Published On: Wed, Apr 1st, 2015

Curbing cancer, diabetes with lime extracts

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Naturally, lime comes in a small shape, but its smallness does not undermine its potency, as studies have found that lime juice has high antimicrobial activity, anti-malarial, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetes, and anti-cancer properties.

According to a study titled, “Evaluation of the antimicrobial properties of different parts of Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime Fruit) as used locally”, published in the African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (AJTCAM), lime juice is found to be very potent in the treatment of infectious diseases and other ailments, when used alone and in combination with other herbs.

Furthermore, the American Diabetes Association has advised diabetics to frequently add lime juice to their water as a way of getting a refreshing drink which will not increase their blood sugar level.

Scientifically known as Citrus Aurantifolia, lime is a popular plant in West Africa, particularly in Nigeria. The Yorubas call it “osan wewe”; easterners refer to it as ugiri, while the Hausas know it as babban leemuu.

Aside from empirical studies, lime has been locally used in south-western Nigeria for as far back as the existence of traditional medicine, and it’s the major content of the well-known herbal concoction in Yoruba land called “epa-ijebu”, made from the burnt juice and rind of the fruit.

A study which was conducted by scientists in the Department of Pharmacognosy, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Nigeria, attested to the efficacy of lime when used locally with other substances.

“When added to sugar and palm oil or honey, the juice has been found to be an excellent cough relieving mixture. The rind is burnt in some homes to act as insecticides against mosquitoes. The mesocarp is also used as a very good facial scrub and helps in prevention of pimples due to its cleansing action on the skin”.

This article explores the benefits of drinking water mixed with lime juice, as the first exercise in the morning, as so much has been said about the health advantages of lime fruit and juice.


Nutritional profile of lime

Limes can either be sour or sweet, depending on the breed. Sour limes possess a greater sugar and citric acid content than lemons and feature an acidic and tart taste, while sweet limes lack citric acid content and are sweet in flavour.

Limes are packed with vitamin C (ascorbic acid) natural antioxidant, important for boosting the immune system, protecting against colds and many bacterial illnesses.


Nutrition in 1 lime (44g)      

A lime consists of 90 per cent water, fat-free, no cholesterol, and when the pulp is left in the juice, it is high in fibre. As with all citrus fruits, it contains a moderate amount of sugar.

Minerals found in limes include small amounts of calcium – for bone and teeth health; magnesium – muscle health and preventing cramps by stabilising the nerves; phosphorous – for cell wall, bone and teeth health;   potassium – brain function, cell and muscle health and preventing cramps; zinc – immune function, eye, nail and hair health, but also other organs. Zinc combines with many other vitamins and minerals in the body; Vitamin E (skin, nails, hair, and cell health) and vitamin K (blood and bone health), plus niacin (blood and heart health) and folate (cell and DNA health) are found in small amounts, in addition to a large dose of vitamin C (immune functions).

Commenting on the health benefits of mixing lime juice with water, Dr Oyewole Oyediran, a dietician from the Department of Health Promotion and Education, College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Nigeria, said it is good to take lime and water first thing in the morning. Water alone is a purifier when taken first in the morning, especially when it is not cold. However, adding lime to water before drinking it in the morning may add a few calories and some nutrients to it and enhances its absorption. The water’s pH will change to acidic and the concentration will depend on the quantity of lime added. However, it is advisable for an ulcer patient to discuss with his or her physician or registered dietician before gulping.

Dr Oyediran stated that some of his clients have also attested to the efficacy of the water-lime mixture in boosting their energy for the day. “This claim of ‘energy boost’ may be linked to the little calorie the lime supplies. There are few published journal articles to establish this claim”, he said.

On the potency of limes as enhancers to anti-malarial and diabetes treatments, Oyediran said there have been many claims on the potency of lime in the treatment of diseases, especially in herbal medicines. He however stressed the need for more scientifically proven studies to establish the health potentials in the fruit, adding that information exist on the ability of lime to cure many diseases including diabetes and malaria over-the-counter herbal books.

The expert also submitted that medical journals, especially clinical nutrition journals have established the importance of vitamins C and A in the fight against cancers and that these vitamins are present in lime (vitamin A is present as beta-carotene, which is a precursor of vitamin A). The quantity of lime to take to have these benefits is, however, still a subject of debate.

Another nutritionist, Professor Marshall A. Azeke, from the Department of Biochemistry, Ambrose Alii University, Ekpoma, Edo State, in an exclusive interview with Pharmanews on the anti-cancer activities of lime substances, said the potency depends on the cause of the cancer.

“If the cancer is caused by free radicals, then substances in the lime could help reduce the risk of incidence but not cure. Lime and lemon are rich in vitamin C, which is an antioxidant, and different types of antioxidants are found in fruits and vegetables. Howbeit, regular consumption of foods rich in these antioxidants can confer certain degree of protection against certain cancers”, he said.

The specialist advised people with high blood pressure to consume moderate amount of lime juice, adding that lime and lemon are generally rich in potassium, which may be good for hypertensives.


Health benefits of lime juice

Lime juice plays an important role in fighting several common and some much more severe illnesses. Below is a list of health benefits of lime juice as claimed by several studies.


Treatment and prevention of common colds

Vitamin C has been shown in many studies to be important in preventing and recovering from colds and flu1. Lime juice can be added to glasses of water to increase vitamin C intake throughout the day, especially in winter during the cold and flu season. A hot lime, honey and ginger drink can be used to calm a sore throat and boost your immune system at the same time.


Protection against rheumatoid arthritis

While one study suggests that high doses of supplemental vitamin C makes osteoarthritis, a type of degenerative arthritis that occurs with aging, worse in laboratory animals, another indicates that vitamin C-rich foods, such as lemons and limes, provide humans with protection against inflammatory polyarthritis, a form of rheumatoid arthritis involving two or more joints.

The findings, presented in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases were drawn from a study of more than 20,000 subjects who kept diet diaries and were arthritis-free when the study began, and focused on subjects who developed inflammatory polyarthritis and similar subjects who remained arthritis-free during the follow-up period. Subjects who consumed the lowest amounts of vitamin C-rich foods were more than three times more likely to develop arthritis than those who consumed the highest amounts.


Lime juice aids digestion

The use of lime for digestive problems is also very common. The flavonoids present in lime help in stimulating the digestive system and increase the secretion of digestive juices, acids and bile which in turn stimulates the peristaltic motion. This is the main reasons why many people eat lime pickle along with meals to improve digestion. Lime can cure digestive problems like constipation. The acids in lime help in cleaning out the excretory system and the roughage eases the condition. Regular consumption of lime juice with salt can help prevent and treat constipation. Lime juice should be consumed first thing in the morning on an empty stomach to cure constipation. Other problems like indigestion, nausea, vomiting and heartburn can also be cured with lime. A glass of water combined with a teaspoonful of fresh lime juice and a pinch of sodium bicarbonate is an effective remedy for indigestion and acidity.


Super-charge your immune system with limes

Ingesting lime juice has been shown to have other positive effects on immune systems. One study found that lime juice stopped the bacteria Staphylococcus aureus (commonly known as Golden Staph), from multiplying.


Anti-cancer activity

Like many fruits and vegetables, lemons and limes contain unique flavonoid compounds that have antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. Of special interest in limes are flavonoids called flavonol glycosides, including many kaempferol-related molecules. These flavonoids have been shown to stop cell division in many cancer cell lines, they are perhaps most interesting for their antibiotic effects.

Also, animal studies and laboratory tests with human cells, compounds in citrus fruits, including lemons and limes, called limonoids have been shown to help fight cancers of the mouth, skin, lung, breast, stomach and colon. Now, scientists from the US Agricultural Research Service (ARS) have shown that our bodies can readily absorb and utilize a very long-acting limonoid called limonin that is present is citrus fruits in about the same amount as vitamin C.


Lime juice improves malaria treatments

In conjunction with malaria medication, lime juice significantly improved both the speed and success of treatment. Plus lime juice is negative side-effects.


Limes protect your eye health

Vitamin C was found to protect the cornea in eyes against ultraviolet B radiation, produced by the sun.


Lime juice reduces inflammation naturally

Lime juice and vitamin C has been shown in many studies to have good anti-inflammatory effects.   If you suffer from arthritis, fibromyalgia, sciatic nerve pain, gout or other inflammatory conditions, consider ingesting lime and other citrus juices more regularly.


Manage diabetes with help from limes

Used in conjunction with metaformin, vitamin C supplements help diabetes sufferers manage their blood sugar levels. The best way to increase vitamin C is to have a healthy diet with vegetables and fruits with high levels of this vitamin, such as limes.


Weight loss

Many people also use lime for weight loss and fat reduction. The juice of one lime combined with a glass of warm water and consumed every morning on an empty stomach, is a great way to reduce body weight. Lime contains citric acid that is an excellent fat burner and can give good weight loss results in a couple of weeks itself. This is especially beneficial for overweight and obese people who can use this treatment in addition to other dietary changes and exercise. Fresh lime juice hardly contains any calories and is therefore a much healthier option, compared to other canned and sweetened beverages that are loaded with empty calories. Lime water helps in detoxifying the body that in turn helps in regulating metabolism leading to healthy weight loss. Many people also follow the lime water diet to lose excess body weight. Apart from helping in weight loss, this diet also eliminates harmful toxins from the body and ensures overall health.


Hair problems

The use of lime for hair problems like dandruff is also very common. Fresh lime juice can be scrubbed on the scalp and left to dry for 15-20 minutes as a good treatment for dandruff. Many women also apply lime juice on their hair and then go out in the sun to get natural light hair streaks. Similarly, lime oil contains natural conditioning ingredients that are beneficial for hair growth. It contains ingredients like citral, linalool and bergapten that are therapeutic and therefore considered to be good for astringent purposes and conditioning. Using lime instead of shampoo is good for maintaining silky and smooth hair without the risk of hair damage from chemicals contained in shampoos. You can also use it to rinse the hair after shampooing to add shine and luster



African Journal of Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine (AJTCAM) 2007; 4(2) name=foodspice&dbid=27\

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  1. Kay says:

    Lime has also been the traditional cure for scurvy, a vitamin C deficiency disease characterized by coughs, colds, cracked lips bleeding gums and ulcers in the tongue.

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Curbing cancer, diabetes with lime extracts