Does Lemon Juice Help Pass Gallstones?

Juice with lemon slices on the top of the glass.
Image Credit: AkayArda/iStock/Getty Images

Lemon juice and other juices high in citric acid and vitamin C have been used by themselves or combined with olive oil and Epsom salts to reduce calcifications in the gallbladder and kidneys for many generations in the United States and throughout Europe. Citric acid and vitamin C, once in the blood, can dissolve certain types of calcifications in the body. However, the medical establishment doesn't recognize lemon juice as helpful for passing or dissolving gallstones, and instead recommends surgery, ultrasound bombardment or pharmaceutical therapy.


Gallstones are crystalline compounds usually made up of calcium salts, cholesterol and bile. They can be as small as a grain of sand or as large as a golf ball, but all are considered abnormal and eventually compromise the function of your gallbladder. Their formation is often precipitated by poor diets, nutritional deficiency, digestive problems and hormone imbalance. Gallstones are classified according to their composition and develop mainly from cholesterol, or bilirubin and bile, or a more even mixture of all three. All gallstones contain some calcium salts, which makes them visible on X-ray.

Symptoms and Treatment

Gallstones collect and grow in the gallbladder and disrupt its primary function, which is to concentrate bile and release it into the small intestine for the digestion of fat. Gallstones can partially or completely block the passage of bile and cause inflammation, abdominal pain, belching, flatulence, nausea and vomiting, especially after eating fatty meals and almost always at night. Chronic gallbladder inflammation, called cholecystitis, can lead to bacterial infections in the gallbladder and pancreatic inflammation because of its close proximity.

According to the "Complete Guide to Symptoms, Illness and Surgery" by H. Winter Griffith M.D., medical treatments involve gallbladder removal, therapeutic ultrasound meant to disintegrate the stones or long-term pharmaceutical therapy with ursodeoxycholic acid meant to dissolve the stones. Many anecdotal reports claim that lemon juice can also help dissolve gallbladder stones.

Lemon Juice

Lemon juice is high in citric acid and vitamin C, both of which are known to dissolve calcium deposits, which is why the juices of citrus fruits have been used for many years as a home remedy for gallbladder and kidney stones, according to "Medical Herbalism" by David Hoffman. Vitamin C not only dissolves calcifications, but it is a powerful antioxidant and good antimicrobial, which is of help to combat gallbladder infections. Fresh grapefruit juice or apple juice is sometimes substituted for lemon juice in gallbladder cleanses, and Epsom salts and olive oil are often combined. The olive oil and Epsom salts stimulate gallbladder contraction and bowel movements.

Medical Opinion

The medical establishment's position is well-represented by the opinion of Peter Moran, who believes that it is very unlikely gallstones can be dissolved or flushed from the gallbladder by citrus juice, vegetable oils or Epsom salts. Moran claims that the gallstones people claim to pass with bowel movements following gallbladder flushes is merely saponification or soap formation of the ingested oil, which forms discolored globules.