Lime juice is not a microbicide: do not try at home

Simon Collins, HIV i-Base

Every few years an abstract reports anecdotal use of lemon or lime juice as a douche prior to sex to reduce the risk of HIV transmission. The risk associated with this has been demonstrated by many groups, even when lime/lemon diluted, as the acidity causes tissue damage that is more likely to increase the risk of HIV transmission. [1, 2] It was worrying to see this presented again at an IAS meeting in 2010.

This small in vitro data reported that lime juice negatively impacts on healthy, potentially protective, bacteria. The conclusion that ‘future research should proceed with caution” should instead have reported the currently known risks that obviate the need for additional research. [3]

Of interest, another in vitro study in the Jul 2010 edition of AIDS Research and Therapy using lime, lemon and vinegar similarly concluded “The data from this study and previous reports clearly demonstrate that the use of citrus juices as topical microbicides is potentially more toxic than nonoxynol-9 and thus not recommended for vaginal application.” [4]


  1. Why women should NOT use lemon or lime juice as a microbicide. (June 2008)
  2. Shattock R et al. Preclinical evaluation of lime juice as a topical microbicide candidate. Retrovirology 11 January 2008. doi: 10.1186/1742-4690-5-3.
  3. Onyejepu N et al. Assessing the mutagenicity of lime juice: a potential microbicide. 18th IAS Conference, 18–23 July 2010, Vienna.
  4. Lackman-Smith CS et al. Safety and anti-HIV assessments of natural vaginal cleansing products in an established topical microbicides in vitro testing algorithm. AIDS Research and Therapy 2010, 7:22doi:10.1186/1742-6405-7-22.

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