And dulling tastes of happy Citron fruit, Than which, no helpe more present can be had, If any time stepmothers worse than brute have poyson’d pots, and mingled herbs of sute With hurtfull charmes: this Citron fruit doth chase Blacke venome from the body in every place.
~ Virgil 70 BC – 19 BC
Lemon fruit (Citrus limon) has an interesting history primarily because historians don’t know much about it. One thing they do know is that the lemon tree is a small evergreen native to Asia. Other than that, its origin is quite mysterious. Some believe that lemons originally grew in the Northeast Indian state Assam. Yet, others claim that Burma and China should claim their native birthright. To add some more fun to the “what’s the truth behind the lemon” search, University of California botanists claim that lemon is actually not a true species of fruit, but is a hybrid (possibly of sour orange and citron).
Because of this uncertainty, no one really can date the use of lemon and lemon essential oil (EO) with any certainty. From what we can tell, Ayurvedic medicine has been using both to treat a wide spectrum of health conditions for at least 1,000 years. And Josephus’ historical account even tells us that the Jews used lemons to pelt an errant high priest during a 90 BC festival!