Plant Profiler

Lime (Citrus aurantiifolia)

Citrus aurantiifolia
Synonyms / Common Names / Related Terms
AA, acid lime, Adam's apple, agua de limón, areca quid, ascorbic acid, β-pinene, baladi (Egypt, Sudan), bara nimbu, bijapura, bisabolene, citral, Citrus acida, Citrus aurantiifolia, Citrus lima, Citrus limetta, Citrus limetta var. aromatica, Citrus limmerttioides, Citrus medica var. acida, common lime, dayalap (Tagalog), dayap (Tagalog), dehydrofelodipine, doc (Morocco), felodipine, fenchone, furocoumarins, jeruk neepis (Malay), jeruk nipis (Indonesia), jeruk pecel (Indonesia), key lime, Krôôch chhmaa muul (Khmer), lamoentsji (Netherlands), lamunchi (Netherlands), large lime, lebu (India), lemmetje (Dutch), lima ácida (Portuguese, Spanish), lima boba (Spanish), lima chica (Spanish), limah (Arabic), limão galego (Portuguese), limau asam (Malaysia), limau neepis (Malay), limau nipis (Malay), limbu (India), lime (Danish), limeade, lime essential oil, lime juice, lime mexicaine (French), lime oil, limetta (Italian), Limettae fructus, Limette (German), limette acide (French), Limettenbaum (German), Limettenzitrone (German), limettier (French), limey, limoen (Flemish), limón agria (Spanish), limón agrio (Spanish), limón chiquito (Spanish), limón corriente (Spanish), limón criollo (Spanish), limón sutil (Spanish), limonene, Limonia aurantiifolia, limun (India), limûn baladi (Egypt, Sudan), manao (Thai), Mexican lime, naaw (Laotian), ndimu (East African), nebu (India), nimbu (India), Opuntia vulgaris pads, polyphenolic, Rutaceae (family), saure Limette (German), som manao (Thai), sour lime, suwa (Visayan), sweet limes, terpineol, turanj, West Indian lime.

Note: For a more in depth review of lime's constituent ascorbic acid, please see the monograph. Lime flower (Tilia cordata Mill.) is not covered in this review.

Mechanism of Action


  • Constituents: The applicable parts of lime are the peel, fruit, and juice. Lime pericarp, or the lime fruit, including skin and pulp, contains an essential oil (7%), whose main components are citral, limonene, β-pinene, and fenchone (up to 15%). Lime oil has also been documented to contain oxypeucedanin, a phototoxic compound.3 Further aromatic compounds are terpineol, bisabolene and other terpenoids. The fresh juice of acid limes averages approximately 7.7% citric acid and 0.3% invert sugar. The peel, or rind, contains a volatile oil including the terpene limonene and citral.
  • Antibacterial effects: Lime solutions have been reported to rapidly kill toxogenic Vibrio cholerae O1.10 Controlled case series have reported that lime may have antibacterial and anticholera effects.11,12
  • Antiproliferative effects: In vitro study showed that proliferation of phytohemagglutinin (PHA) activated mononuclear cells were significantly inhibited by 250 and 500mcg/mL of concentrated lime juice extract whereas only 500mcg/mL of the extract could inhibit proliferation of staphylococcal protein A activated mononuclear cells (p<0.05).1 Similarly, concentrated lime juice had no effects on a human breast carcinoma cell line, but did have effects on a human lymphoblastoid B cell line. Authors conclude that protein components of the concentrated lime juice extract may have anti-proliferative effects on tumor cell lines. However, this evidence disagrees with other popular ideas found in some natural medicine textbooks, which suggest that distilled lime oils might promote tumors in the presence of carcinogenic chemicals.2
  • Cytochrome P450 inhibitory effects: Lime juice contains bergamottin, a furanocoumarin, which plays a role in drug interactions by competitively inhibiting CYP 3A4 monooxygenase activities.8,7 However, lime juice does not contain 6',7' dihydroxybergamottin, another furanocoumarin, which plays a prominent role in food-drug interactions. Thus, lime juice could theoretically cause two different kinds of interactions: first, lime juice could produce a substrate-dependent interaction with drugs consumed concomitantly; second it could produce a substrate-independent interaction with drugs taken several hours after food consumption.8 Wagner et al. demonstrated the lime rind contains 6- to 182-fold concentration of all furanocoumarins measured when compared with pulp.4 Bailey et al. found lime juice contains 100 mmol/L of bergamottin.7 However, the changes in individual felodipine area under the curve (AUC) after grapefruit juice and lime juice correlated (r2=0.95) with a low slope (0.36). One quarter-strength lime juice more than doubled felodipine AUC and plasma peak drug concentration in two subjects.
  • Cytotoxic effects: An in vitro study reported that lime and lemon juices at ≥30% were cytotoxic towards Caco-2 cells.6 Citrus juices such as grapefruit and pummelo, however, enhanced cell growth at concentrations of ≥30%. Thus, lime and lemon juices could be regarded as a group distinct from grapefruit and pummelo juices.6
  • Iron absorption effects: Different outcomes from trials evaluating lime's effect upon iron make it difficult to conclude its mechanism of action. Garcia et al. found ascorbic acid from lime juice does not improve the iron status of iron-deficient women according to an in vivo study performed in rural Mexico.5 However, Diaz et al. found limeade in addition to meals increases iron absorption.5
  • Photosensitizing effects: Lime oil contains furocoumarins, such as bergapten and oxypeucedanin and may cause sun sensitivity.3 The phototoxicity elicited by lime oil has been associated with naturally occurring furocoumarins. Two of these furocoumarins, 5-methoxypsoralen and oxypeucedanin, have been identified as the probable phototoxins in lime oil. The levels of these furocoumarins have been found to vary significantly with growing conditions.
  • Tumor promoting effects: Some evidence suggests that distilled lime oils might promote tumors in the presence of carcinogenic chemicals.2
  • Other effects: Xu et al. proposed lime decreases both cellular transepithelial electrical resistance and viability in order to increase digoxin transport.9


  • Insufficient available evidence.

  1. Gharagozloo, M. and Ghaderi, A. Immunomodulatory effect of concentrated lime juice extract on activated human mononuclear cells. J Ethnopharmacol  2001;77(1):85-90. 11483382
  2. Leung, A. Y. and Foster, F. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics  1996;2
  3. Naganuma, M., Hirose, S., Nakayama, Y., Nakajima, K., and Someya, T. A study of the phototoxicity of lemon oil. Arch Dermatol Res 1985;278(1):31-36. 4096528
  4. Wagner, A. M., Wu, J. J., Hansen, R. C., Nigg, H. N., and Beiere, R. C. Bullous phytophotodermatitis associated with high natural concentrations of furanocoumarins in limes. Am J Contact Dermat  2002;13(1):10-14. 11887098
  5. Garcia, O. P., Diaz, M., Rosado, J. L., and Allen, L. H. Ascorbic acid from lime juice does not improve the iron status of iron-deficient women in rural Mexico. Am J Clin Nutr  2003;78(2):267-273. 12885707
  6. Lim, S. L. and Lim, L. Y. Effects of citrus fruit juices on cytotoxicity and drug transport pathways of Caco-2 cell monolayers. Int J Pharm  1-3-2006;307(1):42-50. 16260103
  7. Bailey, D. G., Dresser, G. K., and Bend, J. R. Bergamottin, lime juice, and red wine as inhibitors of cytochrome P450 3A4 activity: comparison with grapefruit juice. Clin Pharmacol Ther  2003;73(6):529-537. 12811362
  8. Paine, M. F., Criss, A. B., and Watkins, P. B. Two major grapefruit juice components differ in time to onset of intestinal CYP3A4 inhibition. J Pharmacol Exp Ther  2005;312(3):1151-1160. 15485894
  9. Xu, J., Go, M. L., and Lim, L. Y. Modulation of digoxin transport across Caco-2 cell monolayers by citrus fruit juices: lime, lemon, grapefruit, and pummelo. Pharm Res  2003;20(2):169-176. 12636154
  10. Rowe, A. K., Angulo, F. J., and Tauxe, R. V. A lime in a litre rapidly kills toxogenic Vibrio cholerae O1. Trop Doct  1998;28(4):247-248. V9803858
  11. Rodrigues, A., Sandstrom, A., Ca, T., Steinsland, H., Jensen, H., and Aaby, P. Protection from cholera by adding lime juice to food - results from community and laboratory studies in Guinea-Bissau, West Africa. Trop Med Int Health 2000;5(6):418-422. 10929141
  12. Rodrigues, A., Brun, H., and Sandstrom, A. Risk factors for cholera infection in the initial phase of an epidemic in Guinea-Bissau: protection by lime juice. Am J Trop Med Hyg  1997;57(5):601-604. 9392602

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