Lemon (Citrus limon) is a small fruit, green when unripe and yellow when ripe, which originates from Asia, particularly China and India. It has a sour taste thanks to the presence of citric acid in its juice (about 5% to 6%), giving it a characteristic acidic pH of about 2.2. Lemon is widely used in cooking in versatile ways in the different cuisines of the world. Its juice, pulp and rind are all used in many applications in the culinary world.
Lemon is popularly used in cooking foods such as soups, sauces, and marinating meats such as chicken, beef, and pork (thanks to its tenderizing potential). It can also be processed into juices like lemonade, added to tropical cocktail drinks, or baked in cakes and pies. Besides, lemon is an important ingredient in many salad recipes, where its juice adds that desired sour and tangy taste. Aside from cooking, lemon is commonly used for cleaning and disinfection purposes since it contains citric acid (1).
Lemon is an excellent source of vitamin C (53mg/100g), which provides 64% of the recommended daily value for vitamin C. The vitamin C content in lemons is two times higher than those of limes (29mg/100g) and about 18% higher than that of oranges. Additionally, it contains a variety of phytochemicals, which are naturally occurring substances present in plants that helps them resist bacteria, fungi, and virus infections. These phytochemicals include polyphenols, tannins, and terpenes. These compounds together with the nutritional content of lemons account for their numerous health benefits (2).
Though lemon can be consumed at all times of the day and in diverse ways, drinking hot water lemon especially before going to bed is said to have many more benefits and as such is becoming popular these days. Hot water lemon is simply lemon juice mixed in a cup of hot water or a slice of lemon steeped in a cup of water. Here are some of the benefits.
1. Improves the immune system function
Vitamin C is vital for the synthesis of white blood cells, which are the body’s number one line of defence against injury. White blood cells swallow up and digest bacteria, preventing them from growing in numbers in our bodies and eventually making us sick. Vitamin C is generally used prophylactic, to boost the body’s immune system to wade off infections and prevent disease state. One tablespoon of vitamin C contains approximately 10mg of vitamin C and the adult recommendation is 75 mg to 90 mg of vitamin C per day (3, 4).
Vitamin C is also a strong antioxidant, which protects the body from oxidative damage caused by free radicals. Free radicals are very unstable highly reactive atoms that increase the rate of oxidation reactions in the body, eventually causing a state of oxidative stress that damages body cells and even DNA. Oxidative stress has been linked to the development of many chronic diseases like heart disease, and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease (5).
2. Improves cold and flu symptoms
Vitamin C has been reported in reducing cold and flu symptoms like nasal congestion, running nose, sneezing, and coughing, as well as shortening the duration of the cold or flu. Drinking hot lemon water before bed has been reported to reduce nasal congestion and sore throats (6).
3. Improves metabolism
Drinking lemon water before bedtime hydrates the body, good hydration improves the functioning of the mitochondria, which is the body’s powerhouse for energy generation. This increased metabolism increases the body’s calorie-burning potential, eventually leading to weight loss. Besides drinking lemon water encourages you to drink more water than you normally would, which makes you fuller, and is a good substitute for sugary drinks that add calories and make you fat (7).
4. Blood sugar control
Lemons slow down the rate of starch digestion, thus preventing rapid spikes in blood glucose levels, enabling diabetics to better manage their blood sugar levels. The polyphenols in lemon also have been reported to prevent obesity and improve insulin resistance by stimulating lipid glucose metabolism. The polyphenol hesperidin, for example, has been reported to affect the expression of the genes of the enzymes that regulate glucose, improving hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetes (8).
Moreover, lemon contains significant levels of vitamin C which have been demonstrated to lower blood sugar levels in several research studies. Consuming between 500 mg to1000 mg of vitamin C dietary supplements for six weeks was reported to be effective in reducing blood glucose levels in patients with type 2 diabetes in one clinical research study (9).
5. Helps with kidney stones
Kidney stones are deposits of hard minerals and acid salt formed inside the kidneys. They are formed minerals crystallize and glue together, a situation that occurs when urine is very concentrated. Kidney stones are very uncomfortable as they cause pain in the lower abdomen as they pass from the kidneys down to the urinary tract. They also cause pain during urination (10). Citrus fruits such as lemons contain good concentrations of citrate that raise the citrate levels in the urine and prevent kidney stones’ formation.
Citric acid coats small stones preventing other materials from attaching to them and building unto them to form larger stones. Research has demonstrated that people who consume more citrus fruits decrease their risk of developing kidney stones. Farther, vitamin C present helps to inhibit kidney stone formation or breaks up already formed kidney stones in affected persons (11).
6. Relieves heartburn in sensitive people
Although lemon has an acidic pH, dissolving a little quantity in water (like one teaspoon or tablespoon) gives an alkalizing effect that neutralizes stomach acids and helps to soothe heartburn in sensitive people. Heartburn is that burning sensitization felt around the lower chest area, which is the result of the backflow of gastric acid from the stomach to the oesophagus also known as acid reflux. Acid reflux results when the lower valves of the oesophagus opens to let food enter the stomach and close after the food passes have been weakened.
Consequently, it does not shut properly after food has entered the stomach, allowing for episodes of re-entry of gastric acids that climb back into the oesophagus, causing inflammation (esophagitis). Further episodes of acid reflux on an inflamed or eroded oesophagus cause irritations, pain and a burning sensation, characteristic of heartburn.
People experiencing heartburn are usually advised not to eat too late at night, and not to lie down immediately after they have eaten their dinner, as this will provoke acid reflux and heartburn. Consuming lemon water has been reported to be safe for people suffering from acid reflux as it soothes their heartburn. Thus, drinking some hot water lemon before bedtime can assure sensitive people some relief and improve their quality of sleep (12).
7. Aids digestion
Vitamin C stimulates the production of hydrochloric acid which is vital for helping us digest food and preventing indigestion symptoms like burping, farting and heartburn. Indigestion can affect your quality of sleep and make you restless throughout the night. Indigestion has been reported to be common in people suffering from insomnia. Hence, drinking some vitamin C rich hot lemon water before bedtime can enhance food digestion and improve your quality of sleep (13).
8. Decreases stress levels
Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant, that reduces levels of stress in our blood. It reduces other indicators of physical and emotional stress like enlargement of the adrenal gland, loss in body weight, reduction in the size of the spleen and reduction in the size of the thymus gland (14). Students who consumed vitamin C in one study showed reduced levels of both anxiety and stress. The antioxidant properties of vitamin C enable the body to control cortisol levels which trigger stress (15).
9. Improves skin health
Vitamin C plays a very important role in the production of collagen which is the main protein found in the connective tissues of the skin, bones, hair, and nails. Collagen accounts for the elasticity, toughness, and bounce of the skin. Collagen depletion (which occurs naturally as we age) leads to wrinkling and sagging of the skin as seen in aged people and slows down the healing of wounds. Boosting collagen stores is vital in slowing down the ageing process, the reason why vitamin C is implicated in many skin care products that fight wrinkling (16).
There are however a few consequences to drinking hot lime water before bedtime that some people have identified.
1. Increased urination at night
Drinking lime water at night increases the frequency of urination, which is good in the cause of flushing of kidney stones, though to some people it interrupts their sleep.
2. Teeth damage
Lemon has a high concentration of citrus acid, which may cause damage to the teeth by eroding the enamel. Thus, people are advised to drink lime water with a stroll to avoid the constant direct contact of the citric acid with their teeth.
Lemon is a small fruit that is very rich in vitamin C, phytochemicals, and other bioactive compounds. Consuming hot lemon water just before bedtime has tons of advantages and bestows numerous health benefits. Besides making hot lemon water is very easy, and lemon is also a very accessible and affordable fruit, hence a very cost-effective way to better health.
- Osbeck, (L ). (n.d.). Citrus limon (L.) Osbeck — The Plant List. Retrieved June 3, 2022, from Theplantlist.org website: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/tro-28101295
- FoodData central. (n.d.). Retrieved June 3, 2022, from Usda.gov website: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/1102594/nutrients
- Vitamin C could boost metabolism in older adults, reducing weight. (2002, April 5). Retrieved June 3, 2022, from nutraingredients.com website: https://www.nutraingredients.com/Article/2002/04/05/Vitamin-C-could-boost-metabolism-in-older-adults-reducing-weight
- Vitamin C. (2012, September 18). Retrieved June 3, 2022, from The Nutrition Source website: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/vitamin-c/
- Gella, A., & Durany, N. (2009). Oxidative stress in Alzheimer disease. Cell Adhesion & Migration, 3(1), 88–93. doi:10.4161/cam.3.1.7402
- Vitamin A and Colds. (1934). The New England Journal of Medicine, 211(7), 328–329. doi:10.1056/nejm193408162110712
- Owu, D. U., Antai, A. B., Udofia, K. H., Obembe, A. O., Obasi, K. O., & Eteng, M. U. (2006). Vitamin C improves basal metabolic rate and lipid profile in alloxan-induced diabetes mellitus in rats. Journal of Biosciences, 31(5), 575–579. doi:10.1007/bf02708409
- Fukuchi, Y., Hiramitsu, M., Okada, M., Hayashi, S., Nabeno, Y., Osawa, T., & Naito, M. (2008). Lemon polyphenols suppress diet-induced obesity by up-regulation of mRNA levels of the enzymes involved in beta-oxidation in mouse white adipose tissue. Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition, 43(3), 201–209. doi:10.3164/jcbn.2008066
- Afkhami-Ardekani, M., & Shojaoddiny-Ardekani, A. (2007). Effect of vitamin C on blood glucose, serum lipids & serum insulin in type 2 diabetes patients. The Indian Journal of Medical Research, 126(5), 471–474. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18160753/
- Kidney stones. (2020, May 5). Retrieved May 30, 2022, from Mayo Clinic website: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/kidney-stones/symptoms-causes/syc-20355755
- Gul, Z., & Monga, M. (2014). Medical and dietary therapy for kidney stone prevention. Korean Journal of Urology, 55(12), 775–779. doi:10.4111/kju.2014.55.12.775
- GERD diet: Foods that help with acid reflux (heartburn). (2022, March 28). Retrieved June 3, 2022, from Hopkinsmedicine.org website: https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/gerd-diet-foods-that-help-with-acid-reflux-heartburn
- Can’t sleep? It could be a digestive problem. (n.d.). Retrieved June 3, 2022, from WebMD website: https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/news/20041215/cant-sleep-could-be-digestive-problem
- American Chemical Society. (1999, August 23). Scientists say vitamin C may alleviate the body’s response to stress. Science Daily. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/1999/08/990823072615.htm
- de Oliveira, I. J. L., de Souza, V. V., Motta, V., & Da-Silva, S. L. (2015). Effects of oral vitamin C supplementation on anxiety in students: A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences: PJBS, 18(1), 11–18. doi:10.3923/pjbs.2015.11.18
- DePhillipo, N. N., Aman, Z. S., Kennedy, M. I., Begley, J. P., Moatshe, G., & LaPrade, R. F. (2018). Efficacy of vitamin C supplementation on collagen synthesis and oxidative stress after musculoskeletal injuries: A systematic review. Orthopaedic Journal of Sports Medicine, 6(10), 2325967118804544. doi:10.1177/2325967118804544