Kaffir lime is the common name of Citrus hystrix, a tropical fruit that is native to various parts of Asia, including Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines.
Aside from its many culinary uses, due to its uniquely tart and pleasant flavour, kaffir lime is also highly respected in herbal medicine, due to its high content of beneficial organic compounds that can positively affect the body’s systems.
The rind (peel) is commonly used in Lao and Thai curry paste, adding an aromatic, astringent flavour. The zest of the fruit referred to as combative, is used in creole cuisine to impart flavour in infused rums and rougails in Martinique, Réunion, and Madagascar.
In Cambodia, the entire fruit is crystallized/candied for eating.
Kaffir Lime Leaves
The leaves are used in Vietnamese cuisine to add fragrance to chicken dishes and to decrease the pungent odour when steaming snails.
The leaves are used in Indonesian cuisine (especially Balinese cuisine and Javanese cuisine) for foods such as soto ayam and are used along with Indonesian bay leaf for chicken and fish. They are also found in Malaysian and Burmese cuisines. It is used widely in South Indian cuisine.
How are they used?
The oil, leaves, fruit, and rind of kaffir limes are all utilized for different purposes. You’ll often find kaffir limes being used in soups and sauces, such as Tom Yum soup, particularly the leaves, which are frequently utilized in Thai cooking. The leaves and rind are so powerful, however, that they can often overwhelm the flavour of the dish.
This strong flavour is due to the high concentration of alkaloids, citronellol, limonene, nerol, and other organic compounds in kaffir limes. Not only do these provide a unique aroma and flavour, but also a wide range of health benefits.
Oil extracted from the leaves, as well as the leaves themselves, are commonly used for medicinal purposes. The oil is often mixed into shampoos, soaps, salves, fragrances, and other cosmetic products, while the leaves are usually applied topically or orally to induce a specific healthy result.
Now, let’s take a slightly closer look at the many health benefits of kaffir lime.
Health Benefits Of Kaffir Lime
Oral Health: The most widespread use of kaffir lime is in the protection of oral health. However, it is not the fruit itself that should be eaten for this, but rather the rind and the leaves. The leaves can be directly rubbed onto the gums to promote good oral health and eliminate harmful bacteria that can build up in the mouth. The oil extracted from kaffir limes can also be mixed in with organic toothpaste and mouthwashes to promote more potent oral and gum care.
Detoxify the Blood: The oil of kaffir limes is often mixed in various decoctions for those suffering from blood-borne illnesses or chronic blood-related diseases. The unique mix of volatile compounds is known to eliminate those pathogens or foreign agents in the blood, while also helping the liver and lymphatic system strain out dangerous substances and improve your overall health.
These organic constituents are anti-inflammatory in nature, but they are also stimulating for the digestive system. If you are suffering from constipation or indigestion, some kaffir lime decoction can clear your symptoms up and get your bowels back on
a regular track. This can help prevent more serious gastrointestinal issues in the future, such as colorectal cancer, haemorrhoids, or gastric ulcers.
Insect Repellant: In the countries where kaffir lime was traditionally grown, insect-borne diseases can kill thousands of people each year. For that reason, kaffir limes are often used for their insect repellant properties. The citronellol and limonene found in kaffir limes are very unappealing to most insects, and when you put a lotion or a salve containing kaffir lime juice/oil on your skin, you can significantly decrease your chances of being bitten by bugs, whether they may infect you or not.
Skin Care: Kaffir lime juice and extracts are mixed into many cosmetic and bath products for its wonderful smell, as well as its antioxidants properties. Some of the acids found in kaffir limes can help to neutralize free radicals, the dangerous byproducts of cellular respiration that can cause cell mutation or apoptosis, as well as cancer. Antioxidant compounds also slow the breakdown of cells and minimize the appearance of age marks, scars, and pimples. If you want your skin looking healthy and fresh well into your old age, then perhaps some kaffir lime juice is precisely what you need!
Lower Inflammation: For those suffering from rheumatism, arthritis, edema, gout, or some other inflammatory condition, kaffir limes can be a very effective remedy. You can use the juice, leaves, or oil extracts topically on the area where you are experiencing discomfort or pain, and you can also consume the fruit and the juices to enjoy a similar effect. This anti-inflammatory effect also makes kaffir lime juice beneficial for headaches and migraines.
Stress Reduction: Although most people don’t think of kaffir limes as being particularly useful in aromatherapy, the oil extracted from these powerful fruits can be used aromatically with great effect. If you suffer from anxiety or various nervous disorders, spending some time inhaling these soothing vapors can calm the body and mind.
Immune System: The antibacterial and antioxidant qualities of kaffir limes make them powerful tools to boost the immune system. Not only does the topical application prevent infections and bacteria from accumulating on the skin, but when consumed, kaffir limes can help prevent a wide variety of gastrointestinal illnesses and stimulate the immune system via antioxidant effects.
Hair Health: One of the less well-known applications of kaffir lime juice and leaves is in the hair. You can apply decoctions and mixtures to the scalp and hair to slow the onset of male pattern baldness and strengthen the follicles of the hair. This also moisturizes the skin to prevent dandruff and improves the appearance and shine.
Word of Caution: Due to the potency of the extracted oil of kaffir limes, it is not recommended for direct consumption, as it can result in nausea, vomiting, dizziness, lightheadedness, and other unpleasant side effects. Always mix the essential oil with water or another diluting agent. Other than that, there are no reported side effects of kaffir lime use.
As with any herbal remedy, consult a medical professional before making a major change in your supplement schedule.