Pucker Up!

It’s hot here in the Southeast. It got up to 93°F yesterday even here in the mountains. I finally had to shut up the house and turn on the air conditioning.

I don’t know about you, but when the temps rise, lemonade is what comes to mind to cool me down.  I’ll admit to being lazy: I make mine from frozen concentrate but I also like it a little more tart than (apparently) most people, so I add the juice of a fresh lemon.

The use of Lemon Citrus limon goes back centuries. Although its origins are unknown, it’s thought it was originally cultivated in India, perhaps as a hybrid of Citron Citrus medica and Bitter Orange Citrus aurantium. It made its way to Italy as early as the 1st century CE and from there to Spain, the Middle East and Africa. Christopher Columbus introduced it to the Americas via Florida. Some scientist in the mid-1700’s figured out the relationship between Vitamin C and scurvy, then found out that citrus fruits are high in Vitamin C. After that, English ships were required to carry enough lemons or limes to prevent scurvy in all hands.

One interesting thing I found: Lemon juice was once used to counteract the effects of opium poisoning. I haven’t heard of that in modern times, but it does present a “hmmm” moment when thinking about all the prescription narcotic overdoses you hear about.

I’ve been using lemon for years for more than just lemonade … and not just during the summer.  Using a paste of lemon juice and baking soda does a wonderful job cleaning the kitchen and bath. It makes all the chrome nice & shiny and everything smells fresh. Although I abhor using ‘antibacterial’ cleaning products, I get a little of that when I use lemon juice. Manufacturers have gotten on the bandwagon – I see all sorts of ‘lemon’ cleaning products on the market today. (I’m old enough to remember when “Lemon Pledge” was new. Mom thought it was the best thing since sliced bread because the house smelled so good after I finished dusting.) These products (when they use real ingredients) don’t use the juice but the essential oil, which is pressed or distilled from the peel.

Lemon isn’t just for lemonade or cleaning. It also has a boatload of medicinal uses. It’s a refrigerant (cooling), which is one of the reasons it’s so good on a hot summer day. You can also squeeze a little juice onto a sunburn to ease the pain. Its astringent qualities make it ideal for oily skin; and to help dry up mucus from coughs & colds. I took a page out of an opera singer’s book: when I’m speaking I mix 1 cup hot water with 2 tablespoons lemon juice. It keeps my throat clear. (Add two tablespoons of brandy or whiskey and you’ve got a nice hot toddy.) Applying the fresh peel, white side toward the wound, will help staunch bleeding. Although not specific for this, Lemon can also help calm morning sickness – at least a glass of tart lemonade worked for me.

Speaking of cleaning, you can dilute fresh juice in some water and use this to cleanse magical items. (Or, if you don’t have a fresh lemon around, a couple of drops of essential oil in a cup of water will work, too.) Add it to a purification bath, especially one at the full moon. Lemon is useful in spells about friendship: serve lemon pie or even lemonade to either attract a new friend or ensure a lasting friendship.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s already 88°F in the shade. I need to go get a glass of lemonade.