Lemon extract comes in handy to add a little zip to a bundt cake, but it hardly seems like an ingredient that would have health benefits. Yet some alternative practitioners claim near miraculous healing powers for the lowly lemon. Whether or not the claims will hold up to rigorous testing is another matter, although a few laboratory clinical trials have shown some benefit in treating certain medical conditions.
Lemon extract is a concentrated form of oil made from the lemon peel and alcohol. Oils often contain the active ingredients in herbs and plants. The active ingredients that might have health benefits in lemon extract include limonene and citral, found in the outer layer of the peel, sometimes called the zest.
Killing Cancer Cells
Lemon has acquired a reputation in alternative medicine as a cancer killing agent, as evidenced by frequently circulated emails describing the powers of lemon. The Snopes website calls the claim that lemons kill cancer a mixture of true and false information. Some studies using compounds in lemon to kill cancer cells have shown promise against cells in laboratory — not human — studies. A Saudi Arabian study published in the 2011 “Asian Pacific Journal of Cancer Prevention” reported that lemon extract increased apoptosis, programmed cell death, in breast cancer cells in the laboratory.