Kaffir Lime

Citrus hystrix

Herbs gallery - Kaffir Lime

Common names

  • Kaffir Lime
  • Makrut Lime
  • Mauritius Papeda

Kaffir lime (botanical name Citrus hystrix) is a fruit that is indigenous to the tropical regions in Asia, including countries like India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand.

Trees that produce kaffir lime are generally small, only growing up to a height of anything between 2 meters and three meters. The trunk as well as the branches of kaffir lime trees are covered with small spines. The leaves have a deep green hue and are smoothed shaped. This tree bears small, pinkish-white flowers. The kaffir lime fruits begin to appear during the winter months.

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Kaffir lime has an entirely different appearance from the limes or citrus fruits we are familiar with. On the exterior, this lime fruit from South Asia is rough and has a warty green color. The fruit grows on a thorny bush and the leaves of the trees that produce this fruit are highly aromatic. The leaves of kaffir lime are somewhat typical - the leaves are called "doubled". Its small size as well as its bumpy exterior makes it easy to identify as the kaffir lime fruit. The exterior of the kaffir lime is deep green. As far as its size is concerned, this fruit can be compared with a Western lime. The kaffir lime is extremely well suited for growing in containers. While this plant has its origin in South Asia, it can be cultivated anywhere in the form of a shrub, provided the conditions are favourable.

The kaffir lime is widely used in several Southeast Asian nations' cuisines. The oil extracted from the leaves of this tree is employed in perfumery.

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Parts used

Fruit, leaves, rind, oil.


The kaffir lime has numerous uses, including therapeutic and culinary. In some Asian nations, people use the juice as well as the rind of the fruit in traditional medicine. Often, the juice extracted from the fruit is used in shampoo, since it is believed that it helps to eliminate lice.

Perhaps, kaffir lime is most widely used for protecting our oral health. However, you need not consume the fruit for this purpose, but its rind and the leaves of the tree. You can also directly rub the leaves onto the gums with a view to support good oral health as well as to get rid of the harmful bacteria, which may often increase in the mouth. The kaffir lime yields oil that can be blended with organic toothpastes as well as mouth washes to endorse a healthier oral and gum care.

Often, the oil extracted from kaffir limes is blended with various decoctions and administered to people suffering from ailments borne by the blood or chronic diseases related to the blood. It is said that such an exceptional blend of volatile compounds helps to get rid of pathogens or the foreign agents present in the blood. At the same time, it helps the liver as well as the lymphatic system to filter out the harmful substances from the body, thereby augmenting your health in general.

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The kaffir lime encloses several elements and compounds that are also present in lemongrass and associated herbs. The organic constituents of kaffir lime possess anti-inflammatory properties. Moreover, they also work to invigorate the digestive system. People suffering from indigestion or constipation will find the kaffir lime extremely beneficial. Taking some amount of a decoction prepared from kaffir lime will help to clear these symptoms and aid in normalizing the bowel movement. This has far reaching effects, as it may help in preventing further serious health problems like gastric ulcers, hemorrhoids and even cancer in the future.

It is important to note that insect-borne diseases are responsible for several deaths every year in countries where the kaffir lime has been grown traditionally. As a result, people in these countries usually use the extract of this fruit in the form of an insect repellent. Kaffir lime contains citronellol and limonene, which are very repulsive for most insects. Therefore, applying a cream or lotion that contains either the juice or oil of kaffir lime helps to diminish the risks of insect bites, irrespective of whether or not they cause infection.

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The juice as well as extracts obtained from kaffir lime are blended into several cosmetics and bath products. This is mainly owing to the antioxidant properties of these substances and their wonderful aroma. A number of acids present in kaffir lime also possess the aptitude to neutralize the detrimental free radicals - which are basically the hazardous by-products of cellular metabolism and these can result in apoptosis or cell mutation. Free radicals are also known to be responsible for various forms of cancer. In addition, compounds possessing antioxidant properties also inhibit the disintegration of cells, while diminishing the appearance of signs related to aging, for instance wrinkles. They also help in preventing the appearance of pimples and scars. People who aspire for glowing, healthy and youthful skin should preferably use kaffir lime juice.

Kaffir limes can also prove to be very beneficial for people suffering from various health conditions like arthritis, rheumatism, gout, edema and other issues related to inflammation. They can use the juice or oil of the fruit and leaves and apply them topically to the affected areas, especially where they experience pain or discomfort. Even consuming the fruit or its juice will have the same effect. Since kaffir lime possesses anti-inflammatory properties, this fruit and its leaves are also a good remedy for headaches and migraines.

While not many people are aware that kaffir lime is used in aromatherapy, the oil obtained from the fruits is highly effective in aromatherapy. People suffering from anxiety and different types of nervous disorders can benefit by inhaling the comforting vapours, which help to soothe the body as well as the mind.

Kaffir lime also possesses antioxidant and anti-bacterial properties, which makes this fruit a potent tool for perking up the immune system. Topical application of the oil extracted from this fruit helps to prevent infections and also bacteria from building up on the skin. However, when consumed, kaffir limes help in preventing a great variety of gastrointestinal (GI) ailments and, at the same time, invigorate the immune system through their antioxidant activities.

The use of kaffir lime juice for promoting the health of the hair is one of the lesser known applications of this fruit. You may apply mixtures and decoctions prepared from the fruit to the hair and scalp to inhibit baldness, the male pattern, and also to reinforce the hair follicles. Doing this also helps to keep the skin moist and put off dandruff. At the same time, the juice of kaffir lime also helps to improve the shine and appearance of the hair.

In Indonesia, the rind as well as the juice of kaffir lime is also employed in traditional medicine. Kaffir lime is known as "asjeruk obat" in Indonesia. When translated, "asjeruk obat" means "medicine citrus". Kaffir lime juice is also used in folk medicine in several other Southeast Asian countries, where people believe that it helps to promote the health of gums.

The prevailing culture in Southeast Asia promotes brushing one's teeth with kaffir lime juice, as it is known to strengthen the gums. This fruit encloses essential oils that are also incorporated in several ointments and salves. The rind of the fruit is also used in several curative tonics, which are used for promoting the health of the blood. Similar to lemongrass and galangal, the kaffir lime rind is also known to promote digestion.

The oil extracted from the rind of the kaffir lime possesses potent insecticide properties.

On the other hand, the fruit's juice can be employed in the form of a detergent for cleaning clothes. Precisely speaking, this juice is considered to be an extremely effective cleanser. Some people use the juice of the kaffir fruit in the form of a natural bleach to remove tough stains. In addition, it is also used in the form of a shampoo to clean hair.

The kaffir lime juice cleans the hair and makes it look nicer. At the same time, it also revitalizes the scalp. Several people are of the view that using the kaffir lime juice as a shampoo will help to revitalize one's mental outlook and, at the same time, ward off evil spirits. In addition to the above mentioned properties, the kaffir lime is a natural deodorizer having a breathtaking aroma that is similar to that of citrus flowers.

Whenever you scratch the zest, it exudes a stimulating as well as inviting scent. In fact, people in Thailand use it widely and you will find at least one kaffir lime tree growing in the yard of nearly all homes in the Thai countryside. In fact, for people residing in rural villages, just growing one kaffir lime tree is sufficient to fulfill their entire household requirements, including keeping the house clean. Hence, this makes the kaffir lime a cheap household detergent and cleanser.

Culinary uses

Apart from its therapeutic uses, kaffir lime is also used for culinary purposes. The rind of this fruit is widely used in Thai and Lao curry paste, contributing an astringent and aromatic flavour. The fruit's zest is also used in Creole cuisine to enhance flavour of "arranged" rums in places like the Réunion Island, Martinique and Madagascar. Nevertheless, compared to the kaffir lime rind, people use its hour-glass shaped leaves in cooking more often. The leaves used in cooking include the leaf blade as well as a flattened petiole or leaf-like plant structure. The kaffir lime leaves can be used both fresh as well as dried. In addition, you can store the leaves frozen.

In Thai and Lao cuisines, kaffir lime leaves are commonly used for preparing dishes like tom yum. They are also used in Cambodian cuisine. In Vietnamese cuisine, these leaves are used with chicken to add essence. In addition, they are also used while steaming snails in order to lessen the pungent smell during cooking. In Indonesian cuisine, particularly Javanese cuisine and Balinese cuisine, kaffir lime leaves are used for cooking foods like Soto ayam. They are also used together with Indonesian bay leaf for preparing fish and chicken dishes. Kaffir lime leaves are also a common ingredient in Burmese and Malaysian cuisines. In fact, the juice of this leaf is believed to be highly acidic for use in culinary. People in Cambodia often use the entire kaffir lime fruit to prepare a crystallized candy.

Habitat and cultivation

Trees that produce Citrus hystrix or kaffir lime are currently grown in various regions across the globe where the climatic conditions are favourable for this species. It is grown in the form of a garden shrub for its fruits. Kaffir lime trees grow well in container gardens and also in large pots on terraces, patios as well as in conservatories.


Chemical analysis of kaffir lime leaf oil has revealed that it contains citronellal - the compound that imparts the fruit's characteristic fragrance. In fact, the oil extracted from kaffir lime leaf comprises 80 percent of this compound in addition to other minor compounds, including citronellol, limonene and nerol. Citronellol comprised 10 percent of the oil.

The peel of kaffir lime fruit encloses an essential oil that is similar to the essential oil obtained from lime fruit peel. The main components of the kaffir lime fruit peel oil include β-pinene and limonene.

Side effects and cautions

Despite its numerous health benefits, kaffir lime peel essential oil needs to be used cautiously. For instance, this essential oil is highly potent and, hence, it should never be consumed directly. Direct consumption of this essential oil may lead to vomiting, nausea, light-headedness, dizziness as well as other undesirable side effects. It is advisable that you always dilute this essential oil by blending it with water or any other suitable diluting agent. Aside from this, there are no reports of unwanted side effects due to the use of kaffir lime essential oil. As in the case of any other herbal remedy, you should essentially check with a professional medical practitioner prior to using this essential oil or making any major modification in your supplement regime.


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