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Citric Acid

Veterinarian Reviewed on June 20, 2012 by Paulina Nelega, RH
Posted in Uncategorized

Citric Acid


Citric acid is classified as a somewhat weak organic acid. This acid however is used as a natural preservative plus it also adds an acidic flavor to food as well. Citric acid is used as a cleaning agent and is also found as an additive in many other skin care products that promote natural beauty and whitening properties.
Citric acid may be a weak acid but it may also cause a slight stinging and burning sensation when applied to skin especially to mucous membranes. This acid is found in great amounts in many citrus fruits and vegetables.

History and Origin

The discovery of citric acid was first done in Persia by alchemist Jabir Ibn Hayyan in the 8th century. The popularity of citric acid plus its properties eventually spread to Europe during the 13th century and was published in the Speculum Maius encyclopedia or The Great Mirror which was written by Vincent of Beauvais. Further historically important dates for citric acid was in 1784 when it was first isolated in lemon juice by Swede chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele. Large scale production of this acid was first done by an Italian citrus fruit factory in 1890.

Ancient Uses

Uses of citric acid during ancient times was unheard of; citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons and limes were basically used as food and to treat simple illnesses of the gastrointestinal system. Rinds of these fruits were used as poultices for burns and also for open wounds. Extracts or juices of these fruits were also used for many therapeutic properties as well as an overall tonic for good health.

Modern Uses

Citric acid during today’s modern times is primarily used in the food industry as a flavoring for beverages, jams and for carbonated drinks. Because of the sour and tangy flavor of this acid, it is primarily used for marinades for meats, poultry and fish; it also has properties that break down animal protein which in turn tenderizes the meat making it ideal for cooking. Citric acid is also used in the food preservation industry, preserving the color and flavor of canned foods such as mushrooms, corn, beans and other canned vegetables.

Citric acid is also used in making liquid detergents; it increases the effectiveness of cleaning products plus it is effective in breaking down tough dirt such as grease and oil. Household cleaners made from citric acid are considered to be environmentaly friendly cleaners. This acid is also included in soaps and hair care products since it has the ability to adjust the pH in a solution and does not cause chemical build up in hair.
Citric acid is also used for its disinfectant properties in the hospital setting as well as an ingredient of industrial strength cleaners as well.

Side Effects

It is important to use protective equipment or clothing when handling cleaning products made from pure citric acid since it may cause skin, eye and mucous membrane irritation and inflammation.
Dental experts advice to lessen consumption of citric acid since it can discolor teeth and may even erode the tooth enamel. High concentrations of this acid may cause blindness if accidentally splashed in eyes and may also bleach hair.

Read also: Alopecia Areata

Our Expert

Paulina Nelega, RH
Paulina Nelega, RH, has been in private practice as a Clinical Herbalist for over 15 years. She has developed and taught courses in herbal medicine, and her articles on health have appeared in numerous publications. She is very passionate about the healing power of nature. Ask Dr. Jan

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