement to the avocados in the guacamole. Make the fruit salad hours in advance too. Just squeeze some lemon juice onto the apple slices, and they’ll stay snowy white. Editor's note: Harmless, a little lemon juice on the guacamole is okay, but a lot is too much. The lemon juice can mask or even eliminate that delicate avocado flavor.

15. Purges The Blood - We consume a lot of junk food or food with a lot of preservatives and artificial flavors. This builds up a lot of toxins in the blood and body but daily consumption of lemon water helps to purify the blood. Editor's note: I'm very suspicious of blood "purges" on principle because there are so many detox scams going around. We eat lots of food every day, food is fuel. Unless you get food poisoning, food is just food.

16. Make Soggy Lettuce Crisp - Don’t toss that soggy lettuce into the garbage. With the help of a little lemon juice you can toss it in a salad instead. Add the juice of half a lemon to a bowl of cold water. Then put the soggy lettuce in it and refrigerate for 1 hour. Make sure to dry the leaves completely before putting them into salads or sandwiches. Editor's note: I'm suspicious. If your lettuce is old and limp, maybe you just buy some new lettuce.

17. Oral Health - Lemon juice also stops bleeding gums and reduces toothaches. Editor's note: I'm suspicious of this home remedy. No instructions on whether to use the lemon juice "straight" or diluted. Pure lemon juice on bleeding gums would be very painful.

18. Lighten Age Spots - Why buy expensive creams when you’ve got lemon juice? To lighten liver spots or freckles, try applying lemon juice directly to the area. Let it sit for 15 minutes and then rinse your skin clean. It’s a safe and effective skin-lightening agent. Editor's note: I'm suspicious. If this remedy worked, then why are there so many other skin lightening potions for sale?  I'm thinking that none of them really work.

19. Create Blonde Highlights - For salon-worthy highlights, 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. Editor's note: Just plain stupid. One site says you need to sit outside in the direct sunlight for 90 minutes for it to work, and then apply the lemon again and sit for another 30 minutes. They don't say anything about the skin damage from all that direct sunlight. It is possible to get sunburn on your scalp. Go to the salon or buy a diy hair lightening product at the drugstore.

20. Make a Room Scent/Humidifier - Freshen and moisturize the air in your home on dry winter days. Make your own room scent that also doubles as a humidifier. If you have a wood-burning stove, place an enameled cast-iron pot or bowl on top, fill with water, and add lemon (and/or orange) peels, cinnamon sticks, cloves, and apple skins. No wood-burning stove? Use your stovetop instead and just simmer the water periodically. Editor's note: good idea and probably harmless.

21. Clean and Whiten Nails - Pamper your hands without a manicurist. Add the juice of 1/2 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. Editor's note: Sort of stupid, this is not really a manicure. Lemons can dry your skin as you will soon find out. Lemon juice on hang nails will sting, and your hands will become very sore, dry and sometimes even angry looking.

22. Cleanse Your Face - Zap zits naturally by dabbing lemon juice on blackheads to draw them out during the day. You can also wash your face with lemon juice for a natural cleanse and exfoliation. Your skin should improve after several days of treatment. Lemon water is also a cooling agent, best way to beat the heat. Editor's note: Beware!, lemon juice on any open wound will be painful. One site says lemon juice will clear up blackheads in about 2 weeks. And they might just go away by themselves in a week. If you have a serious acne problem, go to a dermatologist.

23. Freshen Your Breath - Make an impromptu mouthwash by rinsing with lemon juice straight from the bottle. Swallow for longer-lasting fresh breath. The citric acid in the juice alters the pH level in your mouth, killing bacteria that causes bad breath. Rinse after a few minutes because long-term exposure to the acid in lemons can harm tooth enamel. Editor's note: Beware, not recommended! Straight lemon juice! Come on. So bad for so many reasons.

24. Treat Flaky Dandruff - If itchy, scaly dandruff has you scratching your head, relief may be no farther away than your refrigerator. Just 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. Editor's note: Sounds sort of stupid. Do they mean that you should shampoo your hair with lemon juice instead of regular shampoo? Washing your hair every day with shampoo will also keep dandruff at bay. This is another sort of foolish idea.

25. Get Rid of Tough Stains on Marble - You probably think of marble as stone, but it is really petrified calcium (also known as old seashells). That explains why it is so porous and easily stained and damaged. Those stains can be hard to remove. If washing won’t remove a stubborn stain, try this: Cut a lemon in half, dip the exposed flesh into some table salt, and rub it vigorously on the stain. But do this only as a last resort; acid can damage marble. Rinse well. Editor's note: Beware, do not do this. Lemons can stain marble. Use a good marble cleaning product.

26. Remove Berry Stains - Try washing your hands with undiluted lemon juice, then wait a few minutes and wash with warm, soapy water. Repeat until your hands are stain-free. Editor's note: suspicious. After using soap and water and lemon juice one time, the stains will be faint. They will wear off soon. Don't hurt your skin with too much rubbing!

27. Soften Dry, Scaly Elbows - Itchy elbows are bad enough, but they look terrible too. For better looking (and feeling) elbows, mix baking soda and lemon juice to make an abrasive 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. Editor's note: honestly, stupid! Just try some lotion on those elbows, apply regularly.

28. Hangover headaches -  Lemon juice with a few teaspoons of hot tea added is the treatment of a sophisticated New York bartender, for those who suffer with hangover headaches--and from headaches due to many other causes. He converts his customers to this regime, and weans them away from drug remedies completely. Editor's note: can't hurt, but it will taste awful, probably harmless. Those brain cells you killed off during that drinking binge won't come back with lemon juice and tea. You will begin to feel better over time whether you drink lemon tea or not.

29. Chills and Fevers - Chills and fevers may be due to a variety of causes; nevertheless, the lemon is always a helpful remedy. Spanish physicians regard it as an infallible friend. Editor's note: Dangerous, the advice is vague, no site suggests what concentration of lemon juice to use. Fevers accompany many illnesses, so be careful. Check with your doctor for high or prolonged fevers.

30. Diphtheria - Skip the vaccine for this disease. Lemon Juice treatment still proves as one of the most powerful antiseptics and the strong digestive qualities of the fruit are admired around the world. With the juice every hour or two, and at the same time, 1/2 to 1 tsp. should be swallowed. This cuts loose the false membrane in the throat and permits it to come out. Editor's note: Dangerous, absolutely ignore this advice. Diphtheria has nearly disappeared in the US thanks to childhood vaccinations. This is a serious illness that spreads easily. It would be impossible to feed a child straight lemon juice. Be sensible. Ignore this nonsense.

31. Vaginal Hygiene - Diluted lemon juice makes a safe and sane method of vaginal hygiene. Though it is a powerful antiseptic it is nevertheless free from irritating drugs in douches and suppositories. Editor's note: Very dangerous, ignore this utter nonsense. This advice could harm you.

32. Forget The Moth Balls - A charming 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 odor throughout the closets and rooms. Editor's note: harmless.

33. Stomach Health - Digestive problems are the most common ailments but warm water and lime juice is the solution to most digestive problems. Lemon juice helps to purify the blood, reduces your chances of indigestion, constipation, eliminates toxins from the body, adds digestion and reduces phlegm. Editor's note: stupid and dangerous. This is not the solution to most digestive problems. You could cause great harm to yourself by drinking straight lemon juice if you have undiagnosed ulcers, for example.

34. Disinfect Cuts and Scrapes - Stop bleeding and disinfect minor cuts and scraps by pouring 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. Editor's note: Dangerous. This will hurt a child because it will burn and sting. Plain warm water will also do the job.

35. Soothe Poison Ivy Rash - You won’t need an ocean of calamine lotion the next time poison ivy comes a-creeping. Just apply lemon juice directly to the affected area to soothe itching and alleviate the rash. Editor's note: more utter nonsense, but probably harmless. You don't need oceans of Calamine lotion. A light coating of Calamine lotion works very well on most people. Baking soda and vinegar also works. If itching persists, see a dermatologist, but for heaven's sake ignore lemons.

36. Remove Warts - You’ve tried countless remedies to banish warts and nothing seems to work. Next time, 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. Editor's note: more utter nonsense. Warts are not easy to remove. Harmless stupidity.

37. Bleach Delicate Fabrics - Avoid additional bleach stains by swapping ordinary household chlorine bleach with lemon juice, which is milder but no less effective. Soak your delicates in a mixture of lemon juice and baking soda for at least half an hour before washing. Editor's note: first off, you shouldn't use bleach on delicate fabrics. Lemon juice might not hurt them but I doubt that it will remove stains. Probably ineffective but harmless.

38. Clean Tarnished Brass and Polish Chrome - Say good-bye to tarnish on brass, copper, or stainless steel. Make a paste of lemon juice and salt (or substitute baking soda or cream of tartar for the salt) and coat the affected area. Let it stay on for 5 minutes. Then wash in warm water, rinse, and polish dry. Use the same mixture to clean metal kitchen sinks too. Apply the paste, scrub gently, and rinse. Get rid of mineral deposits and polish chrome faucets and other tarnished chrome. Simply rub lemon rind over the chrome and watch it shine! Rinse well and dry with a soft cloth. Editor's note: Beware, first off, know exactly what kind of metal you are working with. Lemon juice will ruin brass plating. Metal polishes work very well, are easy to use and get the job done quickly.

39. Replace Your Dry Cleaner - Ditch the expensive dry-cleaning bills (and harsh chemicals) with this homegrown trick. Simply scrub the stained area on shirts and blouses with equal parts lemon juice and water. Editor's note: Harmless, but sort of stupid, don't we take clothes to the cleaner because they are dirty? Stains are exceptions, small areas that, if removed, will disappear, right? I have not found any stain remover that completely disappears. The best ones are those stain removing pencils that we use for emergencies. Stain removers will not clean dirty clothes.

40. Boost Laundry Detergent - For more powerful cleaning action, pour 1 cup lemon juice into the washer during the wash cycle. The natural bleaching action of the juice will zap stains and remove rust and mineral discolorations from cotton T-shirts and briefs and will leave your clothes smelling fresh. Your clothes will turn out brighter and also come out smelling lemon-fresh. Editor's note: do you know how many lemons it takes to make a cup of lemon juice. Maybe 6 or 8. That's a lot of work for one load of wash. And I'm not sure I'd like to walk around smelling like lemons. Otherwise, this advice is relatively harmless.

41. Rid Clothes of Mildew - Have you ever unpacked clothes you stored all winter and discovered some are stained with mildew? To get rid of it, make a paste of lemon juice and salt and rub it on the affected area, then dry the clothes in sunlight. Repeat the process until the stain is gone. Editor's note: Stupid, mildew is not a stain. The mildew permeates the entire piece of clothing. That unpacked box of clothing needs to go into the washer or off to the dry cleaners. Better advice would be to store clothing in a place where there is no mildew. If you have mildew in your attic, storage closet or basement, you have a big problem that needs to be addressed. Lemons will not solve that problem.

42. Eliminate Fireplace Odor - There’s nothing cozier on a cold winter night than a warm fire burning in the fireplace €” unless the fire happens to smell horrible. Next time you have a fire that sends a stench into the room, try throwing a few lemon peels into the flames. Or simply burn some lemon peels along with your firewood as a preventive measure. Editor's note: Beware, be more careful of what you burn! For example, if firewood is permeated with cat pee, you will have a huge problem removing that smell. I doubt that a few lemons will easily eliminate that odor.

43. Neutralize Cat-Box Odor - You don’t have to use an aerosol spray to neutralize foul-smelling cat-box odors or freshen the air in your bathroom. Just cut a couple of lemons in half. Then place them, cut side up, in a dish in the room, and the air will soon smell lemon-fresh. Editor's note: more nonsense, completely stupid. If the litter box smells bad, it's time to clean it. Fresh air is free, open the window or the door and freshen the space that way, after cleaning the litter box. Cats do not like the lemon scent.

44. Deodorize a Humidifier - When your humidifier starts to smell funky, deodorize it with ease: Just pour 3 or 4 teaspoons lemon juice into the water. It will not only remove the off odor but will replace it with a lemon-fresh fragrance. Repeat every couple of weeks to keep the odor from returning. Editor's note: Beware, honestly, humidifiers need frequent and regular cleaning with soap and water. If the humidifier smells funky, you are spreading that funk around whenever you turn it on. You might temporarily mask the odor with lemons but unless you do a proper job of cleaning your humidifier, you are spreading nastiness throughout the house, masked by lemons.

45. Reduce Asthma Symptoms - In addition to a general detoxifying diet, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice before each meal, and before retiring can reduce asthma symptoms. Editor's note: Beware, this is a repeat of #7. Red flags should go up whenever advice givers start talking about detoxifying diets of any kind.

Last word from the editor: Many of these home remedies are either stupid or dangerous. Use your head. If the claims made in this list were true, we would all know about them. Lemons and limes are wonderful for so many things, but let's not inflate their usefulness so much that we put ourselves in danger.


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