Benefits of Drinking Lemon Water for Arthritis and Gout

On a white table, a lemon is cut into four slices. Another lemon sits, whole. There are two clear glasses with water and lemon slices, and there's a clear pitcher full of water.

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Lemon water has often been touted as a sort of cure-all for various health conditions, including arthritis and gout. Some claims about its benefits may be overblown, but lemon water does have some health value.

Lemon water will help keep you hydrated. And researchers have studied lemon water as a potential source of ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and antioxidants, which may help reduce inflammation.

Properties and Health Benefits

Lemon is a citrus fruit that's rich in vitamin C and citric acid. Lemon water is simply water that contains at least a few drops of lemon juice. A standard-sized lemon yields about 3.5 tablespoons or 50 grams of lemon juice. A cup of lemon water containing the juice of a whole lemon provides around 20% of your recommended daily dose of vitamin C. 

You can drink lemon water hot or cold, and some people choose to add mint or cucumber slices to their lemon water for a little extra nutrition and flavor.

Lemon water may help reduce some symptoms of arthritis when consumed alongside your normal medicine routine. 

Vitamin C specifically helps arthritis in the following ways:

  • Promoting collagen synthesis and tendon repair.
  • Aids in maintaining the immune system. Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune condition in which your immune system attacks healthy cells, which causes inflammation in your joints.
  • It is an antioxidant that protects against free radicals, which are unstable molecules that can damage cells. These free radicals are thought to be involved in illnesses like arthritis.

Lemon Nutrition Facts

According to the USDA, a cup of lemon water containing the juice of one lemon has:

  • Around 19 milligrams (mg) of vitamin C 
  • About 11 calories
  • Almost 10 micrograms of folate, a vitamin that prevents anemia
  • 49 mg of potassium, an electrolyte mineral that helps your muscles and nerves function

Besides placing its juice in water, other parts of the fruit and other ways of using lemons are also beneficial.

Peel: The peel contains vitamin C, calcium, and small amounts of fiber. You may want to zest the lemon to add to your lemon water. Before using the peel, make sure to wash the lemon thoroughly.

Extract: Lemon extract also presents several potential health benefits. While lemon juice comes from the inside part of the fruit, lemon extract is made from the peel. Animal models examining the effects of citrus peel extract on high cholesterol levels have been promising.

Aromatherapy: Many people who use lemon essential oils for aromatherapy claim that the scent helps them feel more focused. A small 2016 study found that it helped reduce anxiety after orthopedic surgery. A 2014 study found that smelling lemon essential oils may also help stave off pregnancy nausea and morning sickness.

Benefits for Arthritis and Gout Patients

When you have arthritis or gout, it's important to stay hydrated, and drinking enough water is the best way to do that. Lemon water can be a healthier alternative to sodas or sugary beverages and it also has specific benefits for arthritis.

First, vitamin C may prevent the onset of arthritis in the first place. A 2004 study found that people who get 40 mg of vitamin C a day are significantly more likely to develop inflammatory arthritis than those people who consume 40 to 65 mg.

Vitamin C can prevent future arthritis symptoms. Patients need vitamin C  to maintain strong joints and recover from injuries. At least one study has found that arthritis patients who consume high doses of vitamin C show reduced long-term damage to their joints.

Pain Reduction

For people who already have arthritis, vitamin C may reduce pain.

A 2017 article in The Journal of Translational Medicine, reviewed numerous studies linking daily high-dose vitamin C supplementation with reduced chronic pain, including for people with arthritis. Patients with RA showed particularly positive results after taking the vitamin to reduce their pain.

How does this pain relief work? Researchers hypothesized that vitamin C operates like a weaker opioid medication, making it an especially effective analgesic for patients struggling with skeletal, joint, or muscular pain. 

Recommended Daily Intake of Vitamin C

Men can meet the recommended daily dose of vitamin C (90 mg) by drinking 5 cups of lemon water. Women can meet their vitamin C daily dose (75 mg) in 4 cups of lemon water.

A cup with water and a slice of lemon

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How to Make Lemon Water

To prepare lemon water, squeeze the juice of one lemon into a cup of cold or warm water, depending on your preference. You may choose to add lemon zest to enhance the taste and nutritional benefit. For the juice of one lemon, include at least 8 ounces (250 ml) of water.

Side Effects and Risk Factors

In moderation, lemon water can be a part of a healthy diet. Nonetheless, lemons are high in acid, which can have some harmful effects. People with cavities or weak teeth should avoid drinking lemon water, as should people who are allergic to citrus. 

Dentists warn patients to avoid eating or drinking too many acidic foods that may damage their tooth enamel. Over time, highly acidic foods—like lemons—can erode your enamel and lead to tooth pain or decay.

To protect your teeth, dilute your lemon juice with plenty of water and rinse your mouth with water immediately after finishing your cup of lemon water. Avoid drinking lemon water with sugar. If you drink lemon water frequently, consider using a soft-bristle toothbrush and fluoride toothpaste. 

An older 2004 Duke research study done in guinea pigs indicated that too much vitamin C could actually worsen knee osteoarthritis symptoms. While this study did not evaluate how high doses of vitamin C impact human subjects, you should consult your healthcare provider about these risks if you are at risk of osteoarthritis or have been diagnosed with the condition.

A Word From Verywell

Lemon water is not a miracle cure for your arthritis and it is not meant to substitute any of your current medicines or arthritis treatments. However, vitamin C and water are vital for maintaining your health, whether consumed together or separately.

11 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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Additional Reading

By Laken Brooks
Laken Brooks (she/hers) is a freelance writer with bylines in CNN, Inside Higher Ed, Good Housekeeping, and Refinery29. She writes about accessibility, folk medicine, and technology.