Lemon peels are often discarded, but they actually contain beneficial nutrients and plant compounds. Some proponents claim that boiling lemon peels and drinking the liquid provides various health benefits.
This article explores whether boiling lemon peels and drinking the liquid is safe and effective.
Benefits of lemon peel
Lemon peels contain nutrients and plant compounds that may provide health benefits when consumed. For example:
- Flavonoids. Lemon peels are rich in polyphenol antioxidants like hesperidin and eriocitrin, which have anti-inflammatory effects.
- Vitamin C. Lemon peels contain more vitamin C than lemon juice. Just 1 teaspoon (4 grams) provides 4% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI).
- Vitamin A. Lemon peel provides 2% of the RDI for vitamin A per teaspoon (4 grams). Vitamin A is important for immune function and healthy vision.
- Potassium. Per teaspoon (4 grams), lemon peel provides 2% of the RDI for potassium, a mineral involved in heart health and nerve signal transmission.
- Plant compounds. Lemon peel contains plant compounds like salvestrols, which have anticancer properties in animal and test-tube studies.
Due to this nutrient and plant compound content, proponents claim that drinking boiled lemon peel water provides benefits like:
- Increase antioxidant intake
- Strengthen your immune system
- Improve heart health
- Enhance skin health
- Promote fat loss and weight control
- Reduce cancer risk
However, more research in humans is needed to substantiate these potential health benefits.
How to make boiled lemon peel water
Here is a simple recipe for boiled lemon peel water:
- Wash 2–3 lemons thoroughly and scrub off any dirt or residue.
- Cut the lemons into quarters lengthwise.
- Using a knife or vegetable peeler, remove the peel from each quarter.
- Place the lemon peels in a pot and add 3–4 cups (710–945 ml) of water.
- Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat and let it simmer for 5–10 minutes.
- Strain the peels from the water and discard them.
- Let the lemon peel water cool, then drink it.
To enhance the flavor, you can add ingredients like honey, ginger, cinnamon, or fresh mint leaves.
Start by drinking 1 cup (240 ml) per day and assess your tolerance. Drinking too much may cause digestive upset in some people.
Potential downsides of drinking boiled lemon peel water
Although lemon peel has benefits, drinking boiled lemon peel water may have some downsides, including:
- Pesticide exposure. Lemon peel may contain pesticide residues unless organic. Boiling doesn’t remove these.
- Oxalates. Lemon peel contains oxalates that can accumulate in the body and cause kidney stones in susceptible people.
- Medication interactions. Lemon can interact with certain medications broken down by the liver.
- Gastrointestinal effects. Drinking lemon water, especially in large amounts, may cause digestive issues like heartburn, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea in some people.
Additionally, research has not confirmed that boiling lemon peels maximizes nutrient extraction. In fact, one study found that boiling decreased the antioxidant content of lemon peel.
Here are some tips to drink boiled lemon peel water safely:
- Use organic lemons when possible.
- Moderate your intake to avoid digestive issues.
- Consult your healthcare provider if you take medications. Lemon may interact with drugs broken down by the liver’s CYP3A4 enzyme.
- Avoid drinking lemon water if you have GERD, ulcers, or kidney stones.
- Don’t rely on lemon peel water to treat or prevent diseases.
Other ways to use lemon peel
Aside from drinking boiled lemon peel water, here are other options for using lemon peel:
- Add zest to baked goods, salad dressings, marinades, and yogurt.
- Make lemon pepper seasoning by grinding dried peels.
- Create lemon extract by infusing vodka or glycerin with peels.
- Make a lemon peel tea by steeping the peels in hot water.
- Add peels to a bath for aroma and skin softening.
The bottom line
Lemon peel contains beneficial nutrients and plant compounds, but research has not confirmed boiling it maximizes benefits. Drinking boiled lemon peel water may have downsides and side effects in some people.
While lemon peel is nutritious, it’s best to moderate your intake of boiled lemon peel water and view it only as an occasional supplement to a healthy, well-rounded diet.