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What is Citric Acid?

A bottle and cup of laundry detergent. Citric acid is often added to laundry detergent to make it more effective.
Sour candy dusted with citric acid to make it more sour.
Citric acid can commonly be found in beauty products.
Tangerines are high in citric acid.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 14 April 2014
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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.

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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 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.

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Discuss this Article

amypollick
Post 86

@anon324032: My endocrinologist recommended that dose. I've been taking it for four years and my bloodwork is good. I have my vitamin D levels checked three times a year and my levels have been normal. Maybe I don't know what I'm talking about, but my endocrinologist does, and apparently, it works. Thanks for your input.

anon324032
Post 85

@amypollick: You don't know what you are talking about. You should not be advising anybody to take 4000 IU of vitamin D on a daily basis.

amypollick
Post 84

@anon313795: Try taking Vitamins D and B12. Take at least 4,000 IU of Vitamin D every day, and get a B12 formulation that you can put under your tongue to dissolve, either lozenges or drops.

These vitamins can help boost your immune system, too.

anon313795
Post 83

I do not have a very strong immune system. Somebody told me I need to eat a lot of lemons which are rich in vitamin c and also many more citrus fruits. But my problem is I am allergic to citric acid. What can I do? I am asking for help.

anon305889
Post 82

I've heard that citric acid causes cancer. Is this true?

anon297446
Post 81

"On medical issues I can highly recommend Dr. Mercola." You mean that fear mongering/FUD-spreading half-wit incapable of doing proper research/fact checking? No thanks.

malik23
Post 80

Who knew citric acid had so many uses?

anon285512
Post 79

This forum is filled with unfounded and highly speculative ideas and hypothesis based on personal experiences and guess work.

Listen: nobody, absolutely nobody can be allergic to citric acid, period! It's like somebody saying they are allergic to vitamin C! Pure nonsense!

These are fundamental metabolic intermediates in many biochemical pathways and one simply cannot survive without them. Citric acid is the starting molecule in Krebs, or the Citric acid cycle essential for the energy production in the cell.

What you *may* be allergic to are remnants, pollutants from the current synthetic manufacturing process using the Aspergillus niger mold. So, check your air-conditioner, carpets, basement etc.

Sadly, the food and hygiene product industry fills your food and everything with crap. They are not as well controlled as you may think. Your american ADA is just a corrupt, rubber-stamping agency for big businesses and Pharma!

So, please do yourself and others a big favor: start reading and attain some basic knowledge before you share your ideas. On medical issues I can highly recommend Dr. Mercola.

Dr. Peter V., DC, (M.S.(Nutrition)in dec)

anon262064
Post 77

I am working on a theory. Peanut butter does not have citric acid in it. It does have another acid in it that is in the same family as citric acid. These are called carboxylic acids and they include arachidonic acid which is in peanut oil, palmitic acid which is in palm oil, myristic acid which is in nutmeg, formic acid in insect stings, acetic acid in vinegar, lauric acid in coconut oil and caprylic acid in coconuts. All these are things that I have had no tolerance for all my life, and it appears that taking certain things in the body can cause the body to create some of these acids. So it is not as simple as just avoiding the allergen; you have to avoid the compounds that create the allergen in your body as well.

anon259366
Post 76

Are corn citric acid and fruit citric acid the same thing as far as allergies are concerned?

sue1951
Post 75

If anyone is interested, Taurine is an antidote to the side effects of MSG. I too have the bad side effects that come from consuming MSG but found that they can be relieved by taking 500 to 1000 mg of Taurine. Taurine can be found in health food stores or on the Internet. I have found it on Amazon.

anon232063
Post 73

I think you all are confusing citric acid, which is derived from black mold that forms on corn with ascorbic acid which is found in citrus fruit such as lemons, and oranges. I hope this helps.

anon211877
Post 72

why does lemon water when kept for sometime in air becomes bitter?

malik23
Post 70

I didn't know that citric acid is used in beauty products. Now, if I work at a store which happens to have beauty products with this in it (i.e. department stores) I can tell the customer about it, and talk to him or her on how it is really beneficial. Awesome!

anon188264
Post 69

what is the importance of peptone, calcium sulphate, magnesium sulphate and yeast extract?

anon173286
Post 66

For the sour salt addict, some sites sell Kosher sour salt which sounds like what you are running out of. Food grade means you can eat it.

anon168461
Post 65

The person who said citric acid does not contain citrus should do a little more research!

anon159025
Post 62

does peanut butter have citric acid in it?

anon157923
Post 61

I started eating fresh pineapple late December, about four ounces a day. I broke out in hives all over my body. Can anyone tell me why? Also under my rings are black. Am I consuming too much acid in my system? What can I do to get back to normal?

anon154509
Post 59

thank you! this really helped me with my skin problem. i stayed away from citric acid for a week and the skin rash completely disappeared! thanks again, Chris

anon152789
Post 58

cool website! i really needed the help and it helped me a lot because i had this assignment at school and this was the only website that helped because others just changed the subject suddenly but this one didn't. you stuck to the website and looks like you had a lot of work done on it. Good job putting this up together. I'll mostly always use this website and comment.

anon139398
Post 57

After years of having stomach and rash problems, changing shampoos, soaps, eliminating foods I finally had a bout which sent me to the emergency room for thousands of dollars of tests. Showed nothing wrong.

I told my allergist I wanted a full food allergy test- the results were over 15 food allergies- including corn- which is in just about everything- including citric acid.

By eliminating corn and foods with corn- including confectioners sugar, sorbitol, msg, my symptoms are almost gone- it is finding the products with ingredients that contain corn that have multitudes of names that will finally cure me. Corn allergies are growing. I love corn but it is not my friend.

anon139186
Post 56

i just wanted to say this helped me a lot with my project. thanks.

anon133807
Post 55

Hey guys, I eat citrus acid with some salt every once in a while, but I heard eating too much of it can cause brain cell damage! Is this statement true? Thanks. -ZIGGY

anon126959
Post 54

When looking for electrolyte drinks, I learned that marathon athletes don't like citric acid because it burns the throat. This is my problem. When drinking a sports drink which contains citric acid, it burns my throat and I spend the rest of the day coughing.

anon108372
Post 53

Clarification: Citric acid is made *by* mold, not *of* mold. Big difference. The mold is fed sugars that are derived from corn. It's a natural byproduct of metabolism.

But it is unfortunate that it's an additive in everything -- especially since a lot of people experience health problems from it.

anon91205
Post 52

Isn't citric acid in salt and vinegar chips?

anon91190
Post 51

I just looked on my Doritos chips and guess what? it contains citric acid as well. It's everywhere.

anon88726
Post 49

if i have acidic gastric, can i still take food/ drinks that contain citric acid? Please advise, thanks.

anon85099
Post 47

I'm in my late 40's. About 25 years ago I was a prep cook in a commercial kitchen. As one of my duties I had to prepare large batches of fresh fruit salad.

After a time I started having severe itching in between my fingers which spread onto the tops of my fingers. In addition to the itching there was small red bumps and "bubbles". I started to wear gloves while preparing the fruit salad and it cleared up.

A few years later I had this happen again, yet I had not cut any fruit barehanded. I started reading all the products I was using and in my shampoo and conditioner I found "citric acid" listed as one of the ingredients. I found some shampoo and conditioner that did not contain citric acid and it cleared up.

I have been pretty much symptom free until just recently. Last week I purchased some body wash because it smelled good. I read the label but I guess as I've aged my eyes have gotten worse. I missed the citric acid on the label. Now for the first time I have the rash on my face along with in between my fingers. It's very difficult to find personal care products that do not contain citric acid and it's getting harder.

anon84096
Post 46

I have been using food grade kosher citric acid for years as a flavor enhancement to juices or by itself instead of salt on salads, meats etc. I've even put a little in my water, worst ever happened when i ate a teaspoon full (on purpose) i got heartburn. i just drank a bunch of water, and it was fine.

anon71820
Post 45

I found out I am extremely allergic to citric acid, MSG and food preservatives. I'm now on a diet of no salt, sugar, sweeteners, bread, spices or dairy to attempt to rid my body of the buildup of food preservatives.

The allergy started slowly. It happened only a few times in 40 years, but each time it was worse and lasted longer. I had hives and a rash. Two years ago it happened and I had chest pains and thought I was having a heart attack.

This time it was almost anaphylactic shock, full body rash, huge hives and intense itching, so bad I rubbed the skin completely off two fingers. It has now lasted for 25 days.

I checked my shampoos, conditioners, lotions and body wash and out of 20 products, 18 had citric acid in them. Nearly everything in my pantry had citric acid or a derivative of MSG.

I believe Americans are being poisoned by the food industry and that more and more people will begin to react, as I have, to the junk they are putting into our foods and sundries. I can eat citrus fruits, so what I am allergic to is the fungus/mold citric acid made from corn.

anon68634
Post 43

"Citric Acid" is made from corn (not citrus) and black mold, is same as MSG.

Obesity stops here! Get citric acid out of our soda pops!

Children (1 of 3) are obese, more than years ago.

What causes this? What causes children to keep consuming after they are full? Is there something in the food or sodas that causes a craving that is never satisfied.

Could it be the same ingredient that doubles the risk of pancreatic cancer (two cokes per week)? Hmmm. What could it be?

Consider that "citric acid" made from corn, not citrus, is found in much of the food and drinks that children consume!

"Citric ccid" is an 'excitotoxin' just as MSG

(mono-sodium glutamate) is! Would you have your child eat or drink something that you know has MSG in it?

Most people would say, "Absolutely not!"

The war on childhood obesity should start here!

anon66938
Post 41

is citric acid in baking soda?

anon65141
Post 40

how do i test the citric acid which is produced from aspergillus sp.

anon62400
Post 39

I am extremely allergic to the citric acid in beverages or juice. I also have an allergy to MSG. Finding foods has become a drag. I am also allergic to seafood, fish and nuts. Any advice or help would be appreciated. I need to find a list of things that are safe.

anon62152
Post 38

I want to know the percentage of fruits and vegetables that contain citric acid?

anon59099
Post 37

i am highly allergic to citric acid. this allergy started about six months ago or so. i have eliminated many different things from my diet to find out what i was allergic to and it seemed to come down to i broke out every time i ate something with citric acid.

i know you say it could be msg, but I've had foods with msg and not containing citric acid and I've been fine. my allergic reaction consists of my arms breaking out very badly and got as bad as my face swelling. if very few people are allergic to this, well then i guess i am of that unlucky few.

it is in almost everything because lots of stuff tends to use lemon juice as a preservative.

anon58346
Post 36

how can i know the percentage of sourness of citric acid? Please explain.

anon58268
Post 35

Is gypsum a by product of producing citric acid?

anon53264
Post 34

Can citric acid make an eletric current?

anon51638
Post 33

can i use citric acid to clean steel?

anon44042
Post 31

Does citric acid have antifungal properties?

anon44005
Post 30

My grandchildren, ages 8 & 9 ate large quantities of TWANG, a lemon lime salt which has the first ingredient of citric acid, after salt. That evening they both became violently ill, vomiting everywhere. Could it have been the citric acid?

anon42978
Post 29

i am looking for a test method for the amount of citric acid present in water or how to determine amount of citric acid present in water?

anon40888
Post 28

I also have food allergies. Citric acid is high on that list. All meat is now washed in citric acid and the stuff is highly pervasive with great penetrating power; it soaks to the very bone. It does taste bitter! Leaves my mouth feeling puckery and then goes on to give me a bad histamine reaction. Meat is now poison to me. I am out of sources of protein.

If I was a conspiracy theorist, I would think that this is a conspiracy to poison us all. A little bit of anything can be good, but a lot can be deadly. Am I one of the canaries in the coal mine that is a warning to you all?

mighkell
Post 27

i registered hoping to hear back from someone who could point me the correct direction of two shakes and a simple dinner per day to clear up facial acne. i'm allergic to aspirin and am now thinking that salicylates are contributing to my rosacea-acne symptoms.

your help is very much appreciated - thanks!

anon38979
Post 26

i'm 37 and i too, have had a lifelong battle with acne. just recently i came across the idea of food sensitivities. please share the simple diet that cleared your facial skin from acne.

Post # 23

I am in my late sixties. From the age of 11 until 58 I had awful facial acne. At 58 I was on a popular diet that consisted of two chocolate shakes per day, plus a simple dinner. My face cleared up!

- anon34550

please help.

anon37581
Post 25

1. The taste of acid is sour, not bitter. A bitter taste comes from something with a high pH, ie the opposite of an acid. This can just be a matter of what you call bitter. When you think of someone sucking on a lemon, and that mouth puckering - that is sour. Note that there is also a separate bitter taste. I find that more noticeable in the oil that you squeeze from the peel.

2. This is another quibble, but an allergy is not the same thing as a sensitivity. If you have a problem with citrus fruit but not food with added citric acid - well there are a multitude of other compounds in the fruit, any one of which could be the real culprit. (I am sensitive to tea, but not coffee, Coke, or dark chocolate. I don't know what the problem is; avoiding tea is easier than spending inordinate amounts of time and money trying to find out what the component is.)

anon34669
Post 24

Citric acid is a very good antioxidant and very rarely are people allergic to it. it is good for the skin. But one should be alert so that it does not touch the chapped skin. Irritation may cause burning of skin. Lemon and oranges are contain citric acid in abundance. Have them, and you can see the changes in the digestive system and the skin altogether.

anon34550
Post 23

I am in my late sixties. From the age of 11 until 58 I had awful facial acne. At 58 I was on a popular diet that consisted of two chocolate shakes per day, plus a simple dinner. My face cleared up!

By accident, I discovered that food acids, specifically, onions and fruits containing citric acid were the cause of my life-long affliction. By eliminating onions and citric acid from my diet, I have totally cured myself.

It is not easy to avoid citric acid because it seems to be added to most packaged foods. I've become an avid label-reader, but occasionally some food will be booby-trapped and I suffer for a week or two.

I call it a food allergy, but I never heard of anyone having a skin reaction from consuming onions and citric acid.

anon31475
Post 22

I have been told to use two teaspoons of bicarb and one teaspoon of citric acid for sugar diabetes. Is this possible?

anon28758
Post 21

My wife used citric acid to make lemonade in a plastic jug and the jug melted.

bluegroom12
Post 20

Has any one ever heard that citric acid can cause seizures?

mmsrc
Post 18

my 10 year old niece got a spa science bath chemistry kit for christmas, she used the citric acid, baking soda and Lavender to make bath fizzies, the next day she had flu like symptoms, a week later she still is not 100 percent she tired and has no energy, has a headache,has no appetite, and has frequent bouts of Diarrhea. I wonder if this could be a reaction to the fizzies she made?

anastasia
Post 17

Interesting article. I'm very allergic to citric acid, especially the artificially made form that is grown on aspergillus niger (black mold). Does anyone know of a site listing the citric acid content of shampoos, conditioners and skin moisturizers? Not all are labeled. Thanks for any help

anon23666
Post 16

Is citric acid deadly?

anon23292
Post 15

I got hooked on "sour salt", a kosher food product which is citric acid and contains no salt. I use it daily on a wide variety of foods. But my grocer stopped carrying it. Shopping for it online, I find "food grade" citric acid at herb stores. The product descriptions list all kinds of uses, but none of them say it is safe to eat the stuff. Help! I am down to my last ounce of sour salt.

momof5
Post 14

interesting info on the reactions to citric acid..ever heard of MSG? well the site truth in labeling will give you lots of info as to what it is and how it is hidden, and thus most of you having these reactions is due to the fact that citric acid OFTEN contains MSG or creates MSG during processing~ this is to be a warning that you are having a reaction to the MSG~ do your homework you will be saved from a lot of health issues in the future...

megrcroy
Post 13

My son seems to have a sensitivity to foods with citric acid as an additive, but not to lemons and pineapples themselves. Is there some kind of difference between citric acid in natural form and citric acid the additive that could cause these different reactions?

anon14657
Post 12

bookworm, I have gone to a health care professional and was told to read food labels and avoid citric acid. I was also given a prescription for some topical cream to treat the hives. I cannot afford to get tested for all allergens I might be allergic to since I'm uninsured for medical care.

bfst3
Post 10

how does citric acid appear in granular form?

bookworm
Post 9

ynotbeme - if you know that you get hives when you get "too much" citric acid, then the connection seems clear. but to be sure, go to your health care professional and get tested. allergy tests aren't very invasive and hives are pretty annoying, so i'd say, go get checked! that's the only way to know for sure.

ynotbeme
Post 8

I may need an expert opinion about this but I have what I call an allergy to citric acid. What makes me think that I have an allergy is that I break out in hives when I get too much citric acid. It usually starts on my feet and legs the to my arms then my torso. I'm 59 years old and have been fighting this problem since I was 40. If anyone has any other explanation please let me know.

anon13529
Post 7

Food grade citric acid is rarely, if ever, made from citrus fruits. It is almost alway fermented on corn syrup and sometimes but not as often beet sugar.

anon11554
Post 6

I too suffered from severe migraines for years. A few years ago I cut citric acid from my diet totally. Not just citric fruit but everything that had citric acid as an ingredient.

I now hardly ever get migraines and when I do they are far less severe.

anon10470
Post 5

I have a history of severe, chronic migraines. Citrus fruits are a trigger which bring on an acute migraine, even 1 drop. I seem to be alright with citric acid, which is often used as a food preservative.

anon9368
Post 3

I know a child that is allergic to citric acid. Do tomatoes have citric acid in them?

jayarami
Post 2

dear sir:

Could I use Citric Acid as a coagulant for making Tofu?

I read in an article titled "Use of Natural Coagulants of Plant Origin in Production of Soycurd (Tofu)" that Citric Acid produces best texture for tofu and also it is a best natural source.

If this is applicable, would you please let me know if I have to use it in a dry form or liquid form and the quantity that needs to be used?

I do appreciate your support...

Looking forward to hear from you at your earliest.

Thanks,

Jay

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