The Jewish festival of Sukkot – the Feast of Tabernacles – includes five symbols, including the citron (etrog). Surprisingly, this hard, bitter, yet aromatic fruit has many health benefits.
Sukkot, also known as the Feast of Tabernacles, is a joyous eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the 40 years of wandering in the desert after the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt. The festival holds profound spiritual and historical significance for Jewish communities worldwide.
One of the central elements of Sukkot is the construction of temporary booths or sukkahs, symbolizing the makeshift shelters the Israelites used during their desert sojourn. At Rambam Health Care Campus (Rambam) in Haifa, Israel, patients and visitors are invited to sit in the hospital’s sukkah and partake in the rituals. Other festival symbols include a palm branch (lulav), myrtle branches (hadas), and willow branches (aravot). The fourth symbol, the citron (etrog), symbolizes the heart or the unity of the Jewish people.
The Sukkah at Rambam. Photography: Rambam HCC.
The citron is a unique citrus fruit with a distinct appearance and flavor; they have a distinct bumpy or knobby surface and vary in color from green to yellow when ripe. While primarily used in religious rituals, you might be surprised that citron is much more than a lovely and aromatic fruit. It offers some potential health benefits.
- Citron is rich in vitamin C, which is essential for a healthy immune system. Vitamin C also acts as an antioxidant, helping to protect cells from damage caused by free radicals. Together with vitamin C, the citron also has other naturally occurring antioxidants. These, in combination with vitamin C can contribute to a healthier skin by promoting collagen production and reducing the signs of aging. Many people attribute their youthful appearance to eating citron.
- Fiber-rich, some people use citron as a digestive aid. The fruit’s natural antimicrobial properties can help combat harmful bacteria and fungi in the body and contribute to overall immune system health.
- Rich in potassium, the citron can support heart health by helping to regulate blood pressure, thereby reducing the risk of cardiovascular diseases. When used in aromatherapy, the citron has a calming and stress-reducing effect. Adding it to your bath water is one way of doing so.
- Citron may aid in detoxifying the body due to its diuretic properties. This means it can potentially help eliminate excess toxins and waste.
- The best news is that the fiber in citrons can promote a feeling of satiation, which may assist in weight management.
While citron does offer potential health benefits, it is essential to consume it as part of a balanced diet and not rely solely on it for significant health improvements. Some people may be sensitive to the fruit’s unique taste and aroma, so individual preferences should be considered when incorporating it into one’s diet or wellness routine, and we recommend that you consult with a professional dietician before doing so.
Sukkot is a time of celebration and reflection, reminding all of the importance of appreciating life’s blessings and the journey of faith. Rambam wishes you a happy holiday!