Aromatherapy: Lemon

The lemon tree hails from Asia, but has been cultivated in Italy since at least the fourth century. It is now grown throughout the Mediterranean, Australia, Central and South America, California, and Florida.

Most people would immediately describe lemon as having a “clean” smelling fragrance. As a result, it is used in a vast number of household cleaning products that are advertised as “lemon-fresh” and “sparkling.” Aromatherapists use the tie-in with cleanliness to help people purge feelings of imperfection and impurity and to build up their confidence. Lemon essential oil is a major ingredient in commercial beverages, foods, and pharmaceuticals, although the cheaper lemongrass or even synthetic citral is often added to stretch it. It also is popular for its fresh aroma in cologne and many cosmetics, especially cleansing creams and lotions.


The flowers are occasionally distilled for their pleasant aroma, but cold pressing the peel produces the essential oil that you are most likely to find. Like other citruses, the oil keeps well for only about a year; so you can prolong its life by storing it in a cool place or even in the refrigerator.

Principal constituents of lemon: Limonene (up to 90 percent), terpinene, pinenes, sabinene, myrcene, citral, linalol, geraniol, citronellal, bergamotene, and others

Scent of lemon: Distinctively clean, sharp, and citrus, the fragrance has a smoother, creamier aroma in the higher qualities.

Therapeutic properties of lemon: Antiseptic, antidepressant, antiviral; decreases indigestion, stops bleeding

Uses for lemon: Made into a hot drink with maple sugar or honey, the lemon fruit and peel have soothed colds, fevers, sore throat, and coughs throughout the world for centuries. Studies show that the oil increases the activity of the immune system by stimulating the production of the white corpuscles that fight infection. Additionally, lemon essential oil counters a wide range of viral and bacterial infections. Massage it on the skin in a vegetable oil base to relieve congested lymph glands. Inhaled it has been shown to reduce blood pressure. Since it also reduces water retention and increases mineral absorption, it can be helpful in achieving weight loss. Incorporated into cosmetics, lemon is best used on oily complexions and to clean acne, blackheads, and other skin impurities.

In Japan the essential oil is diffused through the air systems of offices and factories because it increases concentration and the ability to memorize and noticeably reduces mistakes. Research confirms that the aroma of lemon is relaxing to brain waves, which improves concentration. It was the most effective essential oil tested in reducing computer errors; those working in a lemon-scented room made less than half the mistakes of those working in unscented rooms. Because it seems to stimulate the mind while calming emotions, sniffing lemon can be helpful when making decisions.

WARNINGS: The essential oil of lemon is occasionally photosensitizing for very sensitive people; that is, wearing a skin product containing it during exposure to the sun could cause a skin reaction. However, this reaction is very uncommon.


To learn more about Aromatherapy and other alternative medicines, see:

  • Aromatherapy: Learn about aromatherapy, how it works, what part essential oils play, and how to use aromatherapy.
  • Essential Oils Profiles: We have collected profiles of dozens of plants that are used to produce essential oils. On these pages, you will learn the properties and preparations for the most popular essential oils.
  • How to Treat Common Conditions With Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy can be used to treat a number of conditions, from asthma to depression to skin problems. Here you will learn how to treat some common medical problems with aromatherapy.
  • Home Remedies: We have gathered over a hundred safe, time-tested home remedies for treating a wide variety of medical complaints yourself.
  • Herbal Remedies: Herbal remedies and aromatherapy can be very similar, and they stem from similar historic roots. On this page, you will find all of our herb profiles and instructions for treating medical problems with herbal remedies.



Kathi Keville is director of the American Herb Association and editor of the American Herb Association Quarterly newsletter. A writer, photographer, consultant, and teacher specializing in aromatherapy and herbs for over 25 years, she has written several books, including Aromatherapy: The Complete Guide to the Healing Art and Pocket Guide to Aromatherapy, and has written over 150 articles for such magazines as New Age Journal, The Herb Companion, and New Herbal Remedies.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.