Introduction and description
Limes are a hybrid Citrus fruit. They are typically round, lime green, 3–6 centimetres (1.2–2.4 in) in diameter, and contain ‘acidic juice vesicles’. Plants with fruit called "limes" have diverse genetic origins and do not form a monophyletic group. The English word "lime" was derived, via Spanish then French, from the Arabic word ليمة līma (Persian: لیمو limu).
They are used extensively in drinks and in meals, but few, one suspects ,realise how medicinally important they are. They have a slightly different chemical composition to oranges and lemons and as such have different medicinal properties.
Delia Smith was once a great promoter of limes and many of the dimmer ‘chattering classes’ laughed at her and said ‘come on Delia, a lime is just a novel lemon’, but it is not. She was absolutely right to promote them.
There are several species of citrus trees whose fruits are called limes, including the Key lime , Persian lime, kaffir lime, and desert lime.
- The Eremolemon - The Eremolemon is thought to be a Citrus glauca × Citrus meyeri hybrid. It grows quickly and tolerates saline soil. Citrus plants hybridise readily and the Eremolemon is thought to be a natural true-breeding cross between the Desert lime and the Meyer lemon.
- The Musk lime (Citrofortunella mitis), is a kumquat hybrid
- The Rangpur lime (Mandarin lime, lemandarin), is a mandarin orange – rough lemon hybrid
Persian and Key limes (Citrus × latifolia and Citrus ×aurantiifolia )probably originate from the Middle East, and were first grown on a large scale in Persia (now Iran) and southern Iraq. They are now grown in many countries with a ‘Mediterranean climate’. China, India and Mexico, together have about 43% of the world's overall lemon and lime output, and in 2012, for example, topped the production list, followed by Argentina and Brazil. The spread of lime trees owes some of its origins to the spread of shipping both military and merchant. To prevent scurvy during the 19th century, British sailors were issued a daily allowance of citrus, such as lemon, and later switched to lime. The British sailor acquired the nickname, "Limey" because of their usage of limes.
The kaffir lime (Citrus hystrix) is native to tropical Asia, including India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines., where it is still grown extensively.
The desert lime is a thorny shrub or small tree native to Queensland, New South Wales, and South Australia. The desert lime fruit was once highly prized bushfood. Traditionally, it was wild-harvested from bushland areas, where it was once relatively common. However, extensive clearing of native bushland to form agricultural fields has reduced its range. The fruit is beginning to be domesticated, perhaps a little late in the circumstances, but commercial cultivation of this fruit is beginning to reduce the reliance on wild-harvested product and thus may help the wild plant survive
Please see the Dr Duke analysis for the full list of activities. This is a summary. The observations also add extra information, for example there is some very exciting research on the effects of limes on pancreatic cancer and diabetes.
Before we look at the medicinal activities of lime at a personal level, it is worth first digressing into the world of clean water. Water born diseases are the curse of the third [and second!] worlds. One of the most successful programmes that has been launched to help here is the SODIS programme. It is little mentioned but millions benefit from this programme. In the slums of Yaoundé, Cameroon, for example, more than 50,000 people—including this grandfather and his grandchild—use the SODIS method daily to treat their drinking water.
Solar water disinfection (SODIS) has been known for more than 30 years. The technique consists of placing water into transparent plastic or glass containers which are then exposed to the sun. Exposure times vary depending on the intensity of sunlight and sensitivity of the pathogens. Its germicidal effect is based on the combined effect of thermal heating of solar light and UV radiation. It has been repeatedly shown to be effective for eliminating microbial pathogens and reducing diarrhoeal morbidity including cholera.
Since SODIS is simple to use and inexpensive, the method has spread throughout the developing world and is in daily use in more than 50 countries in Asia, Latin America, and Africa. More than 5 million people disinfect their drinking water with the solar disinfection (SODIS) technique.
But some pathogens seem to remain in the water and there is now work ongoing using limes [the entire lime] as an extra antiseptic agent. Clearly using limes has the great advantage that the water can be drunk with the lime in it. We have provided some papers on this positive use.
Pain killing, anti-inflammatory and sedative activity
Over 15 natural chemicals provide sedative activity and tranquilising activity, but limes are also natural analgesics via such chemicals as 6,7-DIMETHOXYCOUMARIN , BORNEOL, CARYOPHYLLENE, LINALOOL and MYRCENE. Nearly 20 chemicals contribute to the lime’s Anti-inflammatory effects meaning it helps with problems like rheumatism or multiple sclerosis and as we shall see skin problems such as psoriasis and eczema. Chemicals include BERGAPTEN, IMPERATORIN, ISOPIMPINELLIN, LIMONENE, LINALOOL and OLEIC-ACID
Limes have both Anticataract and Antiglaucomic activity, not just from chemicals like ASCORBIC-ACID [Vitamin C] but from other vitamins, minerals and amino acids such as METHIONINE, NIACIN, RIBOFLAVIN , THIAMIN and ZINC.
As one would expect from its anti-inflammatory activity limes help with a host of skin problems. This has particular interest for me as my brother suffered terribly as a child from eczema and now has alopecia, after a diphtheria vaccination that went wrong. His favourite drink was lime juice, and it seemed to help. He liked it very strong and anything acid also seemed to help [like pickled onions!]. He must be the only child on the planet who liked cream horns stuffed with pickled onions. Anyway after this digression, limes are Antiacne, Antialopecic, Antieczema and Antipsoriatic
Limes are both anti-bacterial and antiseptic and exert a great deal of their healing activity via these two properties. Limes are antiulcer and it may be via this antibacterial [or the antiviral] activity that this property is exerted. Well over twenty natural chemicals contribute to this activity and for any chemist to try to ‘extract’ one and claim antibacterial action is meaningless, as it is clear that the combined effect from all the chemicals is key. There are some perhaps lesser known chemicals in this list - ALPHA-PHELLANDRENE, FURFURAL, GERANIAL , MALIC-ACID [yes the same chemical found in apples], MYRCENE, NERAL, P-CYMENE , PERILLALDEHYDE, SABINENE and TERPINEN-4-OL .
Limes have exceptionally important Antidote activity against some extremely dangerous toxins - cadmium, lead, aluminium and paraquat. These heavy metals and weed killers cause a host of diseases and illnesses including cancer and tumours, as such this activity is key. Limes can also be used when someone has overdosed on paracetamol as it is an antidote.
Limes have anti-viral activity and like lemons fight the viruses that cause coughs and colds. But via some vey specific chemicals they are able to fight against far greater adversaries – limes are AntiEBV via GERANIAL; Antiflu via ALPHA-PINENE, LIMONENE, NERYL-ACETATE and P-CYMENE; and Antiherpetic via chemicals such as CITRAL and LYSINE.
The anti-parasitic activity of limes is still being explored but so far there is known Antileishmanic activity. Limes are also natural trichomonicides [5 chemicals] and to a lesser extent trypanocides. Although the internal ingested effects are being explored, the use of limes as a preventative and natural insect repellent is well known. Limes have a number of chemicals that provide nematicide activity. A nematicide is a type of chemical pesticide used to kill plant-parasitic nematodes. Furthermore well over 35 natural chemicals in the plant give it pesticidal activity
Limes have general fungicidal activity via a number of chemicals, for example, 5-METHOXY-PSORALEN, ALPHA-PHELLANDRENE, BETA-PHELLANDRENE, CARYOPHYLLENE , FURFURAL, GERANIAL , ISOPIMPINELLIN, OCTANOIC-ACID, PERILLALDEHYDE and TERPINOLENE. Limes are both natural Candidicides and Candidistats
Six chemicals provide natural vasodilatory activity and limes are hypotensive – lower blood pressure via chemicals such as 1,8-CINEOLE, ALPHA-LINOLENIC-ACID, ASCORBIC-ACID 1,000 mg/man/day, BERGAPTEN, CALCIUM 1 g/day, FIBER 10 g/man/day/orl, POTASSIUM, TRYPTOPHAN 3 g/day and ZINC 30 mg/day. They are also antispasmodic and this activity has found use in helping doctors image the heart – see the observation.
Drinks - Lime juice may be squeezed from fresh limes and used to make limeade, or used in numerous other drinks. Lime is an ingredient in several highball cocktails, often based on gin, such as gin and tonic, the gimlet and the Rickey. Freshly squeezed lime juice is also considered a key ingredient in margaritas, although sometimes lemon juice is substituted.
Chutneys and pickles - Limes can be used to make chutneys and pickles. Lime pickles are an integral part of Indian cuisine. South Indian cuisine is heavily based on lime; having either lemon pickle or lime pickle is considered an essential of Onam Sadhya. Limes are also used for their ‘pickling’ properties in ceviche. Some guacamole recipes call for lime juice.
Dried limes - The use of dried limes (called black lime or loomi) as a flavouring is typical of Persian cuisine and Iraqi cuisine, as well as in Gulf-style baharat (a spice mixture that is also called kabsa or kebsa).
Desserts and sweets - Limes are an ingredient of numerous desserts, ice creams and pies. Key lime gives the character flavouring to the American dessert known as Key lime pie. In Australia, desert lime is used for making marmalade. Limes can be used instead of lemons to make lime curd.
Savoury dishes – Lime butter made with a basic lime, lime zest and butter base to which may be added herbs or other flavourings such as capers, is delicious with fish.
Here are some more suggestions.
Lobster and watercress salad, with cucumber, avocado and a lime and chive butter
Thai fish curry
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large can coconut milk
2 tblspns sunflower oil (or other neutral oil )
1 lime, freshly squeezed with zest
1 tablespoon thai green curry paste
1 red pepper, diced
1 cup grated carrots
4 salad onions (scallions), sliced
1 pound wild-caught, certified sustainable mixed fish - cod, haddock, halibut etc cubed
¼ cup basil, chopped
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
To a medium casserole, add the garlic, coconut milk, oil, lime juice, and curry paste. Add a pinch of salt, and whisk ingredients until sauce is well combined.
Add the pepper, carrots, and green onions. Stir until vegetables are well coated with sauce and evenly distributed through the dish.
Cover put in oven and cook for 15 minutes. Remove dish from oven.
Add fish to the casserole. Cover and cook for about 10-15 minutes longer, or until fish is only just cooked
Transfer fish and vegetables to serving bowls. Top with chopped basil. Serve with plain rice if desired.
Oysters with desert limes
This dish benefits from the addition of a plain green vegetable such as green beans, peas or sugar snap peas
1kg sweet potatoes , cubed
2 tsp ras-el-hanout, or a mix of ground cinnamon and cumin
1 free range chicken
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion , thinly sliced
1 fat garlic clove, crushed
200ml chicken stock
2 tsp clear honey
Juice and grated rind of 1 lime
handful green olives, pitted
20g pack coriander, leaves chopped
Oil the chicken. Sprinkle the ras el hanout all over the chicken. Grind salt over. Place in oven and cook until just done but moist. Remove from pan. Keep warm.
Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook for 5 mins until softened. Add the stock, honey, lime juice and zest. Simmer for 10 mins until the sauce is syrupy. Add olives to warm.
Meanwhile, boil the potatoes in salted water for 15 mins or until tender. Drain. Mash the potatoes with 1 tbsp olive oil or butter and season.
Thickly slice the chicken breast. Stir the coriander through the sauce. Serve the chicken and sauce over the mash.
Lime cheese cake
Coconut and lime ice cream
1 can (13.66 ounce) of coconut milk
2 avocados, peeled and pitted
1 cup maple syrup, Grade A
½ cup lime juice, freshly squeezed (5 limes)
1 Tablespoon lime zest
¼ cup water
Place all ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. For either appliance, scrape down the sides a couple of times for a smooth texture.
Pour mixture into an ice cream maker and freeze according to your machine's instructions. The ice cream is finished when you can scoop some out and it stays on the spoon without sliding off right away (about 20 minutes).
Serve immediately or freeze for a firmer texture.
Lime marinated flank steak
The marinade should not be wasted after cooking. It can be used in soups and stews.
For the herb salad:
Place the lime juice, orange juice, garlic, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and salt and pepper in a large plastic bag over a shallow baking dish. Add the steak. Marinade overnight.
Next day remove steak and allow to come to room temperature, about 10 minutes.
Grill for 5 to 7 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Let rest 10 minutes. Slice the steak against the grain, into thin slices.
Serve sliced steak with herb salad.
- 5-Geranyloxy-7-methoxycoumarin inhibits colon cancer (SW480) cells growth by inducing apoptosis 021222
- Antibacterial activity of natural spices on multiple drug resistant Escherichia coli isolated from drinking water, Bangladesh 021227
- Antimicrobial activity of extracts of local cough mixtures on upper respiratory tract bacterial pathogens 021235
- Bioactive compounds from Mexican lime ( Citrus aurantifolia ) juice induce apoptosis in human pancreatic cells 021230
- Chemical composition of hexane extract of Citrus aurantifolia and anti-Mycobacterium tuberculosis activity of some of its constituents 021223
- D-Limonene: safety and clinical applications 020764
- Dr Duke's list of Chemicals and their Biological Activities in: Citrus aurantiifolia (CHRISTM.) SWINGLE (Rutaceae) -- Lime 021218
- Dr Duke's list of Plants containing LYSINE 017957
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with AntiAddisonian Activity 018405
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antiallergenic activity 018413
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antipneumonic Activity 018416
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with AntiPolio activity 018299
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antirhinitic Activity 019885
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antirhinoviral activity 018438
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with Antitubercular activity 018399
- Dr Duke's list of Plants with [Natural] Nematicide activity 018292
- Dr Duke's Plants with Antiplatelet activity 017519
- Efficacy of fresh lime for smoking cessation 021221
- Efficacy of full-fat milk and diluted lemon [or lime] juice in reducing infra-cardiac activity of (99m)Tc sestamibi during myocardial perfusion imaging 021228
- Essential oil from Citrus aurantifolia prevents ketotifen-induced weight-gain in mice 021229
- Inventory of antidiabetic plants in selected districts of Lagos State, Nigeria 021232
- Kaffir lime leaves extract inhibits biofilm formation by Streptococcus mutans 021220
- Lime juice and kidney stones 021233
- Natural products for cancer-targeted therapy: citrus flavonoids as potent chemopreventive agents 021226
- Scurvy in the British Mercantile Marine in the 19th century, and the contribution of the Seamen's Hospital Society 021234
- Targeting excessive free radicals with peels and juices of citrus fruits: grapefruit, lemon, lime and orange 021231
- The efficacy of a local ascorbic acid-rich food in improving iron absorption from Mexican diets: a field study using stable isotopes 021236
- Using limes and synthetic psoralens to enhance solar disinfection of water (SODIS): a laboratory evaluation with norovirus, Escherichia coli, and MS2 021224