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What Are the Benefits of Citric Acid?

Citric acid is a weak acid found in citrus fruits. It is often used as a natural preservative and is used to add sour tastes to foods, candies and soft drinks. Citric acid also has several health and household benefits.

Treatment for Alcoholism

Components of citric acid--called citrates--are used in the treatment of alcoholism. Citrates alter the way the human body metabolizes alcohol. The citric acid citrates cause sickness after a person ingests alcohol. This helps alcoholics stop drinking, because they want to avoid becoming ill.

Uses in Heart Surgery

During open-heart surgery, surgeons use a naturally occurring salt found in citric acid--called potassium citrate--to halt the heart's pumping action. This enables doctors to repair the heart or vessels without pumping blood obscuring their view.

Laundry Uses

Citric acid possesses the ability to bind a ligand to a metal ion. Companies that manufacture laundry detergent use citric acid in in their detergents break down heavy metals in hard water. This allows the laundry soap to foam more and work more effectively.


Citric acid is used in gardening to help treat soil alkalinity. If the soil is too alkaline for a particular plant, citric acid is mixed in to help raise the soil's pH.

Effects Of Citric Acid On Plants

Citric acid is an acidic chemical found in many fruits such as lemons, oranges and certain berries. It affects a variety of organisms, including humans, animals and plants. Its naturally corrosive properties make it detrimental to various plants in large doses. A chemical's pH is the measure of its acidity or alkalinity and runs on a scale from 0 (acidic) to 10 (alkaline). Therefore, applying enough citric acid to a plant's water or soil will create an environment unsuitable for the plant. Citric acid is a corrosive agent and will therefore burn through seeds, which may ultimately prevent them from germinating. There were some cases of discoloration, but the plants were otherwise still healthy even after the acid was applied, indicating that citric acid could be used as a repellent. Too much citric acid in the water of a plant may interrupt this cycle or lead to excess phosphates.

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