Detoxifying with the lemon diet

Detoxifying with the lemon diet

By Janine Leach ND, DO, PhD, HonMFPHM


What is the lemon diet?


The Lemon Diet is one of the easiest fasts I have used in my career as a naturopath. It is a liquid diet regime based on a totally natural drink made from a special organic tree syrup, mixed with fresh lemon juice, spring water, pinch of cayenne pepper and ginger.

The tree syrup is a blend of maple and palm tree syrups designed to provide a balance of minerals and trace elements. The fresh lemon juice provides vitamin C and potassium, and helps to dissolve mucus and waste. The cayenne pepper adds to the flavour, as well as a stimulatory heating effect, which speeds cleansing and elimination.


Origin of the regime


Fasting has long been an important part of the naturopathic approach to helping the body heal itself. Fasting rests the digestive system, permits detoxyfication, and stimulates the immune system to speed recovery. Naturopaths use fasting both for treating acute infestions, and also for chronic conditions where congestion is a feature, to stimulate elimination, such as asthma, sinusitis, cholecystitis, skin conditions and colitis. There are many types of fast, such as purely water, or mono-diet of grapes. Many naturopaths may remember the Stanley Borroughs “Lemonade Diet”. Stanley Borroughs was a naturopath who developed the Lemonade Diet in the 1950s for a patient with a stomach ulcer. His booklet called The Master Cleanser described the drink, which originally used organic maple syrup with lemon juice. He describes the fast and its varied uses. Then in the 1980s Burroghs went to Switzerland to work with a team of practitioners including a naturopath, a homeopath and an Ayurvedic and orthodox doctor to develop an improved version. They developed a mix of syrups that would give a better balance of minerals to support the body during the fast and improve the patient’s nutritional status. This unique syrup blend is the basis of the Lemon Diet.

The product was first marketed in Switzerland in the mid-1980s. The present company director was one of the original team who developed the syrup blend. The booklet The Lemon Diet quickly became a bestseller in Denmark. It was translated into Spanish in 1992 and is now in its 28th edition. Currently, over one-and-a-half million litres of the tree syrup are consumed each year in 33 countries, mainly prescribed by naturopaths, homeopaths and Ayurvedic doctors.


What does it contain?


The syrup comes from the sap of five types of trees – the maple tree and four rare Asian palm trees – all growing naturally and organically. The maple sap comes from Bird’s Eye maple trees of North America. Trees need to be over 40 years old to extract sap without harming the tree, and the sap can only be extracted during a few months of the year. This pure syrup is very different from most maple syrups sold in shops, which can be over 90% artificially synthesized from sugar and corn syrup.

The palm syrup comes from the sap of the Arenga, Kita, Nipah and Palmyra palm trees, which grow in forests in different areas of South East Asia. The sap from each type of tree is extracted using techniques introduced and monitored by Swiss aid workers. The sap is carefully turned into syrup, and then the syrups are blended and canned. No sugars, preservatives or chemicals processes are used.


Nutritional Content


The syrup is high in natural plant sugars, which provide the body with energy during the fast and satisfy hunger pangs. The calorie content is about 300 calories per 100 g. A typical daily intake of ten glasses therefore provides about 600 calories.

The mineral content is rich in potassium, manganese and zinc. The ratios of calcium to magnesium and sodium to potassium are almost ideal for the human body’s needs.


Table 1. Mineral Content of the Syrup


Mineral Content

Mg per 100g


















Table 2. Syrup Composition


Composition G per 100g
Water 23.3
Protein 0.56
Fats 0.30
Carbohydrates (fruit sugars) 74.6


The Diet Regime


The diet originated as a ten-day regime (five days for those not used to fasting) under the supervision of a practitioner. The ten-day fast should not be carried out too frequently. Even for weight loss, the maximum frequency is repeated ten-day fasts with four weeks or more between each one.

Most adults benefit from a fast once or twice a year. However, because of the high xenobiotic load most of us carry due to chemical pollution in the environment, many toxins are released into the blood stream during a fast. These are more toxic to the brain than in the past, and naturopaths now may recommend more frequent, shorter fasts, such as three days per month.

As with any fast it is extremely important to start with motivation! It is equally important to break the fast very slowly; to waken a sleeping digestive system with proteins and fats can cause serious illness such as kidney damage. First fruit juices are introduced, then fruits, followed by light foods over a few days.

During the fast, only the recommended liquids are taken, together with any prescribed medication as advised by the patient’s doctor, or homeopathic medication prescribed by a practitioner. No solid foods are taken, or vitamins, non-prescription drugs or other supplements. Patients should be able to continue their normal activities because the drink contains a good balance of nutrients and provides 600-800 calories per day, though endurance may be somewhat reduced, and during the fast the first 1-2 days they may experience headache or dizziness as the toxins enter the bloodstream.

Light exercise and breathing exercises are a great complement as they increase blood flow and elimination of toxins through the skin and mucous membranes. Similarly saunas and steam baths are helpful. Colon cleansing is also very important. We recommend at least 3 colonic irrigation treatments with your detox: before during and after the cleanse.


Before the Fast


Patients need to stock up with lemons, spring water, cayenne pepper, herbal teas, ginger and a litre of Madal Bal tree syrup.

The day before starting your detox – have colon hydrotherapy.


Daily Regime during the Fast


Make 1-2 litres of lemon drink. For a 1 litre bottle use 70 ml Madal Bal tree syrup, 70 ml fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons) topped up with spring water or hot water you normally use to make tea. This is the daily supply to be taken either warm or cold with a pinch of cayenne pepper and some ginger.

During the day, drink at least 1.5 litres of water and herbal teas in addition. Mint teas complements the lemon drink well.


After the fast


The first day after the fast take only fruit or vegetable juices. The second day, take juices and then some veg soup in the evening. The third day after fasting, eat healthy food.




Fasting is not recommended for patients with chronic degenerative diseases, such as cancer, tuberculosis, neurological disorders, diabetis or hyperthyroid patients. Although useful for regulating underweight as well as overweight, it would not be advisable in true anorexia.

The Lemon Diet does provide balanced nutritional support to the body, but there is no formal evidence about adverse effects. Research into the benefits and risks is badly needed. The only known adverse effects are the dizziness and nausea typical of any fasting regime, as mentioned above. Its widespread use and continuing popularity are some indication of its acceptability.

The diet can be conducted unsupervised by a healthy person for short periods, but both practitioners and the supplier, recommend having support, advise and supervision from a practitioner. Special caution is needed if the person is taking medical drugs of any kind. Patients with low blood pressure (hypotension) may need to take a cup of coffee daily when fasting.

Underweight patients can use proportionately more tree syrup (but not lemon juice) per litre of drink, in order to minimise weight loss. Any weight loss is rapidly regained after the fast is completed because of the improvements in appetite, digestion, absorption and organ function.

The regime is not recommended for diabetics. Naturopaths may be interested to know Stanley Borroughs used a modified form of his Lemonade Diet for insulin-dependent diabetic patients, but close supervision would be essential.

Alcoholics and smokers should aim to reduce their intake before the fast; the company claims that cravings are reduced or even eliminated by the fourth day and do not return.


Table 3. Conditions that may Benefit from the Diet


Overweight    – not only for the weight loss, but also for retraining of appetite and taste, reducing cravings for sugars and junk food

Digestive complaints – the diet’s original purpose, resting and cleansing all levels of the digestive tract

Catarrh and sinus syndromes

Skin conditions

Circulatory disorders

Weakness and joint pain

Depression and anxiety

Childhood illness (suitable for children over the age of six years)

Viral infections, coughs and colds


Evidence of Effectiveness


Fasting in various forms has been used for centuries in many cultures for its cleansing and health

promoting effects. Adults and children who are Hindu or Muslim regularly practise fasting (e.g. Ramadan)

in the East and the West. Fasting has not been extensively researched, but there is perhaps more formal

evidence than you might imagine, especially in studies of patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

In France, the fast is taught and used by the homeopathic training college set up by Dr. Catherine   Kousmine, and is used in her clinics as a basic preparatory treatment to retrain patients in healthier eating habits. Practitioners report that homeopathic medicine are outstandingly effective during the diet.


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