Kefir lime – nutrition, proven benefits, uses

Kefir lime

The scientific name of the kafir lime is Citrus hystrix DC. It is also known as Caffir lime, and Kaffir lime.

Other names include

BURMESE : Shauk cho, Shauk nu, Shauk waing.
CHINESE: Jian ye cheng, Mao li qiu si ku cheng, Ma feng cheng, Ma feng mao gan.
DUTCH: Indonesische citroenboom, Kaffir limoen.
FINNISH: Kaffir limetti.
FRENCH: Combava, Limettier hérissé.
GERMAN: Indische Zitrone, Indische Zitronenblätter, Indonesische Zitronenblätter, Kaffir Limette, Langdorniger Orangenbaum.
HEBREW: Aley kafir laim.
JAPANESE: Bai makkuruu, Kobu mikan, Moorishasu papeda, Purutto, Kafaa raimu, Kafiiru raimu.
KHMER: Krauch soeuch.
MALAY: Jeruk purut (Java), Juuk purut (Bali), Limau purut (Malaysia),
RUSSIAN: Kaffir laim, Kobu mikan.
SINHALESE: Kahpiri dehi, Kudala dehi, Odu dehi.
SPANISH: Hojas de Lima cafre, Hoja de lima kaffir, Lima kaffir.
TAMIL: Kolumiccai.
UKRAINIAN: Kafrskii laim, Makrut.
VIETNAMESE : Chanh Kaffir, Chanh sác , Trúc.

Kafir lime is a small, slender, erect tree. Leaves are smooth, oblong, 10 to 15 centimeters long, 3 to 5 centimeters wide. Flowers are cream-colored, borne in fascicles upon short, green axillary spikes. Fruit is variable in size, globose, up to 10 centimeters in diameter; slightly raised at the apex, and many seeded. Flesh is white and astringently sour. Rind is thick, lemon yellow.


– Common in primary and secondary forests, sometimes in or near settlements, at low and medium altitudes, throughout different parts of the world.

– Native to the Archipelago.


-Rind: volatile oil, 4%; citral, 40%.

– Leaves: volatile oil, 0.08%.

– From the essential oil: Limonene (most abundant), B-pinene, terpinen-4-ol and a-terpinol.

– Three coumarins have been reported: bergamottin, oxypeucedanin and 5-[(6′,7′-dihydroxy-3′,7′-dimethyl-2-octenyl)oxy] psoralen.

Medicinal properties of kafir lime

– Leaves yield an oil resembling the odor of oil distilled from the leaves of C. grandis.

– Fruit is considered stimulant and stomachic.

Parts used

Leaves and fruits.

Edibility / Culinary

– Fruit flesh is astringently sour; juice used for seasoning and makes a good drink.

– Rind is squeezed to extract oil

– Rind is often mixed with gogo to impart a sweet smell.

– Leaves used to season food.

– Leaves used in preparation of Thai and Malay dishes.

Folkloric traditional benefits and uses of kafir lime

– Aromatic baths: Squeeze fruit and juice to gogo (for shampoo) or water (bath).

– Nausea and fainting: Inhale oil from rind.

– Malays use the peel as a tonic ingredient.

– Fresh peels and dried fruits used to relieve nausea, flatulence, and control menstruation.

– Rind used in treatment headache and worms in children.

– In Malaysia, used for stomachaches and dyspepsia.

– Fruit juice is expectorant and antidandruff.

– With ginger and other aromatics, used to treat postpartum septicemia.

Other uses

Scent: Volatile oil used in perfumery, toiletries, handwash and shampoo.

Juice of fruit used as insecticide.

Science proven benefits and uses of kafir lime

Insect Repellent:

(1) Essential oil effective in repelling mosquitoes, but less than tumeric or citronella grass.

(2) Except at 10% and 25% of Kaffir lime oil, the studied oils at all concentrations were able to protect mosquito bites more than 2 hrs. with dose dependence .


Study isolated three known coumarins from CH as inhibitors of both lipopolysaccharide and interferon-y-induced nitric oxide generation in in Mouse Macrophage RAW 264.7 Cells.

Anti-Tumor / Glyceroglycolipids:

Glyceroglycolipids from Citrus hystrix, a Traditional Herb in Thailand, Potently Inhibit the Tumor-Promoting Activity of 12-O-Tetradecanoylphorbol 13-Acetate in Mouse Skin: Study isolated two glyceroglycolipids from the leaves of Citrus hystrix. Both showed to be potent inhibitors of tumor promoter-induced Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) activation. The anti-tumor promotion may involved the inhibition of arachidonic acid cascade.

Anti-Microbial / Thai Herbs:

Study of fresh and oil extracts fifteen medicinal herbs were tested for potential use as natural antimicrobial additives in foods. Tested against B cereus, S typhi and S aureus, six , including Citrus hystrix, showed high activities on first screening. C. hystrix, together with A. ascalonicum and C aurantifolium were selected as potential antimicrobial food additives

Antimicrobial / Peel:

Study showed the ethyl acetate extract of kaffir lime (C hystrix) peel showed broad spectrum inhibition against all Gram-positive bacteria, yeast and molds including S aureus, B cereus, Listeria monocytogenes, Saccharomyces cerevisae and A fumigatus.

Flavonoid / Antioxidant / Effect of Processing:

Study compared fresh use with effects of boiling and deep-fat frying on the leaf of Citrus hystrix’s phenolic, flavonoid contents and antioxidant capacities. Results showed boiling decreased total antioxidant capacity and that the method of processing can significantly affect the flavonoid content and their total antioxidant capacities.


In a study of four Citrus species, C. hyxtrix exhibited the highest antioxidant activity by DPPH and FRAP methods, and the highest flavanoid and phenolic content.

Antiproliferative / Anticancer:

Study on the anti-proliferative activity of essential oil

Antioxidant / Free Radical Scavenging Activity:

Study on 10 methanolic extracts from various medicinal plants commonly used in Thai traditional medicine, the extract from leaves and peels of Kaffir lime exerted the strongest effect on production of the hydroxyl radical (OH).

Stimulating Effect of Oil / Aromatherapy:

Study of kaffir lime essential oil from fresh peels of Citrus hystrix showed a significant increase in blood pressure and decrease in skin temperature. Findings likely represent stimulating / activating effects of the kaffir lime oil, providing some evidence for use in aromatherapy.


Study of extracts of C hystrix fruit peel showed effective inhibition of implantation, producing abortion and slight hastening of labor time. The extract stimulated uterine contractions in an in situ study.

Anxiolytic Effect:

Study provided evidence that smelling oils of C hystrix and C microcarpa have anxiolytic property, with the C hystrix having a stronger effect.


Study of essential oil yielded 29 compounds. Beta-citronellal, 66.85%, was the major compound, followed by beta-citronellol, linalool and citronellol. Topical application of the essential oil showed antifeedant properties with severe growth inhibition of S. litura.

Antioxidative / Myricetin:

Study showed C. hystrix leaf may exert antioxidative stress properties by scavenging hydroxyl radicals and inhibiting lipid peroxidation that causes oxidative damage to the liver cancer cell line HepG2. A possible component inhibiting lipid peroxidation is myricetin, a predominant flavonol of C. hystrix leaves.


Study showed emulsions with at least 2% of the essential oil of Kaffir lime showed inhibition of growth of E. coli, B. subtilis, and S. aureus at at efficacy similar to Ampicillin.


Study provided some evidence that the smelling of essential oils of C. hystrix and C. microcarpa confer anxiolytic effect.

Anti-anxiety and Antidepressive effect:

Study has provided evidence to indicate that the smelling of essential oils (0.1 ml) of C. hystrix and C. microcarpaconfer anxiolytic effect, while C. hystrix shows stronger anxiolytic effect, and C. aurantifolia showed antidepressive effect. It can be concluded that essential oils of the Citrus family may affect behavior.

Cockroach Control:

According to a 2007 study by the Thailand National Institute of Health evaluating natural remedies for cockroach control, C. hystrix was the most effective essential oil used in controlling the pest, repelling 100 % of certain types of cockroaches.

Cytotoxicity / Leukemic Cell Lines:

Various crude extracts from leaves were evaluated for potential in vitro cytotoxic activity. An ethyl acetate fraction showed the highest cytotoxicity on 4 leukemic cell lines.

Antibacterial / Essential Oils/ Respiratory Tract Pathogens:

Study evaluated the inhibitory effect of essential oils of leal and fruit peel against respiratory tract pathogens. Both oils were effective against all test pathogens. Results suggest makrut leaf oil, makrut oil, and components (citronellal, a-terpineol, terpinene-4-ol) may be alternative natural medicines for prevention and treatment of many bacterial diseases.

Cockroach Repellent / Essential Oils:

Seven commercial essential oils were evaluated for repellent activity against three cockroach species. The essential oil derived from Citrus hystrix showed the best repellency (100%) against P. americana and B. germanica and highest repellency (87.5%) against N. rhombifolia.

Cardioprotective / Peels Extract:

Study observed the combination effect of doxorubicin and kaffir lime peel ethanolic extract (ChEE) on ALT and AST activity and cardio-hepato-histopathology on female Sprague Dawley rats. Results showed ChEE repaired cardiohistopathology profile of doxorubicin induced cardiotoxicity, but did not repair hepatohistopathology nor reduce ALT and AST enzymes activity.



Occasional reports of photodermatitis from rubbing the juice onto the skin for insect bites and as insect repellent. Another report of dermatitis associated with rubbing the juice of the medicinal lime onto the scalp to dye the hair.



Kaffir Lime Oil in the Market.

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