Kaffir lime

Citrus hystrix
Citrus hystrix on sale
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Rosids
Order: Sapindales
Family: Rutaceae
Genus: Citrus
Species: C. hystrix
Binomial name
Citrus hystrix
  • Citrus auraria Michel
  • Citrus balincolong (Yu.Tanaka) Yu.Tanaka
  • Citrus boholensis (Wester) Yu.Tanaka
  • Citrus celebica Koord.
  • Citrus combara Raf.
  • Citrus echinata St.-Lag. nom. illeg.
  • Citrus hyalopulpa Yu.Tanaka
  • Citrus kerrii (Swingle) Tanaka
  • Citrus kerrii (Swingle) Yu.Tanaka
  • Citrus latipes Hook.f. & Thomson ex Hook.f.
  • Citrus macroptera Montrouz.
  • Citrus micrantha Wester
  • Citrus papeda Miq.
  • Citrus papuana F.M.Bailey
  • Citrus southwickii Wester
  • Citrus torosa Blanco
  • Citrus tuberoides J.W.Benn.
  • Citrus ventricosa Michel
  • Citrus vitiensis Yu.Tanaka
  • Citrus westeri Yu.Tanaka
  • Fortunella sagittifolia K.M.Feng & P.Y.Mao
  • Papeda rumphii Hassk.

The kaffir lime (Citrus hystrix), sometimes referred to in English as the makrut lime[3] or Mauritius papeda,[4] is a citrus fruit native to tropical Asia, including India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

Its fruit and leaves are used in Southeast Asian cuisine and its essential oil is used in perfumery.[5] Its rind and crushed leaves emit an intense citrus fragrance.

Common names

In English, the fruit is known as kaffir lime or makrut lime (magrood lime). The Oxford Companion to Food[6] recommends that the term "makrut lime" be favored over "kaffir lime" because Kaffir is an offensive term in some cultures and has no contemporary justification for being attached to this plant. The etymology of the name "kaffir lime" is uncertain, but most likely was used by Muslims as a reference to the location the plant grew, which was populated by non-Muslims. The Arabic word for non-Muslims is Kafir.[7]


Large tree
Illustration of Citrus torusa (C. hystrix) by Francisco Manuel Blanco

Citrus hystrix is a thorny bush, 6 to 35 feet (1.8 to 10.7 m) tall, with aromatic and distinctively shaped "double" leaves.[8][9] These hourglass-shaped leaves comprise the leaf blade plus a flattened, leaf-like stalk (or petiole). The fruit is rough and green; it is distinguished by its bumpy exterior and its small size, approximately 4 cm (2 in) wide.[9]


Combava rinds
Kaffir/Makrut lime leaves are used in some South East Asian cuisines such as Indonesian, Lao, Cambodian, and Thai (มะกรูด).


The leaves are the most frequently used part of the plant, fresh, dried, or frozen. The leaves are widely used in Thai[10] and Lao cuisine (for dishes such as tom yum) and Cambodian cuisine (for the base paste "krueng"). The leaves are used in Vietnamese cuisine to add fragrance to chicken dishes and to decrease the pungent odor 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.[11] It is used widely in South Indian cuisine.

The rind (peel) is commonly used in Lao and Thai curry paste, adding an aromatic, astringent flavor.[10] The zest of the fruit, referred to as combava, is used in creole cuisine to impart flavor in infused rums and rougails in Martinique, Réunion, and Madagascar. In Cambodia, the entire fruit is crystallized/candied for eating.[12]


The juice and rinds are used in traditional medicine in some Asian countries; the fruit's juice is often used in shampoo and is believed to kill head lice.[9]

Other uses

The juice finds use as a cleanser for clothing and hair in Thailand and very occasionally in Cambodia. Lustral water mixed with slices of the fruit is used in religious ceremonies in Cambodia.


Citrus hystrix is grown worldwide in suitable climates as a garden shrub for home fruit production. It is well suited to container gardens and for large garden pots on patios, terraces, and in conservatories.

Main constituents

The compound responsible for the characteristic aroma was identified as (–)-(S)-citronellal, which is contained in the leaf oil up to 80%; minor components include citronellol (10%), nerol and limonene.

From a stereochemical point of view, it is remarkable that kaffir/makrut lime leaves contain only the (S) stereoisomer of citronellal, whereas its enantiomer, (+)-(R)-citronellal, is found in both lemon balm and (to a lesser degree) lemon grass, (note, however, that citronellal is only a trace component in the latter's essential oil).

Kaffir/Makrut lime fruit peel contains an essential oil comparable to lime fruit peel oil; its main components are limonene and β-pinene.[5][13]

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Citrus hystrix.


  1. "TPL, treatment of Citrus hystrix DC.". The Plant List; Version 1. (published on the internet). Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and the Missouri Botanical Garden. 2010. Retrieved March 9, 2013.
  2. The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species, retrieved 3 October 2015
  3. D.J. Mabberley (1997), "A classification for edible Citrus (Rutaceae)" (PDF), Telopea, 7 (2): 167–172
  4. GRIN. "Citrus hystrix DC.". Taxonomy for Plants. National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland: USDA, ARS, National Genetic Resources Program. Retrieved December 7, 2014.
  5. 1 2 Ng, D.S.H.; Rose, L.C.; Suhaimi, H.; Mohamad, H.; Rozaini, M.Z.H.; Taib, M. (2011). "Preliminary evaluation on the antibacterial activities of Citrus hystrix oil emulsions stabilized by TWEEN 80 and SPAN 80" (PDF). International Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences. 3 (Suppl. 2).
  6. Vannithone, Alan Davidson (1999). The Oxford companion to food. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-211579-0.
  7. Maryn McKenna, "A Food Has a Historic, Objectionable Name. Should We Change It?", National Geographic, retrieved 12 December 2015
  8. Kuntal Kumar (1 January 2008). The Original Organics Cookbook: recipes for healthy living. TERI Press. p. 54. ISBN 978-81-7993-155-4.
  9. 1 2 3 George Staples; Michael S. Kristiansen (1 January 1999). Ethnic Culinary Herbs: A Guide to Identification and Cultivation in Hawaiʻi. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 27–29. ISBN 978-0-8248-2094-7.
  10. 1 2 Loha-unchit, Kasma. "Kaffir Lime –Magrood". Retrieved December 7, 2014.
  11. Wendy Hutton, Wendy; Cassio, Alberto. Handy Pocket Guide to Asian Herbs & Spices. Singapore: Periplus Editions. p. 40. ISBN 0-7946-0190-1.
  12. Dy Phon Pauline, 2000, Plants Used In Cambodia, printed by Imprimerie Olympic, Phnom Penh
  13. Kasuan, Nurhani (2013). "Extraction of Citrus hystrix D.C. (Kaffir Lime) Essential Oil Using Automated Steam Distillation Process: Analysis of Volatile Compounds" (PDF). Malyasian Journal of Analytical Sciences. 17 (3): 359–369.
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