Lemons are so common now that it is surprising to discover how recently they were cultivated in Europe. Although known to the Romans, it was only in the Renaissance and the great age of sea exploration that lemon production really took off.
The uses of lemons vary from cooking to cleaning fluid, where the aromatic scent is often included to mask more invasive chemical smells, while the Vitamin C, or ascorbic acid, in lemon juice is itself a powerful cleaning agent. This has antibacterial and antiseptic properties which can fight off dirt and infections.
It was discovered in the 18th century that including citrus fruit in the diet of seafarers helped reduce the incidence of scurvy, but it wasn't until the 1930s that the existence of vitamin C was deduced and its structure mapped out. Tests then identified the correlation between vitamin C intake and the incidence of scurvy and other skin diseases.
Lemon juice is still used to treat skin conditions such as age spots, wrinkles and acne, while cosmetic treatments include hair and skin lightening. Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant, acting against free radicals to reduce damage in the immune system and fight off serious infections.