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The lemon tree (Citrus limon or limonum) is a shrub with persistent and glossy dark green leaves, also called "English lemon tree", which belongs to the large Rutaceae or citrus family.
Its genus includes one hundred and sixty species. Its leaves which contain translucent glands, release a strong fragrance when crumpled. Its fruits are present on the tree throughout the year, with peaks in March-April and October-December. Citrus limon is derived from the natural hybridisation between citron (Citrus medica var. vulgaris), lime (Citrus limetta) and grapefruit (Citrus paradisii). Showy to the eyes and astringent to the palate, lemons have a temperament that leaves no one indifferent. Its marked personality can be annoying: the press gives the "lemon award" to a particularly awkward politician. An old popular Greek song says: "Say, do not smell so strong, my little scented lemon, or I will get mad!" It is a native of ancient Media, between the Tigris and the Caspian sea. Virgil, in The Eclogues, considered it capable of "softening the stinking breath of the Medes and "soothing the pulse of trembling elders". Crusaders called lemons the "Median apple" and it was taken on board as an anti-scurvy treatment by Arab navigators two centuries before Christopher Columbus crossed the Atlantic in his caravels.
Cultivation and production
Lemon trees, cultivated in the Mediterranean basin, especially in Spain, main world exporter, and in subtropical regions, like slightly acid and well drained soils. In France, it grows in the ground in the region of Menton and Corsica, but the market production is insignificant.
The smell of lemon is typical, fresh, fruity and tangy, characteristic of the fresh lemon pericarp.
Extraction and yield
Lemons are picked before fully ripe and, like for all citrus, their essence is obtained by cold extraction from the rind. In the past they were pressed over a sponge. Its yield is of 4%, i.e. four kilograms of essence per hundred kilograms of fruit rind.
The active ingredients of the essence of Citrus limon are principally monoterpenes (limonene, gamma-terpinene, limonene), terpenic aldehydes (geranial, neral), monoterpenols (geraniol), along with coumarin and furocoumarin.
For many years it was only used as an antidote and remedy for respiratory ailments, the essence of Citrus limonum rind is recommended for its tonic, hepatic and anti-nausea properties. This essence is excellent for persons with a pulmonary overload (manifested by an asthmatiform cough), itself due to a functional hepatic failure. Its pleasant odour cleanses the air. It helps fighting against heavy legs, water retention and excess weight, when the symptoms are of hepatic origin.
Excerpts from the book « Aromatherapia – Tout sur les huiles essentielles », by Isabelle Pacchioni. Aroma Thera Editions.