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Lemon douches for HIV prevention
|STATUS: Ineffective. This does not work. The juice of lemons and limes have been proposed for the prevention of HIV infection. Recent research, unfortunately, strongly suggests that this treatment is not effective.|
Lemons as contraceptives
Lemons have been used traditionally as contraceptives in a number of cultures. A piece is inserted, with skin intact, into the vagina to block the passage of sperm, while the acid of the juice acts to demobilize the sperm.
PLEASE NOTE: New research (September 2007 and later) raises safety and efficacy concerns.
"Lime juice up to 20% concentration has an acceptable safety profile for vaginal use. However, as new in vitro research shows that the effectiveness of lime juice to prevent HIV transmission in concentrations lower than >or=50% is unlikely and concentrations of 50% have been shown to be toxic, women should be discouraged from commencing or continuing the vaginal use of lime juice" See talk page for further discussion.
In 2011, Prof Roger Short, the scientist who originally researched and advocated the idea, stated: -
I think one of the hardest things in life is to prove yourself completely wrong, and that is what I have done with the lemon juice... Maybe it is a mistake to talk to the media about your inspired ideas, because 99% of your ideas are wrong. But I did have quite a lot of media coverage, which helped because we were able to raise from physicians in Australia and New Zealand about $15,000 and mount a clinical trial in Jos, Nigeria, of prostitutes, some of whom were already using lemon juice and had been for a decade or more, and some who had never used it. We looked at 398 female sex workers in Jos, a quarter of whom said that they were using lemon juice either just before or just after sex as a douche, and three-quarters of whom said that they never used it. These girls had never been tested for HIV, so we tested them all. The results showed that exactly 48% of both groups were HIV positive. No evidence of any beneficial effect of the douching. I was shattered: to actually shoot yourself down in flames!
— Roger Short
"There are estimated to be 5 million new HIV infections per year with more women than men now becoming infected. This highlights the desperate need for a cheap, readily available, female controlled microbicide."
Lemon juice is a known spermicide. It also inactivates the HIV virus in vitro. "Intravaginal lemon juice applied prior to intercourse has been used as a contraceptive by women around the Mediterranean for more than 300 years. We have confirmed the contraceptive properties of lemon juice by showing that a 20% final concentration of lemon juice in fresh human ejaculate irreversibly immobilises 100% of sperm in under 30 seconds. Even today, intravaginal lemon and lime juice douches are used by women in Nigeria to protect themselves from pregnancy and supposedly from sexually transmitted infections. Lime or lemon juice added to cultures of HIV has the ability to inactivate the virus." 
As stated above, this has not translated to effective protection against HIV in real-world use.
Anke Hemmerling, Roger Short
- Reprod Fertil Dev. 2004;16(5):555-9. The HIV/AIDS pandemic: new ways of preventing infection in men. Short RV.
- Sex Health. 2005;2(4):237-9. Use of lemon or lime juice douches in women in Jos, Nigeria. Imade GE, Sagay AS, Onwuliri VA, Egah DZ, Potts M, Short RV.
- "we had shown that lemon juice is a very effective spermicide because of its acidity, it has a pH of about 2.4 and it irreversibly immobilises sperm within a second of contact. We know that Casanova died a wealthy man because he didn't have any alimony to pay to his mistresses because he insisted that they all used half a lemon to put in their vagina before sex. That is still one of the most effective contraceptives that we know of because of the lemon juice coming up against the cervix plus the mechanical barrier of the lemon peel stops any sperm getting through the cervix." - The long and the short of Roger - The Science Show - ABC Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
- Hemmerling A, et. al. Lime juice as a candidate microbicide? An open-label safety trial of 10% and 20% lime juice used vaginally. J Womens Health. 2007 Sep;16(7):1041-51.)
- The long and the short of Roger - The Science Show - ABC Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)
- Lemon and Lime juice as potent natural microbicides Roger Short, 2,3Scott G. McCoombe, Clare Maslin, Eman Naimand Suzanne Crowe.