Kaffir lime

Kaffir lime or Makrut lime is a citrus fruit native of tropical Asian countries. It is grown in India, Nepal, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Bangladesh to name some such countries of Asia. In recent years most of the countries have avoided use of the name kaffir lime due to the racial and ethnic reference made by colonialists. It is generally called as makrut lime or Thai lime.


Its leaves and fruits are used in cuisine and its oil is used in medicines and perfumes. Its botanical name is citrus hystrix. It is a thorny bush growing up to 35 feet. The fruits are rough on their surface and are green in color. The well ripe fruit turns yellow with a size of about 4cm diameter. It is grown as a garden fruit in many countries wherever the climate is suitable for its growth. It can be grown in home gardens or in terrace gardens.

Benefits of Kaffir lime

The leaves, fruits and the peel of the fruit are all used for various purposes. It is widely used in cuisines in Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia.

  • The volatile oil obtained from its rind is the most useful product of the fruit. The essential oil extracted from the peel of the fruit is comparable to that of lime peel extract. Limonene and citronellal present in the fruit have anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties.
  • The leaves in fresh green, dried or powdered form is used in culinary in various dishes for its aromatic flavor. It is used in soups, salads and fried rice.

(The strong flavor in the fruit, leaves or the oil extract is due to the presence of many organic compounds and particularly due to concentration of alkaloids, citronellal, limonene, nerol etc. The leaves are very thick. When used in culinary the leaves are cut into pieces and are mostly not consumed. If one wish to consume them it has to be finely chopped and added to dishes.)

  • The fruit juice is added as an ingredient in shampoo which removes lice from the hair and also helpful in removing dandruff.
  • The fruit juice is used in cleaning of clothes in Thailand.

Health benefits of Kaffir lime

Many health benefits are known to be derived from the use of the fruit and its products. While culinary use is only for the aroma and flavor when added to other food dishes, other health benefits are far more important. The leaves and oil are used in preparation of medicines.

  • It boosts the functioning of the general immune system of the body. Upon consumption it removes gastrointestinal disorders besides stimulating the immune system due to its anti-oxidant property.
  • Antioxidants present in the fruit juice are helpful in preventing and curing skin disorders like pimples, scars and wrinkles related to aging. Moreover the acids found in the juice neutralizes the free radicals formed and accumulated in the body during metabolism and prevents formation of cancer causing cells by breaking of the free radicals.
  • Anti-inflammatory properties in the fruit help relieving gout, arthritis and rheumatism. For this remedy the oil extract of the fruit can be topically applied on the spots where pain is experienced. The oil has to be applied regularly for weeks to cure chronic disorders like arthritis and other joint problems.
  • Consumption of decoction prepared from the leaves or peel of the fruit prevent gastrointestinal disorders in addition to facilitating easy bowel movement and giving relief from constipation.
  • Citronellal and limonene present in Thai lime act as insect propellant and protect the skin from insect bites.
  • The leaf or its powder can be used as tooth powder or can be added to other tooth pastes or powders to improve oral health
  • Foreign elements which find their place in the blood are eliminated by consumption of the oil and due to such elimination the blood is purified.
  • Being a good source of vitamin C it has the potential to cure topical, non-topical and celiac sprue which is a metabolic syndrome due to ingestion. Essentially sprue occurs due to lack of vitamin C and water in the body and the fruit juice provides vitamin C and also hydrates the body.


The raw oil extract is highly concentrated and should not be consumed as such. Concentrated oil can cause nausea, vomiting or dizziness or some other side effects. It has to be sufficiently diluted with water or any other diluting liquid like milk before consumption. Diluted oil do not produce any side effect and is safe to consume. However concentrated oil can be used without dilution for external applications.

The seeds or tree can be sourced from the market for growing.  The ingredients can be sourced from online stores. Consumption for any particular remedy has to be in consultation with an herbal practitioner.

Kripa Sivasubramanian, MBA, earned her Master’s degree in Business. After a long stint in the Technology sector, she took up courses in natural medicine and yoga. Ms. Kripa is certified in Ayurvedic yoga for Dosha. She is also certified by Stanford University School of Medicine in Introduction to Food and Health.