Genital WartsHIV/AIDSLemon/Lime

Critiquing the rationale for using lime juice douche vaginally

Lime has been used as a contraceptive and vaginal hygiene douche, particularly in Africa.

This study reports the safety of diluted lime juice. But let’s start with some background.

Apparently, it’s believed among some Africans that flushing the vagina (or washing the penis) with lime juice after sex might reduce new infections of HIV.

“Most scientists,” according to an article in National Geographic, “seem to agree that citric acid can kill the HIV virus. But critics warn that the treatment could be potentially harmful at high concentrations, whereas lower concentrations may not strong enough to be effective.”

Here are the details of the study.

  • 25 sexually abstinent women were randomly assigned to apply a 10% or 20% concentration of lime juice or 0% (water-only) through a soaked tampon once daily for 14 consecutive days.
  • The women were tested for genital infections, inflammation, and biomarkers.
  • The vaginal and cervical linings were examined before and after treatment.

And, the results.

  • Nobody experienced severe vaginal irritation.
  • 2 women developed a yeast infection after using limejuice.
  • More than 70% of women in all groups reported side effects.
  • 20% diluted lime juice was associated with a significantly higher frequency of burning and dryness.
  • There was no vaginal inflammation.
  • The naturally low vaginal pH showed little change, and lactobacilli colonization did not decrease.

The bottom line?
The authors concluded, “Lime juice up to 20% concentration has an acceptable safety profile for vaginal use.”

However, at this concentration it had no effect on lactobacilli, and preliminary research that I can find suggests that concentrations of lime juice in excess of 50% are required to kill HIV. Yet, when concentrations reach 25% there is damage to the cells of the vagina and penis.

Theoretically, using concentrated lime juice might have a role to protect from infection. However, the concentrations required to kill HIV are associated with tissue damage. And there is a risk that damage to the vaginal lining and the penis caused by highly concentrated lime juice might (theoretically) provide a portal for passage of HIV into the circulation and increase the risk of HIV infection.

10/1/07 21:16 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.