Citrus peels prevent cancer

Phytomedicine. 2018 Nov 15;50:231-237. doi: 10.1016/j.phymed.2017.08.011. Epub 2017 Aug 17.


Background: Citrus comprises the largest fruit sector worldwide, and its fruit peels are the dominant 'residue' of the industry. Though not profitable, Citrus peels are industrially used for making some byproducts (cattle feed, molasses, ethanol, fiber) and for the extraction of bioactives (flavonoids, essential oils, d-limonene). Still huge amounts of peels are wasted by Citrus industries, juice and other vending sectors.

Purpose: The biological potentials of these unutilized or 'wasted' Citrus peels are least exploited. Here we tested the anticancer potentials of Citrus medica (2 morphotypes), C. sinensis, C. maxima, C. limon and C. reticulata peels by in vitro assays and in vivo cancer models.

Methods: Chemical profiles of Citrus peel oils and peel extracts were analyzed by gas chromatographic techniques (GC-FID, GC-MS) and HPTLC-densitometry, respectively. Anticancer potentials of Citrus peels (Citrus medica 2 morphotypes, C. sinensis, C. maxima, C. limon and C. reticulata) were evaluated by various in vitro assays (MTT assay, morphological observations, fast halo assay, flow cytometric analysis) and in vivo cancer models.

Results: C. reticulata peels (extracts, essential oils) showed significant activity against DLA cell line in MTT assay. We found C. reticulata peel water extract inducing cell cycle arrest of DLA in G0/G1 phase followed by nuclear condensation, membrane blebbing, formation of apoptotic bodies and DNA damage leading to apoptosis. In in vivo experiments, C. reticulata peel extract pre-treated mice were significantly (50%) protected from DLA compared to post-treated mice (33%), without any conspicuous toxic symptoms. Citrus peels have volatiles (essential oils, limonoids) and non-volatiles (mainly polymethoxy flavones) as their bioactive/anticancer constituents.

Conclusion: Our results encourage the use of Citrus peels, which is wasted in huge amounts, as cancer preventive food additives and as anticancer agents.

Keywords: Anticancer; Bioactives; Citrus peel; DLA cell line; In vitro assays; In vivo model.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Citrus / chemistry*
  • Flavonoids / pharmacology
  • Fruit / chemistry*
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Limonene / pharmacology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / drug therapy*
  • Oils, Volatile / pharmacology*
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plant Oils / pharmacology*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Flavonoids
  • Oils, Volatile
  • Plant Extracts
  • Plant Oils
  • Limonene