Lemon juice is a popular ingredient used in fresh lemonade, facial tonics, and natural household cleaning recipes. Folk medicine says this vitamin C-rich juice may even dissolve kidney stones, yet science remains inconclusive on these claims. But, science does agree that lemon juice may support kidney health; on the other end of that stick, lemon juice is by no means a cure all for kidney stones. Regardless of the ambiguity, lemon juice has potent nutritional benefits for the kidneys, possibly providing protection against kidney stone development. Again, many factors come into play here; however, lemon juice may still be a beneficial addition to the diet of anyone wanting to support the health of their kidneys.
Types of Kidney Stones
Let's quickly examine the types of kidney stones before we fully investigate the benefits of lemon juice on stone development. The main contributors to kidney stones include:
- Cystine – Often the result of a genetic disorder.
- Struvite – Typically develop after a kidney infection.
- Uric Acid – Typically result from overconsuming meat, fish, and shellfish – generally rare.
- Calcium Oxalate – Buildup of calcium deposits in the kidneys – most common.
The Role of Calcium
Calcium is a necessary mineral for the bones, teeth, heart, and nervous system. When the body has excess calcium, the kidneys respond by removing it from the blood and excreting it out through the urine. The concern arises when the body also has excess oxalate, a plant compound found in foods like spinach and kale. This combination can form calcium oxalate, the most common form of kidney stones.
The Benefits of Lemon Juice for Kidney Health
Lemon juice contains high levels of citric acid, not to be confused with ascorbic acid (vitamin C). While lemon juice contains both, citric acid seems to contribute to reducing the chances of developing calcium oxalate stones. In clinical studies, citric acid from lemon juice has been shown to reduce urine acidity, thereby reducing kidney stone incidence.    Vitamin C may also provide protection, yet it is unclear whether or not this protection is as significant as citric acid. Regardless, the bottom line is that lemon juice offers a complementary approach to supporting kidney function and, depending on the type of stones in question, possibly halting formation before it starts.
How Much Lemon Juice Should You Consume?
Two to four ounces of lemon juice offers plenty of citric acid and a variety of other nutrients and antioxidants, all of which may be helpful for supporting kidney health. Always consume lemon juice in its raw, natural form by juicing organic lemons yourself. Never purchase bottled lemon juice, as these products are usually pasteurized and stripped of their raw enzymes and vital nutrients. Take a shot of it by itself or add it to smoothies, mix it with hot water and some raw honey, or make your own lemonade by combining fresh lemon juice with cold water. If you like your lemonade on the sweeter side, I suggest adding stevia.
- Aras B1, Kalfazade N, Tucu V, Kemahli E, Ozbay B, Polat H, Tai AI. Can lemon juice be an alternative to potassium citrate in the treatment of urinary calcium stones in patients with hypocitraturia? A prospective randomized study. Urol Res. 2008 Dec;36(6):313-7. doi: 10.1007/s00240-008-0152-6.
- Zuckerman JM1, Assimos DG. Hypocitraturia: pathophysiology and medical management. Rev Urol. 2009 Summer;11(3):134-44.
- Oussama A1, Touhami M, Mbarki M. In vitro and in vivo study of effect of lemon juice on urinary lithogenesis. Arch Esp Urol. 2005 Dec;58(10):1087-92.
†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.