The lemon tree, Citrus limonum, is a native of the forests of Northern India, occurring elsewhere through the adjacent countries. It has been known from the beginning of written history in its native land, but its mention in Sanskrit literature occurs in more modern times, rather than in antiquity. The Arabian writers gave it the name limun, from the Hindu word limbu, or limu. (See extract from article of Dr. Rice, to follow.) The lemon was unknown to the early inhabitants of Greece and Rome, but it was mentioned in the third and fourth centuries A. D., in the Book of Nabathaean Agriculture. In this connection it may be said that the introduction of the lemon parallels somewhat the record of the orange. The use of the lemon as a grateful acid in drinks and cordials, as well as the peel of the fruit as a flavoring material in medicine, seems to have been known to primitive humanity. Possibly the most authoritative dissertation on the lemon, which embodies the history of the citrus family generally, is that by Dr. Charles Rice (see Frontispiece to this Bulletin), published in New Remedies. August, September, and October, 1878. With his characteristic thoroughness Dr. Rice gives in the body of his work and in numerous foot notes a world of information concerning the derivation of the name of each member of the citrus family used in commerce, together with the record of its products. From his paper we quote, as follows:
- Lemon is from the Arabic lîmûn and this, by way of the Persian, is related to the Hindu limit, limbu, or nimbu. Adam already in his Hindi-Kosha, (Calcutta, 1829), translates the Sanskrit nimbu into Hindi limu. This translation is no doubt correct, but the Sanskrit has evidently coined or adopted the word from the North Indian vernaculars. In Cashmeer it is still called nimbu. There are many names in Sanskrit for the Citrus-fruits, a number of them standing for lemon. The Madanavinoda (explained on p. 231, New Remedies, August, 1878) (399a) mentions two kinds of nimbu (or nimbûka), one of which is sour, and the other sweet. Another native term is nisbu, according to the Sabdakalpadruma. The Medievo-Greek is leimónion lemóne. The lemon is first mentioned in the book on Nabathaean Agriculture, under the name has"a (see Meyer, Gesch. d. Bot. III., 68).
- Dr. Charles Rice, New Remedies, Sept., 1878.
The History of the Vegetable Drugs of the U.S.P., 1911, was written by John Uri Lloyd.