Lime and Health

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Lime

Pharm., MSc (Clinical Pharmacy), MPH, FPCPharm (Nigeria Natural Medicine Development Agency)

Limes, botanically known as Citrus aurantifolia (Fam: Rutaceae), are sour, round, and bright green citrus fruits. They are called karemi lemu in Hausa, oroma nkirisi or afofanta in Igbo and osan wewe in Yoruba.

Constituents

Lime is very rich in vitamin C and antioxidants. Other constituents of lime include calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, fibre, iron, calcium, pyridoxine, thiamine, niacin, folate, phosphorus, and potassium. Lime also contains phytochemicals like flavonoids, limonoids, kaempferol, quercetin, polyphenols, limonene, and terpenes.

Preparations

Lime is available as whole fruit, juice, fruit, peel, and oil. It may be taken naturally or used as a flavour for water, foods and beverages.

Pharmacological actions/health benefits

Because they are loaded with nutrients, limes may help to improve immunity, fight respiratory diseases like pneumonia, reduce the risk of heart diseases and certain cancers, prevent kidney stones, aid iron absorption and promote healthy skin.

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Though people use lime for scurvy, malaria, sickle cell disease, gastrointestinal disorders (such as constipation, indigestion and peptic ulcer), piles, vaginal infections, and many other conditions, there is no strong scientific evidence to support these uses.

The flavonoid-rich oil that is extracted from limes may be extensively used in decongestants such as balms, vaporisers, and inhalers due, to the presence of kaempferol. An animal study found that feeding rabbits lime peels and juice helped slow down the progression of atherosclerosis. One study found that people who ate more citrus fruits had a significantly lower risk of kidney stones.

Limes are high in citric acid, which raise levels of citrate and bind stone-forming minerals in the urine, thereby preventing kidney stones. Foods high in vitamin C, such as limes, may help prevent iron deficiency anaemia, by improving the absorption of iron from plant-based foods.

In-vitro studies indicate that citrus fruits may suppress the growth or spread of colon, throat, pancreas, breast, bone marrow, lymphomas, and other cancer cells. An animal study in 2010 showed that lime essential oils may help prevent weight gain and excess food consumption. Also, the citric acid present in lime might also be an excellent fat burner.

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Hesperidin, a flavonoid present in lime, helps lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the body, another heart-healthy benefit. The acids in lime react with the gastric juices of the stomach, resulting in alkaline reactions. The flavonoids and the alkaline reaction collectively may stimulate the healing process of peptic and oral ulcers.

In cosmetics, lime oil is used as a fragrance component. The antioxidant and astringent properties of lime can be helpful in reducing wrinkles, removing dead cells and diminishing dark spots. It might help to build collagen, rejuvenate the skin, and improve overall skin texture. It may also help reduce body odour. Limes are used as a natural cleaning agent and to neutralise odours. Some studies show that they have antimicrobial properties

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Adverse effects

Lime can cause allergy symptoms, such as swelling, hives, and breathing difficulties. It may cause digestive symptoms, such as acid reflux, heartburn, nausea, vomiting, and difficulty swallowing. Eating many limes can increase risk of cavities, as the acid in limes can erode tooth enamel. Topical application of lime may cause phytophotodermatitis.

Economic value

Twenty pieces of the medium-sized lime fruit cost about N1000.00 in the Nigerian market. A 250ml bottle of lime juice costs about N900.00 in shops. Lime has many uses in health, pharmaceutical, food and cosmetics industries. There is need to improve on the storage/preservation of lime to avoid wastage because there are also prospects in the cultivation, sales and distribution of lime.

References:

Raman R (2019) Limes: A Citrus Fruit with Powerful Benefits. Healthline. March. Available at: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/limes#nutrition. Accessed: September 26, 2021.

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