In addition to vitamin C and the terpene limonene which gives citrus its characteristic scent, citrus peel contains many beneficial flavonoids including quercetin and hesperidin. The bitter taste of some of the phytonutrients helps health in many ways throughout the body.
The group of bitter taste receptors can perform functions besides perceiving taste sensations on the tongue. Bitter tasting nutrients or medicines can activate taste receptors in other parts of the body that cause different functions depending on the cell and tissue. In lung tissue airways open, mucus production increases and is thinned with more fluid and cilia move it up and out - protection against inhaling irritants that are bitter possibly. Within the digestive and circulatory system bitter taste receptors help with blood sugar control, decrease appetite and may help with weight control. Use of citrus bioflavonoids are being studied for asthma treatment, and for Metabolic Syndrome. See: Bitter taste receptors in the lungs & Hesperidin's decongestant properties.
The inner pith of citrus peel is mild in flavor compared to the outer zest layer. Medicinally also the pith is less potent, more would be needed to provide the same amount of bitter taste receptor activation. The amount needed to clear congestion and asthma symptoms for a few hours might be 1/2-one Navel orange with the white pith left on the orange wedges or about one to two teaspoons of the outer zest minced and added as a fresh garnish on soup or salad. Citrus peel is also used as a jam or chutney or in candied citrus peel for baking or dipping in chocolate. (Citrus and other fruit peel jam recipes) (Hesperidin and Quercetin content in Citrus peel.)
Dried lime or lemon powder is available in Middle Eastern markets and might be in canisters for sprinkling on at the table or as whole dried limes.
Tangerine peel is dried for a Traditional Chinese Medicinal herb called Chinpi. It might be made into a tea along with a few other herbs in a blend for respiratory or digestive conditions. Citrus peel tea, water extract of chinpi, has been found beneficial for remyelinating nerves which can be a degenerative problem with few known treatments. (1)
Hesperidin has been studied for a variety of health conditions and may be helpful as a prevention or treatment for COVID-19 infection. "Hesperidin can block coronavirus from entering host cells through ACE2 receptors which can prevent the infection." (2) Chinpi is a recommended treatment for the non-productive cough stage of CoV-19 in Chinese health guidance for individuals or practitioners. (3)
More about the role of ACE2 receptors inCOVID-19infection is available in this post along with foods that may help with diarrhea and inflammatory bowel symptoms. (ACE2, Diarrhea, & COVID19 – it gets complicated.)
Quercetin may also have antiviral benefits as a zinc ionophore. Zinc is also an essential trace mineral involved in gene transcription of the protein that forms taste receptors. Lack of sense of smell and taste can be a symptom of zinc deficiency and can be a symptom of COVID19. Older adults may need more zinc then the standard recommendation in order to promote thymus gland function - necessary to make antibodies.
Both the inner pith of citrus fruits and the outer zest layer have anti-viral phytonutrients. Hesperidin is found in both layers but is more prevalent in the inner pith. It has bitter taste receptor activity but is less bitter than other bioflavonoids and terpenes found in the zest layer. The pectin and fiber content of the inner pith gives it a slightly sweet taste and it is less bitter than the zest.
A serving of the inner layer might be half of a Navel orange peeled so the pith can be eaten with the fruit slices. A serving of the tangy zest layer is more like a 1/2 to one teaspoon minced and added as a salad topper or on steamed broccoli.
Extracts or strong teas use whole peels, but then discard the remains. The concentrated extract or tea is then used in smaller amounts within other beverages or foods.
Our tongue can be quite good at guiding us towards the amount that we need. It will taste good at first and then become too strong seeming as the body gets enough to be satisified. Pay attention and you can improve that awareness of which foods seem to be what you want and how much to eat.
One orange can provide enough citrus peel of the zest potency for more than a week of servings. During a respiratory illness it is soothing on the throat and opens the airways. Citrus bioflavonoids are anti-asthmatic and thin congested mucus. Cilia lining the lung passages also increase in motion, moving the thinner mucus up and out.
Having another serving every 4-6 hours can be helpful during an illness, Once a day or more can be preventive and aid in weight control and prevention of Metabolic Syndrome issues.
Too much is too much. Use of the peel in cooking is an accent - teaspoons not whole peels. Too much peel eaten at once may cause GI discomfort from overactivation of bitter taste receptors within the gut.
If on a budget - mince and dry or freeze the peel to be able to use it gradually.
Larger pieces of peel could be dried to make a long steep tea. It takes longer than a couple minutes like with a teabag. About 20--30 minutes, bring to a boil and then leave covered to steep off the heat or on low heat. Overboiling will breakdown beneficial phytonutrients and reduce or remove the medicinal benefits. Baking does not seem to destroy medicinal benefits but a canned jam is likely to have been overheated.
Middle Eastern groceries have dried lemons and limes either whole, or ground into powder in shaker jars to use at the table. Just sprinkle it on in a generous, but spice equivalent amount - 1/4 teaspoon - a pinch. Dried lime or lemon is tasty with bean, meat, and seafood entrees. Sadaf, Dried Lime Powder, shaker jar, (Amazon) (*I am unaffiliated with any products and companies on this page.)
One or a few dried black or yellow lemons would be added to the stew pot with the chicken or other meat (and discarded after cooking). It is the same type of lemon either sundried, or oven-dried where it blackens and intensifies in flavor according to the site page. (hashems.com)
(Wu, et al., 2019) Wu X, Zhao Y, Haytowitz DB, Chen P, Pehrsson PR. Effects of domestic cooking on flavonoids in broccoli and calculation of retention factors. Heliyon. 2019 Mar 7;5(3):e01310. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2019.e01310. PMID: 30899833; PMCID: PMC6407093.
If you are cooking for a lot of people whether a large family or a residential facility - powdered citrus bioflavonoids could be used in various foods. In spoonful amounts it might be not to noticeable in applesauce, yogurt, baked goods, and salads and soups. It would take a little experimentation to find out a tasty ratio to use and which foods work well with it. The individual serving is small, an 1/8 to a 1/4 teaspoon once or more per day. It can help cardiovascular health.
Example bulk: Citrus Bioflavonoids, Monteray Bay Herb Company, (herbco.com)
Caution: People with histamine excess problems might be made worse by an increased use of citrus and might need to avoid it for best health.
Not all combinations of strong flavors are good - add one strong flavor to something milder or with one other strong flavor.
Citrus works well with almonds, cashews, broccoli or cauliflower, peas, onions, beans, chicken and fish or beef. Citrus works well with oregano, basil, and garlic, or with ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric in curries. Citrus is nice with tarragon on fish or white beans. Citrus, cinnamon, cloves, and ginger are good in a hot apple cider Lemon poppyseed is a classic combination in baking. Candied orange peel is used in baking and in chocolate candies. Slices of whole orange are gently stewed with brown sugar to make very soft cooked sugary orange peel. Bitter and sweet is a good combination.
Candied orange peel more typically is fully candied rather than left as a sauce to use in baked goods. This recipe's author, Sommer Collier, emphasizes only gently cooking the peel for 20 minutes to retain the full vibrancy of the color - which is also retaining the medicinal benefits - an easy way to know if you overcooked it is if it turns pale.
Sugar gets demonized now, but a little within a healthy diet is not that big a problem - unless it sets off an over-eating tendency, then avoidance may be easier. Our tongues will adjust to becoming more sensitized to smaller amounts of 'sweet' once really sugary things are avoided. The orange will taste far more sweet if candy is not part of the daily diet too.
Not all "sugar" is the same. Pure maple syrup adds a good amount of nutrients along with the sugar and raw honey also contains an anti-cancer phytonutrient..
Other classic citrus combinations include vanilla and orange - the Orange Creamcicle - made into a frothy drink by the Orange Julius restaurant franchise. A recreation of the recipe uses frozen orange juice concentrate and vanilla with egg white powder to add the frothiness. Citrus bioflavonoid powder or a little fresh citrus zest could add nicely to the recipe - think accent though, not the whole peel!
ASpicyPerspecitive.com is a very nice website - easy to use, pretty, and the recipe guidance and ingredients are nicely done - likely to be repeatable by the average cook. Kudos to the creator Sommer Collier. She has recipe card/graphics with the ingredients at the end of the text and how-to's section of the posts. This link is a search of the site for "citrus peel" - and there are many recipes to pick from.
Which is a good thing because too much quinine can cause organ damage. There is a recipe floating around for 'quinine syrup' made from citrus peels which I fact-checked. There was a recipe in New York Times for "Quinine Syrup" that includes grapefruit and orange peel with Cinchona Bark which is the source of quinine. Since that earlier article the same basic recipe seems to be floating around except without the Cinchona Bark. The Citrus peel extract would be a strong anti-viral and likely helpful against chimeric spike issues - and it would not be a source of a random unknown amount of quinine from a homemade extract because it doesn't have the Cinchona bark. Cirtus peel is safer than quinine/Cinchona bark.
Grapefruit peel tastes astoundingly like grapefruit and can be interesting to add the unusual accent to a stir-fry or other foods. Caution with use of grapefruit when taking certain medications as grapefruit can affect the dosing.
Disclaimer: Opinions are my own and the information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.
Jennifer Depew, R.D.
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