Thai food is famous around the world and for very good reason. It uses a wide variety of herbs and spices that give the food its incredible flavor. When I moved to Thailand a number of years ago, I noticed that many of the dishes had a similar citrus flavor. It took a long time for me to pin down the ingredient which turned out to be kaffir lime leaf – known in Thailand as Bai Magroot.
Kaffir lime leaves and kaffir lime itself plays a huge role in thai cooking and adds a zesty burst of wonderful flavor to a number of traditional meals including the famous Tom Yum soups. But kaffir lime is not only chock full of flavor, it is also extremely healthy and can bring a wide variety of health benefits.
Some of the reasons that you should be eating kaffir lime include its ability to detoxify the blood, reduce inflammation, boost the immune system and it can even take care of your skin and hair.
What is Kaffir Lime?
kaffir lime, known scientifically as Citrus hystrix, is a tropical citrus fruit native to South east Asian countries like Thailand, Indonesia, the Phillipines and Malaysia. It is commonly used as an ingredient in cooking because of its delicious, tart flavor but it has also been used traditionally in herbal medicine.
Kaffir lime contains a number of beneficial nutrients and compounds which can have a very positive effect on the body. As well as the fruit itself, the plant’s leaves, oil and rind are all used in cooking and herbal medicine . the plant is also used as an effective and natural insect repellent.
I must be honest here and say that I was not always a fan of the flavor. Kaffit lime leaves have an extremely powerful taste and can actually overwhelm a dish.
The very powerful flavor comes from the plant’s high concentrations of alkolids, limonene, nerol and citronellol. It is also these compounds and others found in the plant that gives kaffir limes their wide range of potential health benefits.
Kaffir lime oil is extracted from the plant’s leaves and used to make herbal medicine as well as a number of cosmetic products. The leaves and the oil are often used as an ingredient in soaps, shampoos, salves and perfumes.
Kaffir Lime Nutritional Profile
There is little doubt that kaffir limes are good for you. They contain a wide variety of essential vitamins and minerals and are extremely low in calories.
One average-sized kaffir lime will give you the following nutrients :
- 20 calories
- 7 grams of carbs
- 0,5 grams of protein
- 1.9 grams of fiber
- Vitamin C : 22% of RDI
- Vitamin B6 : 2% of RDI
- Small amounts of iron and calcium and potassium
The Health Benefits of Kaffir Lime
As much as kaffir limes add a great deal of flavor to a dish, they also provide a number of potential health benefits both internally and externally. Despite their traditional use, we must point out that there is precious little research into the specific medical benefits of kaffir lime. However, the following are some of the most significant potential benefits :
A Boost For The Immune System
Kaffir limes have natural antioxidant compounds as well as antibacterial properties that may help boost your immune system. They are traditionally used in Asia to help stave off common illnesses like the cold or flu as well as gastrointestinal sickness.
The immune system is of vital importance to a person’s overall health and their ability to remain healthy and strong. A good immune system can also help you recover more quickly from illness.
Kaffir limes are an excellent source of antioxidant compounds and as with many citrus fruits, they also have good antimicrobial actions. These qualities suggest that kaffir limes could help bolster the immune system helping keep you fit and strong and protecting you against various sicknesses.
Detoxify the Blood
kaffir limes are also used traditionally to purify the blood and cleanse the system of blood-borne pathogens. An oil extracted from the plant is sometimes used alone or combined with other herbal decoctions to treat people suffering from blood related disease.
According to traditional use, the volatile compounds present in kaffir lime can help eradicate bacteria and other pathogens found in the blood. It may also help detoxify the lymphatic system and the liver while improving a person’s overall general health.
Digestive Health Benefits
kaffir limes contain a variety of medicinal compounds including limonene, nerol and citronellol. These compounds have anti-inflammatory effects that may help treat a number of common digestive complaints and simply boost your overall digestive health.
People who suffer from common digestive conditions like constipation, indigestion or bloating may well benefit from consuming kaffir limes or products with kaffir lime as an ingredient.
As we have already mentioned, kaffir limes contain compounds with potential anti-inflammatory properties. We often associate inflammation with common conditions like arthritis and rheumatism but inflammation is also at the heart of many major illnesses including heart disease and bowel disease.
People suffering from inflammation of the joints may get relief from topically applying kaffir leaf oil to the affected area of their body. It is suggested that imply consuming more of the fruit or its juice may also help reduce inflammation but there is no evidence that it will have any significant impact.
Improves Oral Health
Oral health and cleanliness is one of the major uses of kaffir lime. However, the fruit itself is not eaten to to take care of oral health and hygiene, rather the leaves and the rinds are used instead.
There are several common ways of using the plant to help keep the mouth and gums clean, protecting against infection and halitosis.
One of the simplest ways is to rub the kaffir lime leaves directly onto your gums. This helps to eliminate bacteria from the mouth and protects against infection. it also helps your mouth feel fresh and smell clean.
You can also use the rind of the fruit and use it in your oral health routine. Simply grate the rind and rub it into your gums. Rinse your mouth and spit out the rind when you are done.
An oil is also extracted from the kaffir lime and can be combined with your regular toothpaste or mouthwash to give you extra protection against bacteria and add freshness to your breath.
Many parts of the kaffir lime plant are used as an ingredient to make cosmetic and hygiene products like soaps and skin lotions. As well as its natural antioxidant properties, it has an amazing fresh, cirtus smell making it ideal for the skin.
The antioxidant compounds found in kaffir lime can help protect the skin from damage cause by harmful free radicals. These antioxidant compounds can have a transformative effect on the skin and help slow down the progression or even reverse many of the signs of aging such as wrinkles, age spots and other blemishes.
kaffir lime oil and juice can even be used to help keep your hair looking glossy and attractive. According to traditional use, it may even help strengthen the hair follicles and protect against hair loss.
There is no evidence that it can prevent baldness but people who use the stuff say that it helps add moisture to their hair and can help keep it looking shiny and beautiful. The fact it smells so great is an added bonus.
Try simply massaging some fresh kaffir lime juice into your hair a few times a week. Leave it sit for a while then rinse it out and wash as normal.
Smelly feet can be a bit embarrassing to say the least. If you suffer from stinky feet, kaffir lime essential oil is a wonderful natural remedy for foot odor. It can also help get that nasty smell out of your shoes.
To prepare a nice foot bath to treat your odor, add six to ten drops of kaffir lime oil to a bucket of hot water along with a little baking soda and salt. Soak your feet in the mixture for at least ten minutes and repeat every other day.
Not only does this treatment help your feet smell great, it can also kill off harmful bacteria that builds up on your feet and toes.
When used in aromatherapy, kaffir lime might help relieve stress and put you in a clear and calm frame of mind. An essential oil made from the peel of kaffir limes is not among the most popular essential oils but is readily available online.
The citric fragrance of this oil not only helps calm anxiety and stress but it can also add a fresh and clean smell to your home.
As well as the many potential health benefits of kaffir limes, they are also an extremely effective insect repellent. Weir are consistently fighting off the mosquitos here in my home in Thailand and have found that kaffir limes are one of the best natural repellents against these nasty bugs.
We often use crushed kaffir lime leaves to keep the mosquitoes at bay. It appears to work be3cause of the presence of limonene and citronellol, two compounds that bugs find mighty unappealing. You can also apply kaffir lime juice or spray diluted kaffir lime oil to your skin to keep the mozzies at bay.
How to Use Kaffir Limes
In Thai cooking, it is usually the leaves that are used to flavor spicy soups and salads. The fruit itself is rarely eaten but is squeezed to make juice. The fruit can also be used to make jellies and jams and various deserts. There are a number of recipes online for the more adventurous.
The leaves have a very powerful flavor so go easy. just one kaffir lime leaf is usually enough to add plenty of flavor to your dish. Any more can end up overpowering your meal.
Kaffir lime juice, leaves and oil can also be used to make soaps or as an ingredient in other home made hygiene products and skin lotions.
The vast majority of people will be able to consume kaffir lime in dietary amounts without any concern. However, some unfortunate individuals may be allergic to them and should avoid them completely.
People with allergies to kaffir lime may experience a tingling, sensation on the lips and tongue rashes or dry mouth. In a minority of cases, people can suffer from a more extreme allergic reaction.
Some people may suffer from digestive side effects from consuming kaffir limes. These could include stomach upset, heartburn nausea and in rare cases – vomiting.
If you are using kaffir lime essential oil, you should not take it internally.
Kaffir lime essential oil should also be diluted with a suitable carrier oil before applying it to your skin.
kaffir limes and their leaves are a common ingredient in Asian cuisine. The plant including the fruit and leaves has long been used in Asian cultures to treat a range of illnesses.
Kaffir lime has excellent antioxidant and antimicrobial properties and contains important compounds such as limonene and citronellol.
While there is a shortage of scientific research regarding the benefits of the plant and fruit, it has been used to treat a wide range of illnesses. It might help boost the immune system and reduce inflammation. It is widely used for skin and hair care as well as for oral hygiene purposes.