Lemon water has been promoted by celebrities like singer Beyoncé and supermodel Gisele Bündchen due to its supposed positive effects.1 However, health professionals and practitioners haven't been too quick to back up these claims, with some nutritionists saying that lemon water isn't directly responsible for some of the purported effects, such as weight loss.2
Nevertheless, drinking this beverage may still offer numerous health benefits due to the antioxidants and nutrients that lemon offers. Some of the possible health benefits of lemon water include getting an immune system boost,3 improved liver function4 and better blood pressure management.5 Many people have actually made it a point to make lemon water their first drink of the day. If you're looking for more information about lemon water or you want to learn how to make your own, continue reading this article.
What Is Lemon Water?
Lemon (Citrus limon) is a citrus fruit well-known for its extremely sour taste, which is mainly due to the high percentage of citric acid found in its juice. But aside from citric acid, lemon juice contains other beneficial compounds and nutrients, such as vitamin C, potassium and folate.6
The simplest description of lemon water is that it's a mixture of lemon juice and water. The water's temperature is a matter of personal preference, as it can be prepared either hot or cold. In some cases, people might add a few other ingredients to improve its taste, such as cucumber slices, a few mint leaves or even chia seeds.7
However, a 2015 study claims that warm lemon water might be a better choice, especially if you drink it in the morning. This belief is backed by Ayurvedic medicine, with warm water believed to promote intestinal tightening, making bowel movements easier.8
Three Potential Health Benefits of Lemon Water
Aside from the belief that lemon water may help detoxify the body, this beverage may also help to:
- Support immune function — Lemon and other citrus fruits are good sources of vitamin C, an important antioxidant that has a direct effect on stopping free radical damage. This vitamin is also responsible for immune system protection, allergy alleviation and infection mitigation.9 The juice of one lemon contains about 18.6 grams of vitamin C.10
- Improve blood pressure control — In a 2014 study, researchers linked daily lemon intake to better blood pressure regulation in conjunction with walking. While the mechanism is not clear, it may be linked to the citric acid in lemon and its effect on the improvement of calcium and magnesium absorption.11
- Improve liver function — Due to the antioxidant properties of lemon juice, drinking lemon water may have hepatoprotective properties. However, this conclusion comes primarily from animal studies, with no clear indication that this is also applicable to humans. One study was done in 2017 and was published in the journal Biomed Research International, where mice were given doses of lemon juice to treat alcohol-induced liver damage.12
Can Lemon Water Help You Lose Weight?
Lemon water is good for maintaining hydration, providing vitamins and minerals, and is said to even assist in weight loss, to some extent. Though it's still unclear exactly how lemon water might contribute to weight loss, studies show that it may impact weight regulation.
A 2014 FASEB journal study conducted by Korean researchers found that a lemon detox program may contribute to detoxification and body fat reduction among overweight premenopausal women. The participants were divided into three groups: a normal control group (Normal-C), a pair‐fed diet group that consumed placebo juice along with calorie restriction (Positive-C) and a lemon detox diet group (Lemon-D). They found that:13
"… [T]he changes of body weight, BMI, % body fat, and WHR of Lemon‐D or Positive‐C groups were significantly higher than those of Normal‐C group. Especially, the decline degree of trunk/total fat ratio was significantly higher in Lemon‐D group than in Normal‐C. The concentrations of serum leptin, insulin‐like growth factor‐1, and adiponectin were significantly decreased while serum homocysteine level was elevated by trials in Lemon‐D or Positive‐C groups. Serum high‐sensitive C‐reactive protein (hs‐CRP) level was reduced by only Lemon‐D trial.
In conclusion, the lemon detox program showed a significant body fat reduction by calorie restriction and also seem to have some detoxic effects related to decreased levels of serum adipokines like hs‐CRP."
However, the researchers noted that further studies may be needed to confirm the effect of lemon water on weight management.
Weight loss from lemon water may also be attributed to the general effects of drinking instead of this specific beverage. Lemon water contains as little as 6 calories per glass, making it a suitable alternative for flavored drinks that are usually loaded with sugar. In addition, drinking water before or during meals promotes satiety, thus curbing increased food intake.14
Drinking adequate water has also been associated with increased rates of metabolism, as proper hydration may stimulate the mitochondria in the cells for better energy expenditure.15 A 2003 study from the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism also linked drinking water to thermogenesis. The study showed that people who drank about 500 milliliters of water could boost their metabolism by about 30% for about 30 to 40 minutes.16
Even though drinking lemon water is good for you, it should not be the only move you employ for maintaining a healthy weight. There are numerous factors that you should consider when you plan on detoxifying your body or improving your weight management, including improving your sleep, diet and following a healthy exercise routine. Drinking lemon water should only be a complementary strategy, as it is not a magic bullet that will solve all your problems.
What Does Lemon Water Do?
The mechanism by which lemon water works is mostly through its citric acid and vitamin C content. In fact, claims regarding its effect on mood and immune function are rooted in the effects of these components on the human body.
As an example, lemon water was found to be effective in uplifting your mood, especially when you're deficient in vitamin C. A 2011 study from the journal Nutrition showed that vitamin C-deficient patients had a higher risk of suffering from mood disturbances and that supplementing concentrations of vitamin C helped improve their mood states by up to 34%.17
In a 2014 study from the International Journal of Vitamin and Nutrition Research, researchers found that patients with vitamin C depletion were more at risk of suffering from depression symptoms than people with higher concentrations of vitamin C in their bodies.18
Lemon water also has a positive effect on the immune system due to its D-limonene and hesperidin content.19 A 2012 study from the journal of Cellular Immunology shows that D-limonene possesses immunomodulatory capabilities, specifically the upregulation of CD25, CD69 and CD40L, which are important proteins found in the T-cells.20 As for hesperidin, a study from Mediators of Inflammation showed that this component of lemon juice inhibits inflammation and reactive oxygen species (ROS) production.21
How to Make Lemon Water
Making your own glass or jug of lemon water is very simple. All you need is a lemon, a water container and pure filtered water. If this is the first time that you're making a batch, here's a recipe you can try:
Lemon Water Recipe
✓ 4 lemons
✓ 1 1/2 cups fresh mint leaves
✓ 6 to 8 cups filtered water
✓ 6 to 8 cups ice cubes
- Carefully rub the mint leaves between the palms of your hands to bruise the leaves.
- Add the lemon slices and mint leaves in a large pitcher.
- Pour the water in. Cover for 1 to 8 hours.
- Strain the mixture, removing the leftover herbs.
- Divide the lemon slices and add fresh mint before drinking.
(Recipe from Better Homes & Gardens22)
Possible Side Effects of Lemon Water
While lemon water offers multiple health benefits, it's also important to moderate your intake. Failing to properly dilute lemon juice in the water might harm your oral cavity and the upper digestive tract because of the high levels of citric acid. A few side effects that lemon water may trigger are:
- Eroded tooth enamel — Diluting the lemon juice in enough water is crucial when drinking lemon water. This will help water down the acidity of the juice, minimizing its erosive effects on your teeth.23 Aside from diluting the lemon juice, you can also opt to use reusable nonplastic straws to prevent the juice from coming into contact with your teeth.
- Canker sores — While eating citrus fruits does not automatically cause canker sores, it can increase the possibility of a canker sore developing or exacerbate the pain from an existing one.24
Lemon Water May Help Improve Immune Function
Lemon water has been promoted for numerous health claims, particularly its potential to help with weight loss, but while a handful of people swear by its effectiveness, more scientific studies may need to be conducted to back up these claims. Even though this health benefit is supported by little evidence, there are other advantages this drink can provide, such as immune system and cardiovascular support.
Keep in mind that lemon water should not be the only health practice you employ to improve your health. Reaching your body's maximum potential requires you to make better lifestyle choices, eat wholesome foods and get a good night's sleep, among other things.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Lemon Water
Q: Does lemon water help you lose weight?
A: A 2014 Korean study shows that lemon water may help with fat reduction and help promote detoxification. However, the process by which it works is unclear,25 and more research needs to be conducted in this area.
Q: Why is lemon water good for you?
A: Adding lemon water into your diet may help you maintain hydrated at all times, and at the same time provide you with the vitamins and nutrients found in lemon juice.
Q: Is lemon water bad for you?
A: Judging this beverage by its components, there's no reason for it to be bad for you. It can provide you with numerous nutrients that can promote better health for various body systems. However, too much lemon water can also harm your teeth if there are very high concentrations of lemon juice in it. The acidic nature of lemon may cause enamel erosion, which heightens your risk of cavities. It's best that you drink lemon water with a reusable nonplastic straw to minimize its contact with your teeth.
Q: Is lemon water healthy?
A: Lemon juice and water can both play important roles in the body. Water is the primary source of the body for hydration, which makes it one of the most important substances your body needs, while lemon juice contains nutrients and vitamins that may help in the upkeep of numerous body systems.
Q: Does lemon water make you poop?
A: A study from the European Journal of Pharmaceutical and Medical Research claim that warm lemon water may help promote regular elimination, especially when taken in the morning, upon waking up. The warm temperature may help stimulate the digestive tract and trigger bowel movements.26
Q: Is lemon water bad for your teeth?
A: While the higher concentration isn't too bad health-wise, this may cause numerous problems with oral health. Lemon water may cause your tooth enamel to erode, as well as trigger canker sores or exacerbate the pain from existing sores.
Q: Is lemon water a diuretic?
A: According to LiveStrong, lemon is not a diuretic.27 However, the increased intake of lemon water may lead to more urine production, which may be why some people think lemon water has diuretic effects.
Q: How much lemon should you put in your water?
A: Lemon water recipes usually require one lemon per serving, but this varies depending on the recipe you're following. Moderate your intake to avoid the potential side effects of too much citric acid.
Q: What are the side effects of drinking lemon water?
A: People may have varying tolerance when it comes to drinking lemon water because of its acidity. Some of the possible side effects from drinking lemon water include an increased risk for teeth cavities and canker sores.
Q: Is lemon water good for your liver?
A: There are numerous claims that lemon water can help detoxify the liver and trigger better bile regulation, but note that scientific studies that back these claims are scarce.
A few animal studies propose the possible hepatoprotective properties of lemon juice. A 2017 study from the BioMed Research International showed that the antioxidant properties of lemon juice may have protective capabilities in alcohol-induced liver injuries.28
Q: Does lemon water help the kidneys?
A: Hydration is a crucial factor in maintaining optimal kidney function as it promotes effective filtration of sodium, urea and other toxins.29 Drinking lemon water is one of the few ways that you can promote fluid intake, with some people noting that they were more prone to drinking because of the flavor of lemon water.