Lemons: The Great Healer
LEMONS rank among the most beneficial of foods known to man. Rich in citric acid and vitamin C, they are great aids to the digestive system. For gastric distress (gastritis), nausea, indigestion and diarrhoea, preparations based on this simple fruit of remedy.
The medicinal use of lemons has long been a part of medical lore, as illustrated in the following folk-tale from Northern India:
Shortly before his graduation, a bright young medical student was approached by an elderly physician from a remote village. The healer informed the youth that he was getting on in years and needed an assistant to help him – and take over the busy practice upon his retirement.
The youth was delighted at the offer and immediately accepted, promising to leave as soon as his final credentials were issued.
On graduation day the new doctor gathered up his meager belongings, loaded them onto a bullock-cart and started off on the journey to his new life.
As the aged buffalo slowly plodded down the dusty country road, the young medical man whiled away the hours building fantasies of the large future ahead — an established practice, a comfortable income, and soon a wife, family, house, reputation and honour. A radiant new chapter was unfolding in his life.
But something he saw out of the corner of his eye jarred him out of his blissful reverie – a spot of bright green. Could it be? Yes, it was.
“Oh no,” he moaned aloud. “I am surrounded by lemon groves. That must mean the village is a trading centre for lemons. And every idiot knows that where people eat lemons, sickness runs away.”
His anxiety grew as each mile brought him closer into ever-dense stands of lush green trees, heavily burdened with ripening yellow fruit.
His dreams of a few minutes before dissolved into a red haze of anger. His fists drew tight on the reins, his knuckles white.
By the time he reached the village his jaw was firmly clenched, and rage sent tremors running through his nerves. Indeed, such was his ire tht when he reached the old physician’s house he had forgotten all courtesy, all respect due the older man.
“What do you mean by this?” He demanded as he leapt from his cart.
The old man, sitting peacefully under a shade tree, stared in amazement. “Just what do you mean?” he retorted.
“Why did you call me here? What am I to do here? This infernal village stands surrounded by lemon trees. , so what use has it for a doctor?”
He paused, seeing a look of perplexity on the old man’s features.
“Don’t you understand me” Don’t you know that the Scriptures say the people who eat lemons never get sick? Why the Shastras say lemons are nature’s perfect medicine and kept the system free of almost every disease.”
A gleam of understanding shone from the old man’s eye as he looked the angry man over. Smiling, he said, “Don’t worry. There’s nothing to be upset about.”
“Nothing to be upset about?” he asked the young man, For now it was his turn to be perplexed.
“Do you remember what the Scriptures say about eating the seeds of lemons?” asked the old doctor, smiling broadly now.
For a second the younger man stood immersed in thought, his anger gone.
“Yes,” came the reply. “The Shastras say not to eat them.”
The veteran practitioner chuckled, ”I have lived here all my life, free from worry or want. And so you shall too. You see, people here eat the seeds.”*
*Guava and pomegranate seeds (which should be swallowed whole), and tomato and pepper seeds are good for cleansing the system; but all bad tasting seeds are not. Lemon seeds are notoriously bitter and irritate the delicate tissues of the digestive system
Here are a few of the medicinal applications of the lemon, drawn from the treatises of Ayurvedic medicine:
1. For any acidity or gastritis: Following morning centering activities , drink the juice of one lemon in a glass of lukewarm water. Add a pinch of black salt (available from Indian import stores) if possible.
2. For any stomach upset or indigestion: the juice of one lemon in a glass of warm water to which a quarter teaspoon of powdered, roasted cumin and a pinch of black salt and freshly ground black pepper have been added. Use salt or honey to taste.
3. For nausea of all types: eat one lemon in half and heat both halves with open surface upon a hot frying pan until the juice inside the fruit boils. Sprinkle salt on one half, sugar on the other, and suck the juice form both.
4. For diarrhoea: heat the juice of one lemon to lukewarm, add the freshly squeezed juice of one lemon and a pinch of black pepper. Drink at once.
5. For severe gastritis conditions the following is suggested:
Fill a clay or glass crock with fresh, whole lemons which have first been washed in warm water and dried with a clean towel. Cover the lemons completely with crystalline (rock salt) co, cover tightly and store in direct sunlight for 40 days, stirring daily with a perfectly dry, clean wooden spoon. After the 40 days, remove the lemons, wash and place in a clean crock. Now cover with honey (a natural preservative) and keep for use as needed. Take one-quarter lemon four times daily until condition improves.
6. One piece of lemon pickle daily, eaten with food, forestalls all stomach disorders. Here’s the recipe:
Wash 25 lemons in warm water and clean with a dry cloth. Now slice into one-eighth sections.
Juice half the sections, then place both juiced and un-juiced sections in a large clay or glass crock, keeping the juice aside. Add the following spice mixture to the sections stirring well: One ounce ground cumin; one ounce ground coriander; one-half ounce black (red) cardamom, ground; one quarter ounce freshly ground black pepper; one-eighth ounce nutmeg; two tablespoons of salt; four tablespoons sugar. Now add juice, stir and cover. Keep in direct sunlight for 40 days.
This medicine can only improve with age and stops the development of gastric troubles in the system Be certain that no water or wet utensils are ever allowed to touch the mixture. If this happens, a mold is likely to form at the top. If mold develops, skim it off with a clean, dry spoon and discard all lemon pieces which have become discoloured – then replace in the sun until all traces disappear.
As a general rule lemons should be stored only in glass or ceramic containers. Never keep lemons on or in metal. Lemons , especially the juice, dissolves metallic oxides into solution –oxides which can be harmful to the system.
Here’s another Indian folk-tale about lemons to illustrate the most common use for this excellent fruit:
There was once a young man who mastered the art of eating the finest of foods in the best of all inns and restaurants – all without paying a single shell.
What was his secret? The lemon, of course.
This young man would simply walk into a posh eating establishment and take his seat across from someone who was just about to be served.
Smiling, he would withdraw a lemon from a pouch at his waist. Then, with elaborate ritual, he would wash and dry the bright yellow fruit – all with an expression of intense concentration sure to arouse the interest of his mark. Finally, he would reach into his pouch again, draw out an ornately jeweled knife and with the precision and care of a master diamond cutter, slice the lemon in half – following of occurs a most careful scrutiny of the cutting plane.
By this time his mark would have received his plate. At this point we should mention that a meal in India is not complete without a good-sized helping of dahl, lentils. And dahl, like all beans, is notorious for producing gas.
His ritual through, the young man would offer half the lemon to his companion, a radiant smile on his face.
“Please,” he would say in the most charming of voice, ”have some lemon with your dahl. Lemon is nature’s most wonderful food, and if you take the pure juice with your dahl you’ll never be troubled with upset stomach on digestive problems. Please allow me to squeeze some onto your plate.”
Flattered, the mark inevitably accepted and equally inevitably was the conversation which followed.
“Aren’t you eating now?”
“No, perhaps a little later.”
“You must join me. You’ve been very gracious.”
“Perhaps a little later …”
“Very well. If you insist, I would be most ungracious to do anything other than accept.”
From this tale comes the colloquialism “lemon squeezer,” the Indian equivalent of “sharp operator.”