You may find yourself gulping down a big glass of lemon water every morning because you heard it was good for you, and everyone from Gwyneth Paltrow to SELF magazine to every wellness blog under the sun touts lemon water as a golden elixir, a panacea to end all health woes. But have you ever wondered why it’s so good for you? To understand more about this simple citrus beverage, I explain the benefits from an eastern and western perspective.
As an acupuncturist, I can tell you that drinking lemon water is a wonderful morning ritual to add into your routine. In fact, I recommend my patients drink a glass of room temp or warm lemon water first thing in the morning. From a Chinese medicine perspective (TCM), the sour flavor of lemon energetically directs to the liver and gallbladder, providing your liver with a good flush to start the day.
What does the liver do according to Chinese medicine?
In TCM (Traditional Chinese medicine), the liver/gallbladder (wood element) governs circulation and the free flow of energies (Qi) in your body, physically and emotionally. When your liver (wood energy) is stuck, you may experience physical symptoms such as headaches, migraines, PMS, menstrual irregularities or tightness and pain in your body just to name a few. On an emotional/mental level, stuck liver energy manifests as anger, frustration, indecision, rigid mindset, inflexibility, depression and more. Taking good care of your liver energy helps your body circulate stuck energy, alleviating the above symptoms.
A helpful way to understand liver/wood energy in relation to our body is to think of a healthy, strong tree. The tree’s sap flows freely through the trunk and branches, swaying flexibly with the wind. When a tree is unhealthy, it gets dry and the branches break easily. Just as the tree, we are energetic beings and when our energies flow smoothly, our bodies and minds move easily with life’s twists and turns; we live well, and feel our best. So having that little glass of lemon water on a daily basis will provide the liver with a little extra love to do its very important work of keeping us flexible and free-flowing.
To understand some of the health benefits of lemon water from a western perspective I dug into a little research. This is what I found…
Detox/General Health: Dr. Elena Klimenko, a certified functional medicine physician, tells us on her blog that “lemon juice activates the liver and stimulates digestion. Try this in warm water on an empty stomach in the morning.” This echoes the Chinese medicine perspective above.
Weight Loss: Roxanne Sukol MD, a preventive medicine specialist at the Cleveland Clinic’s Wellness Institute, told Yahoo Health that “the acid in lemon juice” helps give your body more time to take in and process the nutrients in the foods you eat. This slow absorption, she claims, allows you to conserve “the stores of insulin in your body, and also helps your body get more out of the food you eat. Plus, quick absorption of certain ‘stripped’ carbs — such as white flour, corn starch, and corn syrup — can be a digestive nightmare.”
In addition, pectin, a fiber found in lemons, has been linked to some weight loss benefits. As quoted in Time magazine, Bahram Arjmandi, the editor-in-chief of Journal of Food and Nutritional Disorders, said that “pectin can lower LDL or bad cholesterol and has some anti-inflammatory benefits…it can also prevent fat absorption and moderate insulin response.” Of course, you’d have to eat lots and lots of lemon rind to see the weight loss benefits of pectin, but perhaps adding some zest to your morning lemon water is not a bad idea. (If you choose to do this, washing it first and keeping it in a little bag in the fridge to sprinkle on is an easy way to add this in.)
These weight loss claims actually have scientific proof to back them up: “Water-Induced Thermogenesis,” a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, states that drinking water does, in fact, increase metabolic rate, by as much as 30%—in both men and women. This study focuses solely on water, however, and does not mention the benefits of mixing lemon into your water. But in a study from 2008 published in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition, researchers found that lemon polyphenols (found mostly in the rind of lemons) suppressed diet-induced obesity in mice. The science is encouraging.
Skin Improvement: Drink your hot lemon water every morning and eventually you’ll be wrinkle- and spot-free! It’s not a guarantee, but there is certainly a lot of evidence to suggest that lemon water improves your skin. Dr. Elena Klimenko, in her article, “5 Tips for Glowing Skin All Winter Long,” writes that “foods rich in Vitamin C help fight free radicals that break down collagen, which causes wrinkles.” And a study from 2007 in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition corroborated this, finding that Vitamin C is definitely linked to improvements in skin: researchers concluded that higher vitamin C intakes were associated with a lower likelihood of a wrinkled appearance.
TIP: I recommend drinking room temp or warm lemon water as it’s easier on your digestion than cold liquids. To boost digestive function, even more, try adding some ginger slices to your hot or warm lemon water. Ginger is great for harmonizing and boosting your digestive energy.
Lemon Water Recipe
- 1 8oz glass of room temp water
- juice of half a lemon
- Squeeze juice of half a lemon into 8oz of room temp or warm water.
I use and love this Lemon Squeezer
Lemon Water with Ginger Slices
- 1 teapot of hot water
- juice of 1 lemon
- 3-6 ginger slices (depending on how gingery you want it)
- let steep 3-5 minutes and enjoy
- Add juice of one lemon and ginger slices into a pot of warm/hot water. Let steep. Enjoy.
My favorite Teakettle