Citric Acid: Formula, What is Citric Acid? Citric Acid Benefits & Side Effects, Where to Buy Citric Acid Powder?

Citric Acid


Citric acid is a naturally occurring acid which is found in large quantities in fruits -- notably citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons and certain berries. It is a relatively weak acid and has a distinct, sour taste. The citric acid is an integral part of the Krebs cycle and therefore plays an essential role in the metabolism of all living things. The acid was first produced from citrus fruits but this technique was inefficient and only produced small quantities. Today, specific strains of the mold Aspergillus niger are used in the industrial production of the citric acid via a fermentation process. The acid can be found in both liquid and powder (anhydrous) form and is readily available online or in food stores.

Role in Food Industry

The citric acid is widely used in the food industry as an additive because of its low price and its ease of production. The acid is declared safe to consume by all major government food regulatory bodies. When added to food products or beverages, the acid provides a sharp, sour taste which increases appetite and enhances flavor. Certain companies use it to give their food products, such as sweets and soft drinks, an authentic “fruity” flavor. The citric acid is most prevalent in sour candies and gummy bears in the form of a fine white powder, also known as “sour salt”. Some people specifically add citric acid to their food to alter taste.

Besides its use as an additive, the citric acid is also commonly used as a natural food preservative. By increasing acidity, the low pH conditions produced prevent bacterial and fungal growth, therefore prolonging the life of the food or drink. It also helps preserve flavor and maintains pH at a suitable level to prevent food degradation, especially canned food.

Citric acid is also heavily used in the preparation and production of Vitamin C as a flavoring. Note that citric acid and vitamin C (ascorbic acid) are two completely different substances.

In Skin Care Products and Detergents

The citric acid is also commonly found in various natural skin products. It is added to adjust the pH level of creams, lotions and gels to coincide with our natural skin pH level. When topically applied to the skin, citric acid acts as an antioxidant, which helps conceal signs of aging. The acid also exfoliates the skin by removing dead skin cells from the top layer of the skin, thus encouraging new cell growth. Since it is a naturally occurring substance, it rarely causes an allergic reaction and is suitable for most skin types.

In detergents, shampoos and soap, the citric acid is added so that foam is more easily produced. It also increases the efficiency of these products as it helps dissolve stains more quickly. The citric acid is favored over other additives because it is environmentally friendly, biodegradable and is relatively harmless.

Possible Side Effects

While citric acid is generally safe, side effects do occur if an excess of the acid was used or consumed. Some of these side effects include stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting.

People with sensitive skin should avoid using creams containing citric acid as it may cause irritation or a rash to form.

The citric acid is also believed to erode the tooth enamel when consumed frequently, which leads to an increased susceptibility of tooth decay, infections and other various complications.

If you experience any adverse effects after coming into contact with citric acid, immediately consult a medical professional.

What is Citric Acid?

Usually produced in powder form, citric acid is naturally found in citrus fruits. It easily mixes into liquids, making it a valuable acid. Lemons and limes have high concentrations of citric acid, accounting for their bitter taste. Oranges and tangerines are also high in citric acid, though lower than the more bitter citrus fruits. You can find citric acid present in certain berries too, particularly raspberries and blackberries.

Citric acid is used as a flavoring in many preparations of Vitamin C, and has a wide variety of other uses. In industry, citric acid can be used to make good “natural” cleaners, though some may still contain chemicals that are not exactly natural. It’s also now commonly used in preparing photographs.

Citric acid bonds easily to minerals and metals, called chelation. It can help to take certain minerals with citric acid, since the body will more easily digest chelated minerals. For example, some calcium supplements can come in the form of calcium citrate, and are better absorbed by the body.

The ability of citric acid to bond with other minerals can make it helpful in softening water. Soaps and laundry detergents can be more effective when they contain citric acid. It can work well in shampoos because it tends to remove excess minerals from the water. Yet, sometimes a high concentration of citric acid can damage hair, since it opens hair cuticles. It can strip the hair of needed minerals and bleach it.

As a food additive, citric acid is in common use. It can be added to flavor certain drinks, especially soft drinks. It works well as a meat tenderizer because it tends to break down the meat proteins. However, it is bitter — one of its main uses in food is to make certain candy sour.

When you buy sour candies, you may note many of them are covered with a fine white powder. This is citric acid, which adds an exterior coating to the candies and provides quite a bit of sour taste. It can make the mouth pucker or feel dry, and higher quantities will produce very sour candies.

You’ll note citric acid in a variety of cleaning products and especially now in health and beauty products. Citric acid, combined with sodium bicarbonate, is used to make bath fizzes or bath tablets — the combination of the two produces carbon dioxide, producing a pleasantly effervescent water.

Citric acid is a common ingredient in skin masks and some lotions. Vitamin C in general is thought an antioxidant that can help refresh skin and reduce the look of aging by promoting new skin growth and destroying free radicals. Too much exposure to citric acid can cause mild skin irritation, and it may be a good idea not to use skin products containing it if you have sensitive skin.

One of the best benefits of citric acid in all its applications is that it is natural and poses little to no risk to the environment. Very few people are allergic to citric acid, but some people may have stomach sensitivity to it, and might better avoid foods containing it. Read labels carefully, since citric acid may be used as a preservative in many more foods than you might expect.

Citric Acid Formula

Citric acid's formula is C6H8O7 . Its 'proper' name is 3-carboxyl-3-hydroxypentanedioc acid. This tells us that there is a carboxylic group at each end of chain of five carbon atoms. It also tells us that on the third carbon atom there is a hydroxyl group and another carboxylic group.

Citric Acid Health Benefits

Citric acid -- a naturally occurring compound in citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons and grapefruit -- boasts several properties that may make it useful as either a treatment for certain medical conditions or as a dietary supplement. Citric acid is an alkalizing agent: It is able to decrease the level of acidity in body fluids. It acts as an anti-oxidant and is also able to chelate -- binding to excess calcium and allowing it to leave the body. Despite its documented health benefits, you should not take citric acid supplements without first consulting your physician.

Anti-oxidant Benefits

As an anti-oxidant, citric acid may be able to neutralize the damaging effects of free radicals, unstable compounds that can accumulate in the body from exposure to toxic chemicals, smoking and even normal cell metabolism. Free radicals can damage cell tissue and DNA and increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer's disease and cancer. The Mayo Clinic website reports that citric acid's anti-oxidant benefits are stronger when the compound is consumed via food and not taken as a dietary supplement.

Kidney Benefits

Citric acid's ability to chelate calcium and its alkalizing properties make it useful as a method for preventing kidney stones. Kidney stones occur when clumps of minerals like calcium build up in the kidneys, causing extreme pain in the back, abdomen or side. Although kidney stones can be caused by accumulations of other substances like oxalate or uric acid, calcium stones are the most common type, and taking a citric acid supplement regularly can decrease the risk for people with a history of calcium stones.

Acid Balance Benefits

Citric acid is used as a treatment for metabolic acidosis, a condition that occurs when the blood becomes overly acidic. Metabolic acidosis can be caused by impaired kidneys, uncontrolled diabetes, prolonged diarrhea, cancer, dehydration, liver failure, excessive alcohol use, poisoning and certain medications like salicylates. Metabolic acidosis may cause fatigue, mental confusion and, if left untreated, death. As a strong alkalizing agent, citric acid can bring the acid down to normal levels.


Despite its health benefits, citric acid supplementation can cause a variety of side effects, including vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and abdominal pain. Citric acid supplements should be avoided by those with a history of kidney disease, Addison disease, congestive heart disease, high-blood potassium and ulcers and by women who are pregnant or nursing. Citric acid may interact with aluminum salts, tetracyclines like doxycycline, amphetamines and anorexiants drugs like phentermine. Consult your doctor before taking citric acid supplements.

Citric acid is an organic acid and a natural component of numerous fruit juices and fruits. It is not a vitamin or mineral and is not necessary in the diet. However, citric acid, not to be mixed-up with ascorbic acid (vitamin C), is helpful for people with kidney stones. It inhibits stone formation and breaks up small stones that are beginning to form.

Citric acid is protective; the more citric acid in your urine, the more protected you are from forming new kidney stones. Citrate, used in calcium citrate supplements and in some medications (such as potassium citrate), is closely related to citric acid and also has stone prevention benefits. These medicines may be prescribed to alkalinize your urine.

How does citric acid protect against kidney stones?

Citric acid makes urine less ideal for the formation of stones. In its organic form, such as from citrus fruits, citric acid doesn’t alkalinize the pee as citrate (from medication) does. Rather, it prevents small stones from becoming “problem stones” by covering them and preventing other material from connecting and building onto the stones.

What are the best sources to get Citric Acid?

Citric acid is most common in citrus fruits and juices. Of these fruits, lemons and limes have the most citric acid. While grapefruits, oranges, and berries also contain appreciable amounts, lemons and limes will most significantly contribute to the citric acid content of your pee.

A one half cup (4 ounces) of pure lemon juice per day or 32 ounces of prepared lemonade provide about the same amount of citric acid as does pharmacological therapy. In addition to increasing your citric acid consumption, drinking adequate fluids (at least ten 8-ounce glasses per day) – more in summer or when physical activity promotes heavy perspiration – may be the most powerful way to lower your risk of developing stones.

10 Easy Tips to Increase Your Citric Acid Intake

1. Consume 5 or more fruits and vegetables every day.

As limes and lemons provide the most citric acid per gram, concentrate on them. Remember, though, that increasing your intake of all fruits and vegetables -- especially the citrus variety -- will add to your citric acid intake and provide other health benefits also. For example, the magnesium, potassium, and phytate contained in fruits and vegetables protect you against forming new stones. Other phytochemicals in plant foods may prevent cancer and other chronic conditions.

* Here’s some advice to get more juice from lemons – roll them on a hard surface while pressing down with your palm.

2. Squeeze fresh lemon (or reconstituted lemon juice) into ice cube trays before freezing.

Directions: Fill trays nearly full with water. Then, squeeze half a lemon or more over the tray, and freeze. Use these cubes for spicing up water and other beverages. If you like the taste of lime, use lime instead of, or in addition to, lemons. Remember to drink at least 10 glasses of liquid every day to keep your urine dilute enough to prevent stones.

3. Squeeze Fresh lime or lemon juice directly into your fruit juice, tea, or water.

4. Use lemon juice. Water down 2 ozs. lemon juice with 6 ozs. water and drink twice a day -- once in the morning and once in the evening -- to achieve the goal of 4 ozs. lemon juice per day.

5. Drink lemonade every day. Depending on your urinary citrate concentration, 16-32 ozs. daily may be recommended, distributed throughout the day. To prepare homemade lemonade, squeeze a cup (4 ounces) of fresh lemon juice into a pitcher of cold water. Add sugar or sugar substitute, if desired.

6. Make a lemon or lime spritzer.

7. Use fresh lemon on spinach or lettuce salads.

8. Use freshly squeezed lemon or lime on fruit salads. Besides adding a zesty taste, the acid in the juice will prevent cut fruits, such as apples, from browning with exposure to air.

9. Use lemon or lime juice in marinades. When searching for marinades and other recipes, try the ones that call for lime or lemon juice, and include them into your menus at home.

10. Read the label. Choose products that are high in citric acid.

Buyers Guide to Citric Acid

Determine how much citric acid you need to buy. The amount you need will determine where you should shop for citric acid.

  • Consult the instructions for your activity or recipe to see how much citric acid they indicate you need to use for your project.

  • Increase the amount of citric acid if you plan to make multiple batches of a recipe or want to have an ample amount for repeating the activity. For example, if you plan to use citric acid for cheese-making, and you want to make your own cheese on a regular basis, you will want to buy enough citric acid for multiple uses.

Look for citric acid at your local supermarket. Food grade citric acid is anhydrous and normally available in a powder form. Typically, it is best to buy citric acid at a grocery store when you need a small amount, for example, a bottle with 3 to 5 ounces (85 g to 142 g).

  • Check for citric acid in the canning section. It is often located near the pectin and other canning ingredients and materials.

  • Look for citric acid under the name sour salt in the kosher section or in the spice aisle.

Check natural food stores for citric acid. Health food stores often carry citric acid and may have a greater range of sizes available than standard grocery stores.

Shop at a restaurant supply store. Restaurant supply stores, especially baking or candy-making supply stores are likely to carry citric acid.

  • Plan to purchase at least 1 pound (.45 kg) of citric acid. Smaller quantities may not be available.

Find a store that sells home brewing supplies. Home brewers often use citric acid, for example to adjust to acid level in fruit wines. A store that caters to home brewers may also have knowledgeable staff that can provide detailed information on how to use citric acid for your particular project.

Shop online. Online retailers sell small to large containers of citric acid, and many online stores sell it by the pound.

  • Take into account that shipping costs may make it more expensive to buy citric acid online than at a local restaurant supply or warehouse store. However, online prices are generally more competitive than supermarket prices per ounce.

Buying Citric Acid for General Use

Choose which form of citric acid you want to purchase. Citric acid is available as a monohydrate and in anhydrous form. Anhydrous citric acid comes in powder and granular textures. The monohydrate form is a liquid.

Check craft stores for citric acid. Anhydrous citric acid may be available in the soap making section of craft stores as it is a common ingredient in fizzing bath bombs.

Buy citric acid through a chemical supply company. A chemical supply source will provide the greatest number of options in terms of grade, texture, quantity and form.

  • Search for the grade you would like. Citric acid is available in different grades. Common grades include food grade, or Food Chemical Codex (FCC); American Chemical Society (ACS) grade, which means the substance meets the standards set forth by the ACS for reagent chemicals in their publication; and United States Pharmacopeia (USP) grade, which is a substance that meets the specifications in the "Reagents, Indicators and Solutions" section of the USP.

  • Read through your supplier's definitions of the grades they sell. Many suppliers also create their own grade labels to indicate the quality of the chemical.

  • Order the quantity you want to purchase.

Citric Acid: Benefits, Uses & Side Effects

Citric acid is a normal component of human cells that is metabolized, degraded, and eliminated from the body. Also known as E330, it is one of the main ingredients in the food and beverage industry because it is easily obtained in large quantities, healthy and cheap. It is often used for proper mineral supplementation of food, as an acidity regulator, and as a flavor compound. Citric acid enhances the activity of many beneficial antioxidants, but is not, itself, an antioxidant.

The cycle that citric acid undergoes in the human body is called the Krebs cycle, named after Hans Adolf Krebs, who received a Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for its discovery in 1953. It actually refers to the physiological oxidation of fats, proteins and carbohydrates into carbon dioxide and water. During this cycle, eight enzymes help produce energy through aerobic respiration. Citric acid is an alkalizing agent. Despite being an acid since most people will say you can’t be alkalinizing if your an acid which is not true. It is able to decrease the level of acidity in body fluids. It can bind with excess calcium and allow it to leave the body. Despite its many health benefits, you should not take citric acid without first consulting your physician.

A Natural Medicine

Citric acid is both a natural and an artificially obtained acid. It is found naturally in every living being: plant (conifer, tobacco leaf) or animal, as in the human tissues and body fluids. In addition, it is present in a large variety of fruits (lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, kiwis, strawberries, apples, pears, cherries and raspberries) and vegetables (mushrooms, potatoes, tomatoes, peas and asparagus). Citric acid was first artificially produced in 1784 from lemon juice, by Karl Wilhelm Scheele. It can also be obtained through bio-technology processes for industrial purposes by fermenting the citrus glucose (sugary substance), sucrose or molasses (syrup by-product of sugar cane) in combination with the fungus called “Aspergillus niger.”

What Citric Acid Is Used For

Citric acid is used for its health benefits and as in food, alcohol and insecticide production. It is the most frequently used preservative in the world today. The lemon salt has been used for centuries to conserve meat and fish. It increases the acidity of the bacterial environment, making it difficult for it and the microbes to survive and, most importantly, to reproduce. It is called lemon salt because it was first extracted from a lemon. It looks like a semi-transparent salt and it has no odor. It has a sour, acid taste.

Medical Benefits of Citric Acid

  1. Kidney Stones: Administered while drinking lemonade, citric acid prevents the formation of kidney stones and ensures proper functioning of the kidneys. Citric acid’s ability to chelate calcium and its alkalizing properties make it useful as a method for preventing kidney stones.

  2. Anti-oxidant: As an anti-oxidant, citric acid may be able to neutralize the damaging effects of free radicals, unstable compounds that can accumulate in the body and can trigger the growth of cancerous tumours. 

  3. Mineral absorption: Specialists say that the citric acid associates itself with minerals and metals easily, a trait which accelerates their absorption into the body.

  4. Skin Care: Citric acid is a common ingredient found in face packs and skin products. It is considered an antioxidant that can help the regeneration of skin tissue and slowing down the aging process.

  5. Skin Color: In the case of stained skin or freckles, the use of a cream rich in citric acid will have a depigmentation effect.

  6. Sore Throat: Citric acid is of great help when a person has tonsillitis. Gargling with a combination of citric acid and water will clear the infection from the throat because it effectively kills the germs that are causing the infection.

  7. Nausea: Citric acid can quickly and effectively reduce nausea by reducing the gastric acidity.

Despite its many health benefits, it is important that you avoid citric acid without first consulting a doctor. Citric acid supplementation can cause a variety of side effects, including vomiting, diarrhea, nausea and abdominal pain.

Other Uses of Citric Acid

  1. Flavor: Citric acid provides flavor to aliments, sweets and to soft drinks and alcoholic drinks.

  2. Food Production: It strengthens the gelatin in jams and slows down the oxidation process in fruits and fruit products, by combining itself with the naturally present metals and preventing their discoloration. Citric acid is often used for creating the proper environment for the enzyme activity in the process of cheese making. It can also be used for making ice cream because it helps the fat cells in dairy separate.

  3. Pest Control: Citric acid is known to have the ability to destroy bacteria, mold, viruses and rust, and therefore was used in the production of pesticides, fungicides and disinfectants solutions. 

  4. Alcohol Production: Sometimes, citric acid is added to wine, if the grapes used have low acidity to improve the taste. When manufacturing beer, citric acid reduces the sugar loss from the barley as it germinates. Therefore, more of the sugar turns to alcohol, and beer production is optimized. 

  5. Drugs: Citric acid is used in the manufacture of medicinal products and in bio-technology industries. It is combined with sodium bicarbonate for medicines such as Alka-Seltzer.

Side Effects of Citric Acid

  1. Stomach upset: Taking supplementation of citric acid can cause vomiting, diarrhea, nausea, loss of appetite and abdominal pain.

  2. Yellow skin or eyes: These symptoms can occur, although they are rare.

  3. Bloody or black, tarry stool:  Discoloured stools or bloody or cloudy urine are more serious symptoms. You may also have a fever, headache, frequent urge to urinate or a decrease in the amount of urine.

  4. Dizziness or loss of blood pressure: Citric acid can cause a loss of fructose absorption which can lead to a sudden drop of blood pressure, dizziness, decreased attention and fainting.

  5. Affects infant health: Citric acid can affect the absorption of heavy metals like cadmium and lead into the blood. Citric acid supplementation is not recommended for babies or children.

  6. Can Weaken Hair: The acid opens the hair cuticle and it may also remove minerals from the hair. It may lead to its degradation, discoloration or breakage.

  7. Drug Interactions: Citric acid may interact with aluminum salts, tetracyclines like doxycycline, amphetamines and anorexiants drugs like phentermine.

Citric acid is a key component of the natural aerobic process of respiration. The naturally occurring acid is also a key ingredient to many household products and medicines. It can be used for certain health complaints such as kidney stones or nausea. However, citric acid supplementation is not recommended without first consulting a doctor. It can, even in small quantities cause stomach upsets, vomiting and abdominal pain.

Benefits of Citric Acid

This organic acid is found in the nutrition industry as well as the manufacturing industry. It is an active player in lots of things we use on a daily basis and benefits our health in general. This is because it has restorative powers that help cure belching, bloating and heartburn. Listed below are more benefits of citric acid.

1. Aids digestion

Since it is alleged to have restorative powers, citric acid has excellent restorative powers that treat an array of digestive disorders. Drinking lemon water regularly is therefore a surefire way to cure belching, bloating and heartburn. As mentioned earlier on lemon juice has a high concentration of citric acid that aids digestion as well as improving bowel movements to prevent constipation.

2. Assists in food preservation

Citric acid also acts as a food preservative and it used on canned vegetable and meat to extend their shell life. Since it acts as a preservative, citric acid aids the breakdown of bacteria in food thus prolong their shell life.

3. Health benefits

Eat lime juice and lemon alongside other fruits like grapes and oranges to improve your overall health. Citric acid is effective in the treatment of kidney stones as it affect citric balance in the urine. Since accumulation of citric acid in the body increase the chances of kidney stones drinking lemon can help prevent them from growing.

4. Softens water

Citric acid is also a popular water softener by creating bonds between molecules which makes it excellent for soap making. The use of citric acid alongside the manufacture of washing detergents can break hard water to produce foam.

5. Wine production

Citric acid has wide industrial application as it is added to grapes to lower their acidity level. However, this technique is only used on small scale in the manufacture of cheap wines. The only disadvantage of adding citric acid to wine is that it has microbial instability.
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