Sometimes the simplest of ingredients—lemons and water—can have important positive effects on your health and well-being. It might seem silly, but drinking lemon water in the morning is an Ayurvedic technique that has become increasingly more popular among health-conscious individuals. But why?
We all know staying hydrated is important to our health, so what about drinking lemon water in the morning makes it unique? Should you consider it for your diet? Here’s what you need to know about the benefits of lemon water.
Lemons: A Closer Look
History of Lemons
Science suggests that lemons originated in northwestern India, where they have been cultivated for more than 2,500 years. The lemon was later introduced into Spain and North Africa between around 1000 and 1200 CE. It was further distributed around Europe by the Crusaders, and eventually, in 1493, Christopher Columbus brought lemon seeds to the Americas.
At first, lemons were not widely cultivated as food, but were rather an ornamental plant. Eventually, lemons were harvested not only for culinary purposes but for other—including medicinal—uses. According to author Vijaya Kumor in the book The Secret Benefits of Lemon and Honey:
- Ancient Egyptians used lemons for their healing properties—there was a common belief that eating lemons and drinking lemon juice was an effective protection against many poisons. Lemons were also used in embalming.
- Ancient Greeks used lemons to preserve food, sanitize, cleanse water, and treat illnesses.
- The Romans used lemons to protect clothes against moths, and later in cooking and drinks.
In 1747, famous Scottish physician James Lind conducted experiments on seamen who suffered from scurvy by adding lemon juice to their diets. Vitamin C wasn’t known at the time, but his findings helped advance medicine and improve nutrition.
The Uses of Lemons
Today, we all know lemons are most commonly found in kitchens, but they are also used in many other ways:
- Aromatherapy: Lemon oil is often used in aromatherapy to improve mood.
- Invisible ink: Lemon juice can be used as a simple invisible ink, activated by heat.
- Cosmetics: Lemons can be used to reduce acne, remove blemishes, as a natural deodorant, etc.
- Insect repellant: Lemon oil can be used to create your own homemade mosquito repellant.
- Cleaning agent: A lemon dipped in salt or baking powder can be used to brighten copper cookware by dissolving the tarnish. The juice is also used to deodorize, remove grease, bleach stains, and disinfect.
- Medicine: As you will learn, the health benefits of lemons are extensive. Lemons are used to treat scurvy, the common cold and flu, kidney stones, and inflammation, among other ailments.
The Nutrients of Lemons
It should come as no surprise that the numerous important applications of lemons stem from their robust properties. Lemons have a lot of nutrients, and consuming lemons can bring you many health benefits. Here are just a few:
- Lemons are particularly rich in vitamin C, which is needed for many reactions in your body. We are not capable of making vitamin C internally, so we must get it from food, like lemons. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, which means it protects your body from the damage of free radicals. A lack of vitamin C can lead to fatigue, stress-related problems, and a weakened immune system, so it’s important to include it in your diet.
- Lemons contain bioflavonoids, which carry out important biological tasks in your body. Quercetin, the most important of the bioflavonoids found in lemons, has several health benefits, including acting as a natural antihistamine, and preventing allergies and inflammation. It also contains antiviral properties and acts as an antibiotic.
- Lemons have pectin, which belongs to a large group of complex carbs that are essential for digestion. Pectin can also help reduce high cholesterol.
- Lemons are a natural preservative. They are often used in salads, as they prevent discoloration of fruits like sliced bananas, apples, and avocados. They are also used in the preparation of jellies, jams, drinks, marmalades, and pickles.
- Lemons also contain calcium, which helps create stronger, healthier teeth and bones.
- Lemon increases flavor and improves the taste of various dishes.
- Lemons have citric acid, which is an alkalizing agent, helping to decrease acidity in your body.
Benefits of Lemon Water
While water has many advantages of its own, the health benefits of lemon water include nutrients like antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. If you feel as though you need to drink more water but you want to add more flavor to it, adding lemon could be the citrus flavored solution to your problem. When you start your morning with a glass of hot water and the juice of half a lemon, you can reap the following benefits:
1. Rehydrates Your Body
Hydration plays a big factor in people’s overall health and well-being. Drinking a glass of water, especially warm water, in the morning after going hours without a sip is a good way to hydrate your body. During sleep, you typically haven’t hydrated for at least eight hours. Giving your body adequate water when you wake up is a great way to prepare your body and your mind for the day ahead.
2. Flushes Out Toxins
Drinking warm water with lemon in the morning is an Ayurvedic practice that helps to clear the digestive tract of toxins that have built up overnight. Lemon water can be a great form of gut detox for your body. The liver is extremely active during sleep, since this is when your body restores and regenerates itself. Drinking lemon water in the morning allows you to flush out the toxins that have built up over night.
Additionally, in animal studies, researchers found that the citric acid in lemons protects liver function and prevents oxidative damage, helping to preserve the liver’s natural ability to detoxify.
3. Aids Digestion and Elimination
Lemon water can help aid digestion and relieve symptoms of indigestion such as heartburn, burping, and stomach bloating.
If you don’t already have a bowel movement first thing in the morning, drinking lemon water may also help get things moving.
4. Boosts Immune System
As mentioned above, lemons contain vitamin C. When you drink lemon water first thing in the morning, it gives your body an immune boost. However, don’t just drink lemon water when you start feeling sick; add it to your daily routine to help prevent disease. Warm lemon water with a hint of honey can also help alleviate a sore throat.
5. Lowers Blood Pressure
Recent studies have found that daily lemon digestion is linked to lowering blood pressure, especially for people who are at high risk for high blood pressure and cholesterol.
6. Boosts Energy Level
Many of us rely on coffee (caffeine) in the morning to wake up, but one of the best benefits of lemon water in the morning is that it can boost your energy! I’ve been drinking lemon water for years first thing in the morning, and on the rare occasion where I go without it, my energy levels dip, and I notice my morning drags.
7. Improves Mood
Staying hydrated and the vitamin C in lemons are also good for reducing the effects of chronic stress by being directly involved in the production of cortisol (stress hormone) in your adrenals. When you are under chronic stress, a common consequence is adrenal fatigue (a depletion of hormones that causes fatigue, body aches, low blood pressure, lightheadedness, etc.). Therefore, vitamin C is essential for the recovery of your adrenal glands.
Additionally, just the scent of a lemon has been found to reduce stress levels and help improve mood.
8. Freshens Your Breath
Who doesn’t want fresh breath in the morning? This isn’t to say that drinking lemon water should replace your daily teeth-cleaning habits, but it can help freshen your breath. The citric acid in the lemon contains antibacterial properties (as mentioned above) that can kill the bacteria that causes bad breath.
9. Improves Skin Complexion
The vitamin C in lemons also promotes collagen production, which helps produce smooth, healthy skin. In fact, in a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that regularly consuming vitamin C led to younger-looking skin and less wrinkles.
10. Supports Weight Loss
Drinking water, especially warm lemon water, first thing in the morning, can help you increase your metabolism and maintain a healthy weight. Warm lemon water is a great way to start your morning, whether you are trying to lose weight or not. Of course, drinking lemon water by itself isn’t going to be a cure-all weight-loss solution, but when combined with other healthy habits, lemon water helps.
Tips for Selecting & Storing Tasty Lemons
Before you make lemon-infused water, here are a few tips for selecting lemons so that you can get the most out of your drink:
- Identify lemons on the spectrum of unripe to overripe (keep in mind that lemons ripen from the inside out, so sometimes the color isn’t always an accurate indicator):
- Unripe lemons are often green and have a matte skin.
- Ripe lemons are firm and have a shiny yellow skin.
- Overripe lemons are brownish yellow or have brown spots, and are soft to the touch.
- If you are lucky enough to have your own lemon tree, know that lemons will never truly ripen once you take them off the tree. They may turn yellow and grow softer, but they will not become juicier or sweeter.
- When it comes to juicy lemons, the size of the fruit is not always indicative of the amount of juice it produces. Thin-skinned lemons tend to be juicier than thick-skinned lemons. Also, try holding the fruit and determine if it is heavy—the heavier the fruit and the thinner the skin, the more fresh lemon juice it can have.
- The acidity in lemons can vary with color—a deep yellow lemon is often less acidic than a lighter yellow lemon.
- Lemons can add color and look great on a kitchen countertop, but to keep lemons fresh longer try sealing them in a plastic bag and storing them in your fridge. If kept out at room temperature, lemons will lose their moisture and start to go bad sooner.
Lemon Water Recipe
Here is a simple and easy recipe to increase your vigor and vitality every morning. Other optional ingredients can also be added to customize your lemon water to your personal preferences, such as mint, honey, ginger, basil, cucumber, or strawberry.
- 8 oz. of warm or hot water
- Juice of half a lemon
- Optional: mint, honey, ginger, basil, cucumber, strawberry, or other garnish to taste
First thing in the morning before you consume any other food or beverages, pour the warm or hot water into a cup. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon. Mix together and sip slowly.
Add other ingredients--basil, mint, honey, ginger, etc.—to taste.
After drinking, swish your mouth with some room temperature water for 30 seconds to make sure the citric acid from the lemon juice doesn't remain on your teeth.
A note of caution: If you are not used to drinking water as the first thing you do when you wake up, you might feel a little nausea. Start with small amounts and increase over time as your body adjusts.
It is always important to support your body by drinking enough water, especially in the morning. By having lemon in your water, you add a healthy—and refreshing—start to your day.
*Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only; does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Chopra Center's Mind-Body Medical Group; and is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.
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