What Are Kaffir Limes?

Kaffir lime leaves (not to be mistaken with kefir) are leaves from a specific variety of lime that is native to Southeast Asia and Southern China. This lime has many names that you probably can’t pronounce (Citrus hystrix anyone?). Don’t let that fool you. These limes are just as tasty as their Florida counterpart. Thai foods rely heavily on the use of limes and their leaves. Maybe that’s the real reason you keep coming back to your precious Thai restaurant.

Kaffir Lime Leaf Benefits

The medicinal benefits of limes, lime leaves, and lime rinds have been touted for many centuries. Here’s 7 of the absolute best benefits:

Benefit #1: Skin

Antioxidants are important. They work overtime to replenish skin cells and moisturize dryness. Limes are jam-packed with the anti-oxidants that not only protect your skin from UV radiation, but also improve skin cell count when applied directly.

Recommendation: If you’re a smoker or a sun-tanner, spritzing a little lime into your cocktail or moisturizing lotion could make a small impact in improving your skin health.

Benefit 2: Kitchen Cleaners

Because of it’s high acidity, the kaffir lime is highly effective as a cleansing agent. This isn’t detracted by a recent epidemic that effected the greening of citrus across the globe.

Just make sure that your lime solution is fresh. It’s been proven that old limes aren’t as effective for cleaning. This is due to a lower ph. Acid is your friend in the kitchen. Keep the ph high and you’ll disinfect with the utmost efficiency.

Recommendation: Use a home-made vinegar-based cleaning solution with the juice from three limes or lemons. You don’t need oxy clean or lysol to effectively sanitize and clean your kitchen. Here’s a great home-made dish soap. Just substitute the lemon for lime!

Benefit 3: Stress Relief

Kaffir leaves are particularly effective in their use of oils. When blended in essential oils the scent and inherent properties of the lime’s rind have been used for decades to extrapolate stress-reducing results.

Many take advantage of these benefits to help sleep or to wind down after a long, long day. If lime isn’t your jam, then lemon will suffice as well since they’re related citrus siblings.

Other ways to naturally relieve stress:

  • Find a quiet space
  • Meditate
  • Exercise
  • Stretch your muscles… fool
  • Other citrus-based tinctures
  • Oranges -cough- -cough-

Benefit 4: Oral Health

Teeth. Everyone needs them. You chew with them and whisper sweet words betwixt them. If you’re unlucky you may lose some. Sorry, limes aren’t your ticket to new teeth, or even clean teeth. However lime leaves will leave your teeth with a little bit of backup to help you fight off infection.

Chewing on kaffir leaves has been shown to release antibacterial properties which help the landscape of the mouth retain a positive biome with flourishing healthy bacteria. Just don’t swallow the leaves. They aren’t harmful, but have fibers which your stupid underdeveloped stomach can’t quite stomach yet.

Benefit 5: Hair Treatment

Long hair can be an amazing thing. You can style it in so many ways and put it up in a bun if you want to look like you have short hair. The options are limitless. However, sometimes people have curly hair and want to straighten it out.

Enter kaffir limes. Kaffir limes have an oil (citronella) that aids in the straightening of fibers. Your hair is full of fibers that bend and twist and contort whether you like it or not. Diet can impact these in small ways, but genetics reign supreme. Even if you’re trying to remove hair, limes will help straighten your follicles out first to make it even easier.

Benefit 6: Parasite Prevention Agency

In Southeast Asia the percentage of parasitic worms is much higher than in the U.S. Contracting these little squigglers can unleash a world of hurt that can require multiple hospital visits and invasive treatments which can be expensive.

So how does lime work in my favor? In multiple studies analyzing keffir lime extract, it has been determined that it kills intestinal bacteria that can be harmful to humans. The study also applied to the larvae of these “worms”. Some travelers use lime extract as a supplement to help prevent full-blown cases of retaliation.

This benefit can be taken with a grain of salt if you’re not a big traveler, as stomachs of the domestic variety typically don’t require this kind of attention.

Benefit 7: Nutrition

You wouldn’t eat something if it wasn’t healthy for you. Right? All jokes aside, limes do play a role in supplying some nutrients to us humans. Once you stick the lime or lime juice or lime leaf in your face then you’ll get to see some of the benefits (including Vitamin C). Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Vitamin B 12 all play a role in the makeup of limes.

An average-sized lime provides:

  • Calories: 20
  • Carbs: 7 grams
  • Protein: 0.5 grams
  • Fat: 0.1 grams
  • Fiber: 1.9 grams
  • Vitamin C: 22% of the Reference Daily Intake (RDI)
  • Iron: 2% of the RDI
  • Calcium: 2%% of the RDI
  • Vitamin B6: 2% of the RDI
  • Thiamine: 2% of the RDI
  • Potassium: 1% of the RDI

This nutrition information provided by the US Department of Agriculture

Kaffir Lime Leaf Side Effects

While most people can happily eat limes all day without repercussions, there are those who are allergic and could die should a lime grace their lips. Don’t fret, these cases are in the vast minority. More commonly people will display light symptoms that range from rashes to dry mouth. These are more of an annoyance than anything else, but still a deterrent for those who suffer this unfortunate fate. Guacamole will never be the same.

Other Side Effects for the less fortunate:

  • enamel erosion
  • hives
  • vomiting
  • naseau
  • heartburn
  • gut rot
  • difficulty swallowing
  • digestive issues

What Can I Substitute for Kaffir Lime Leaves?

Can you tell the difference between a bay leaf and a lime leaf? Hopefully. They have very different tastes, different textures, and different sizes. If you’re desperate you can substitute bay leaves, but mostly in dishes that would benefit from a hint of lime.

Kaffir Lime vs Key Lime: Is There a Difference?

Did you know that the limes you’ll find in an American grocery store are quite different from those in Asia. Kaffir lime leaves will have a slightly different taste to their counterparts. It’s just slightly more bitter and less sweet, but barely discernible.

Ways to Use Kaffir Limes

Whether you’re looking to spruce up baked goods, cocktails, curries, or rice, kaffir lime can be looked at as a great ally in the kitchen. Here’s a list of some recipes that include kaffir lime leaves:

Cocktails

Coconut Kaffiritas

Kaffir Lime Sour

Curries

Thai Lime Leaf Green Curry

Coconut Kaffir Lime Curry

Chicken and Kaffir Lime Curry

Baked Goods

kaffir lime curd tart

Chocolate Kaffir Lime Cake

Rice

Kaffir Lime Leaf Infused Coconut Milk Rice

*hint this is my favorite easy rice recipe ^

Why Some Are Boycotting Kaffir Limes – Hint: South Africa

If you’re American you probably don’t flinch or bat an eye when you hear the word kaffir spoken. Take a trip to South Africa and you’ll quickly learn that there is a dark history behind it.

Even a quick google search will lead you to a wikipedia entry that explicitly defines the word as a derogatory term.

Garden Drum also makes a strong case for the abolishment of this word. I know I used it a ton in this article, but I’d have to agree that we shouldn’t be using racial slurs for any reason. Even tradition.

Lime Leaf 101 is not a medical site, nor a purveyor of false ideas. We promote updated information on roots, herbs, and vegetables that come from SE Asia and beyond. In an effort to remain transparent we will always disclose any affiliate links or relationships with affiliate providers. Truth is important. With this site we hope to educate those on the benefits of eating clean and discovering new ways to improve diet and health. It’s important to contact your local health professional before beginning any new routine.