Lemons are one of the most popular fruits in the world. Their vitamins, minerals and antioxidants have a variety of health benefits, particularly for your eyes. However, there are no benefits to using a lemon eye wash; in fact, applying lemon juice directly to your eyes can be dangerous.
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Lemons and Ocular Health
Lemons have a variety of essential nutrients that make them beneficial for eye health. In particular, the vitamin C in lemons is thought to help prevent macular degeneration and other issues that can occur as your eyes age. This nutrient also functions as an antioxidant, giving it an even wider range of health benefits.
Vitamin C (also known as ascorbic acid) is an essential nutrient, which means your body is unable to produce it. It should be typically be obtained by consuming foods, beverages or supplements. However, unlike many other essential nutrients, vitamin C is soluble in water. Your body can absorb it through creams, salves and even eye drops.
According to the Mayo Clinic, most people need between 65 and 95 milligrams of this vitamin each day. The USDA states that a single lemon (which yields around 48 grams of lemon juice) contains 18.6 milligrams of vitamin C. This is About 21 percent of the daily value.
Vitamin C and Eye Drops
According to a January 2017 study in the journal Ocular Surfaces, ascorbic acid can help reduce eye inflammation. This vitamin can also promote healing of the eyes following chemical injuries. Because vitamin C is also an antioxidant, it can also scavenge for free radicals that have the potential to damage the eyes.
These benefits mean that vitamin C can promote ocular health in a variety of ways. For example, a December 2012 study in the IOSR Journal of Pharmacy reported that eye drops containing ascorbic acid can help treat corneal ulcers.
Despite these various benefits, you should not use a lemon eye wash on your eyes. The various benefits of vitamin C are not obtained by applying lemon juice to eye wounds or squeezing lime in your eye directly. In fact, using lemon in this way could be extremely dangerous for your eyes and is very likely to damage them.
Dangers of Lemon Eye Wash
Lemon juice is extremely acidic due to its ascorbic acid and citric acid contents. According to an April 2016 study in the Journal of the American Dental Association, lemon juice has a pH of 2.25. In comparison, the human eye has a pH of 7.4.
As you would expect, applying anything acidic to your eyes will cause them to sting and hurt. If you were to put pure lemon juice in your eye, there's a good chance you might even end up with an acid burn, resulting in a cloudy, damaged cornea. According to the Oman Journal of Ophthalmology, acidic substances can also increase intraocular pressure, as well as damage the collagen fibers and ciliary bodies in your eyes.
Unfortunately, there are also health risks associated with using a diluted lemon eye wash. If you were to dilute lemon juice in standard drinking water from the tap, you'd run the risk of an eye infection.
Tap water and other nonsterile liquids can contain a pathogen known as an acanthamoeba. When you apply nonsterile liquids to your eyes, you run the risk of these pathogens infecting your eyes and causing a disease known as keratitis. Although this condition usually involves mild symptoms like inflammation, pain and redness, it can also result in corneal tearing. Severe keratitis can even require a corneal transplant.
To prevent eye infections like these, you should avoid using any homemade lemon eye wash products. Unfortunately, fresh lemon juice in your eye is no safer due to its acid content. Ultimately, it's best to stick to sterile pharmaceutical products. These will have exactly the right amount of ascorbic acid for optimal ocular health.
Lemon Juice's Nutritional Benefits
Lemon juice is more than just ascorbic acid. This fruit has a variety of other beneficial antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that are good for your health. According to the USDA, a cup (244 milliliters) of lemon juice has:
- 5 percent of the daily value (DV) for potassium
- 105 percent of the DV for vitamin C (ascorbic acid)
- 5 percent of the DV for vitamin B1 (thiamin)
- 6 percent of the DV for vitamin B5
- 7 percent of the DV for vitamin B6
- 12 percent of the DV for vitamin B9 (folic acid)
This amount of lemon juice also contains small amounts (between 1 and 4 percent of the DV) of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, choline, riboflavin (vitamin B2), niacin (vitamin B3), vitamin E, lutein and zeaxanthin.
According to a June 2013 study in the journal Clinical Interventions in Aging, vitamins A, C and E, zinc, lutein and zeaxanthin are some of the most important nutrients for eye health. With the exception of vitamin A, lemon juice has all of these nutrients.
Eating or drinking your lemon juice allows your body to absorb all of these vitamins and minerals. However, you're unlikely to drink a cup of lemon juice for the same reason that you wouldn't want to apply lemon juice to your eye: It's too acidic.
Fortunately, lemon juice is an extremely common ingredient. You can add lemon juice into fresh juices, smoothies and even cocktails. It's also commonly used in a variety of baked goods and desserts, especially sorbets. Lemon is even considered to be an essential component of curries, hummus and many popular sauces, including mayonnaise.
Lemon Juice's Health Benefits
Consumption of lemon and lemon juice has also been associated with a wide variety of health benefits. According to a May 2016 study in the International Research Journal of Pharmacy, lemons can:
- Counteract fevers
- Help normalize blood pressure
- Help regulate blood sugar levels
- Help resolve urinary tract infections
- Help protect cells from cancer
- Prevent the formation of gall bladder and kidney stones
- Prevent scurvy
- Promote digestion
- Regulate the immune system and reduce inflammation
- Soothe sore throats thanks to anesthetic and antibacterial effects
- Support weight loss
If you consume whole lemons, rather than just lemon juice, you're likely to obtain even more nutritional benefits. Whole lemons can provide you with dietary fiber, while their rinds can provide you with additional antioxidants.
- Acta Horticulturae: "Investigation of the Efficiency of the Total Antioxidants Assays in Silicon-Treated Lemon Fruit (Citrus limon)"
- International Research Journal of Pharmacy: "Basketful Benefits of Citrus Lemon"
- Clinical Interventions in Aging: "Nutrients for the Aging Eye"
- MyFoodData: "Nutrition Facts for Lemon Juice Raw"
- Chemistry Central Journal: "Citrus Fruits as a Treasure Trove of Active Natural Metabolites That Potentially Provide Benefits for Human Health"
- Parasitology Research: "The Role of Domestic Tap Water on Acanthamoeba Keratitis in Non-Contact Lens Wearers and Validation of Laboratory Methods"
- Oman Journal of Ophthalmology: "Ocular Chemical Injuries and Their Management"
- IOSR Journal of Pharmacy: "Role of Topical Ascorbic Acid in Management of Refractory Corneal Ulcer"
- Ocular Surfaces: "Current and Upcoming Therapies for Ocular Surface Chemical Injuries"
- Mayo Clinic: "Is It Possible to Take Too Much Vitamin C?"
- International Journal of Ayurvedic And Herbal Medicine: "Health and Medicinal Properties of Lemon (Citrus Limonum)"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.