After a party, limes tend to get lost in the produce drawer, only emerge months later shriveled and dried, not good for anything but the compost pile. But it turns out limes can do much more than make a pretty garnish for your gin and tonic. Research shows that limes–and their essential oils–have a huge array of healing properties and can be used to naturally treat everything from skin problems to kidney stones. Here are some of the surprising uses we uncovered.
Lime essential oil has significant antibacterial properties, according to research that looked into the healing powers of 19 extracts. Use it on your skin and face to calm acne and redness. But don’t go for fresh lime juice, which is too acidic and may burn.
resh lime juice and peel reduced buildup of fatty materials in the arteries in a study done on rabbits that ate a high-cholesterol diet. While there is no evidence that the effect is the same for humans, it wouldn’t hurt to add a wedge of lime to your drinks or a squeeze over your fish tacos–it’s delicious, and it may just help if you’ve got high cholesterol.
In a study by the American Heart Association, women who ate high amounts of citrus had a 19 percent lower risk of blood clot-related stroke than women who ate less. However, the authors caution against going overboard with orange and grapefruit juice due to the high sugar content of most supermarket varieties. Instead, using more lime juice and zest in your cooking is a great way to sneak in more citrus without the extra calories.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, the natural citrate found in limes (and lemons) prevents kidney stones just as well as potassium citrate, the standard treatment for chronic sufferers. Supplement your regular medication with lots of sugar-free limeade (sugar increases risk of kidney stones) to make it even more effective.
The kaffir lime–the bumpier, yellow-green cousin of the key lime–is native to India and Southeast Asia, where the fruit and leaves have long been used in traditional medicine to treat a wide variety of minor ailments. Now science backs it up, showing that kaffir limes have significant antimicrobial properties. Bonus: Kaffir lime essential oil inhibits growth of the bacteria that causes dandruff, and lab studies show it fights of salmonella, too.
In West Africa, cholera is linked to food contamination. However, researchers found cooking with lime juice inhibits survival of the cholera-causing bacteria in food due to its high acidity, and adding lime juice to water had the same effect.