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Citrus hystrix, called the kaffir lime, makrut lime[3] (US: /ˈmækrɪt/; UK: /məkˈrt/) or Mauritius papeda,[4] is a citrus fruit native[citation needed] to tropical Asia, including India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

Citrus hystrix
Citrus hystrix dsc07772.jpg
Citrus hystrix
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.

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.



The etymology of the name "kaffir lime" is uncertain, but most likely was used by Muslims because the plant grew in an area populated by non-Muslims. The Arabic word for non-Muslims is kafir.[6]

Citrus hystrix is called jeruk limau in Indonesia and kabuyaw or kulubot in the Philippines.[7] The city of Cabuyao in the Laguna province is named after the fruit.

Naming controversyEdit

In South Africa, "kaffir" is an ethnic slur for African people.[8] Consequently, some authors favour switching from "kaffir lime" to "makrut lime", a name less well established in English.[8][6][9][10] The Oxford Companion to Food is among these.[11]


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.[12][13] These hourglass-shaped leaves comprise the leaf blade plus a flattened, leaf-like stalk (or petiole). The fruit is rough and green, and ripens to yellow; it is distinguished by its bumpy exterior and its small size, approximately 4 cm (2 in) wide.[13]


Combava rinds
Kaffir/makrut lime leaves are used in some Southeast 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[14][15] 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.[16] 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.[14] The zest of the fruit, referred to as combava[citation needed], 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.[17]


The juice and rinds of the peel 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.[13]

Other usesEdit

The juice finds use as a cleanser for clothing and hair in Thailand[15] 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 constituentsEdit

The compound responsible for the characteristic aroma was identified as (–)-(S)-citronellal, which is contained in the leaf oil up to 80 percent; minor components include citronellol (10 percent), 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, (however, 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][18]

See alsoEdit


  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. ^ "Citrus hystrix". Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN). Agricultural Research Service (ARS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Retrieved December 7, 2014. 
  5. ^ a b 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. ^ a b Maryn McKenna, "A Food Has a Historic, Objectionable Name. Should We Change It?", National Geographic, retrieved 12 December 2015 
  7. ^ CRC World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants: Common Names, Scientific Names, Eponyms, Synonyms, and Etymology. M-Q. CRC Press/Taylor & Francis. 2012-01-01. ISBN 9781439895702. 
  8. ^ a b Veronica Vinje: Saying "kaffir lime" is like saying the N-word before 'Lime' - Veronica Vinje, June 23. 2014,
  9. ^ Common lime name has racist history by Khalil Akhtar, CBC News, Jul 8, 2014
  10. ^ "Kaf·fir also kaf·fir". American Heritage Dictionary. Retrieved 18 September 2017. 
  11. ^ Vannithone, Alan Davidson (1999). The Oxford companion to food. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-211579-0. 
  12. ^ Kuntal Kumar (1 January 2008). The Original Organics Cookbook: recipes for healthy living. TERI Press. p. 54. ISBN 978-81-7993-155-4. 
  13. ^ a b c George Staples; Michael S. Kristiansen (1 January 1999). Ethnic Culinary Herbs: A Guide to Identification and Cultivation in Hawai'i. University of Hawaii Press. pp. 27–29. ISBN 978-0-8248-2094-7. 
  14. ^ a b Loha-unchit, Kasma. "Kaffir Lime –Magrood". Retrieved December 7, 2014. 
  15. ^ a b Sukphisit, Suthon (12 November 2017). "Clean up in kitchen with versatile fruit". Bangkok Post. Retrieved 13 November 2017. 
  16. ^ Wendy Hutton, Wendy; Cassio, Alberto. Handy Pocket Guide to Asian Herbs & Spices. Singapore: Periplus Editions. p. 40. ISBN 0-7946-0190-1. 
  17. ^ Dy Phon Pauline, 2000, Plants Used In Cambodia, printed by Imprimerie Olympic, Phnom Penh
  18. ^ 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.