Also known as a key lime, citrus aurantifolia is a citrus fruit used for a number of purposes. Compared to the Persian lime (citrus x latfolia), citrus aurantifolia is a smaller and seedier lime with a higher acidity and stronger aroma. When eaten, the key lime has a more tart and bitter flavor. Its commercial name comes from its use in key lime pie, popular in the Florida Keys. Citrus aurantifolia is also known as the West Indian lime or Mexican lime, although U.S. consumers likely know it by the name key lime.
Citrus aurantifolia grow on trees by the same name. These trees feature pale green oval leaves, short, stiff branches, and clusters of small white flowers. Though citrus aurantifolia trees originated in Asia, today, they commonly grow in tropical and subtropical climates around the globe, thus explaining their nicknames West Indian lime and Mexican lime. The trees rarely exceed 16 feet, and they often look like shrubs if they are not pruned.
The limes produced on these trees are usually around 1 inch to 1 1/2 inches in diameter. They are picked when they are green and unripe. Limes feature higher acid and sugar content than limes; their pulp is tender and juicy, though it has an acidic flavor. Citrus aurantifolia is often used as a food product. Lime juice flavors drinks, foods, and desserts. It is used in pickles and chutneys, and these limes popularly garnish drinks.
Citrus aurantifolia also produces lime oil, which is an ingredient that is popular in the beauty and personal care industries. A number of benefits are associated with lime oil, making it an appealing ingredient in a number of products. Lime oil is extracted from the lime and used in combination with other ingredients to maximize its benefits in beauty products. It can be extracted in two ways—first, through expression and second, through steam distillation.
First, lime oil offers therapeutic properties. In ancient times, it was used to treat sore throats, infections, colds, and fevers. It can be used as an antiseptic, antiviral, astringent, aperitif, disinfectant, and tonic. Thus, lime oil can be used to help treat colds even today. Its naturally cooling properties can help reduce fevers. At the same time, lime oil can soothe coughing and bronchitis and help reduce the symptoms of asthma. Lime oil has also been reported to help treat arthritis and poor circulation.
Citrus aurantifolia is also used in aromatherapy. Lime oil extract has a sharp citrus smell. Two types of lime oil are used in aromatherapy. Distilled lime oil has a fruitier aroma compared to the sharper, citrus aroma of pressed oil. When used in aromatherapy, lime oil has refreshing properties; it is popular to treat depression, and it known for its ability to improve mood and make users more cheerful. The aromatherapy properties of lime oil can be enjoyed in massage oil or in a cream or lotion. The oil can be added to bathwater to enjoy the aromatherapy benefits.
As an astringent, lime oil can effectively clean and tone skin; it is particularly useful on oily skin or acne-prone skin. Thus, using beauty and personal care products with lime oil can be an effectively way to create clear, healthy skin. Lime oil’s ability to improve circulation has a noticeable impact on eliminating cellulite as well.
Citrus aurantifolia can be found as an ingredient in a number of products. In eye creams, lime oil can help to rehydrate the skin around the eyes, creating more radiant skin. In facial cleansers and moisturizers, lime oil can help reduce acne and oily skin, creating a clearer, more even skin tone. Lime oil is also popular in anti-aging skin care products, helping reduce fine lines, wrinkles, sun spots, and other visible signs of aging. Citrus aurantifolia’s, or lime oil’s, cleansing properties make it effective at treating congested skin, better known as clogged pores. By removing this skin congestion, pores are healthier, and skin is clearer.
Like other botanical ingredients, citrus aurantifolia is a gentle ingredient with antioxidant benefits. It produces no major side effects, making it an ideal ingredient in beauty and personal care products as well as aromatherapy. Lime oil presents many health benefits with little risk.