If you have noticed small fried green leaves in Indian food, it has to be curry leaves. Curry leaves are some of the basic spices found in Indian kitchen and widely available across Indian Markets. This leaf resembles very much like Neem and gets its Indian name as Sweet neem leaves. Curry leaves are leaves of tree Murraya koenigii, native to Indian Subcontinent. Today it is cultivated in various countries like China, Australia and Africa.
Curry tree is mid sized plant and can grow up to 10 feet. Indian homes often plant curry at their home. Indian recipes especially curries, stews or legumes are often incomplete without flavors of curry leaves. Curry leaves have distinct taste and aroma. Curry leaves and other parts of the tree like the root and bark are considered very good herbal medicine in ancient Indian medicine science – Ayurveda. It is considered good for treatment of diabetes, stomach disorders, considered good for hair and liver.
Nutritional value of curry leaves
Some of the key nutrients in Curry leaf include dietary fibers, proteins and rich supply of Vitamin A and Calcium. Other nutrients present in minor quantities include Vitamin B, iron, magnesium, manganese and phosphorus. Curry leave is rich in phytochemicals which offer varied health benefits and medicinal value. Essential oil is obtained from distillation of curry leaves which have aroma very similar to the leaves. The essential oil contains various terpenes, terpenols and ketones.
Health benefits of Curry leaves
The leaves of Murraya koenigii is considered as medicinal herb with anti-diabetic properties in Ayurveda. We are sure, once you read about health benefits of curry leaves, you would not throw them from the food as most people do. Chewing of 1-2 raw curry leaves in morning or eating curry leaves powder is good for health. Curry leaves should be added to food and eaten instead of discarding. Crushed curry leaves along with buttermilk or yoghurt is another way of enjoying benefits of curry leaves.
Curry Leaves for treatment of diabetes
Curry leaf is one of the natural food which is good for treatment of diabetes and has potential substitute to synthetic drugs. A 2013 study shows that Curry leaves possess powerful antioxidants including alkaloids and polyphenols which reduces blood sugar and fat. Another study has recommended Sri Lankan green leafy porridges made from curry leaves, rice and coconut milk for breakfast meals of diabetic patients. An animal study found that curry leaf extract significantly reduced sugar in drug induced diabetic rats and is more effective than anti-diabetic drug glibenclamide. Another study by American Journal of Chinese Medicine has confirmed similar properties of curry leaves in reducing blood cholesterol and glucose in diabetic rats.
Curry leaves to enjoy benefits of chlorophyll
Fresh green curry leaves contain rich source of chlorophyll. Chlorophyll offers various health benefits like blood cleansing, detoxification, wound healing and other benefits as antioxidant and anti-inflammatory food. Thus regular consumption of curry leaves help you keep body fit and protected from toxic substances in body.
Anti oxidant properties of curry leaves
Curry leaves helps body protect from free radicals which are responsible for aging and damage of body cells including that of heart, kidney and liver. One of the earliest studies publishing the anti-oxidant properties of curry leaves was published in 2007. A study published in Food chemical toxicology demonstrated property of curry leaves in protection of liver and kidney from oxidation. Curry leaves can prevent liver diseases like hepatitis and cirrhosis.
Benefits of curry leaf for Hair
Curry leaves have been long considered beneficial for hair growth. Curry leaves are believed to prevent hair damage and graying of hair. Regular consumption of curry leaves helps improve hair color and make them vibrant and shiny. Curry leaves contains essential nutrients required for growth and well being of hair and hair roots. Its anti fungal effect protects scalp from diseases. There are various ways in which one can enjoy benefits of curry leaves for hair. Curry leaves boiled in coconut oil and reduced to blackened residue is considered hair tonic. Massaging Curry leaf oil to hair and scalp regularly improves hair health.
Curry leaf for Weight loss
Curry leaves contains nutrients along with digestive fibers which are required for proper metabolism. It shall keep you energetic and helps reduce weight. Animal studies have found that curry leaves extract not only reduced cholesterol and body fats, but also reduced weight in drug induced obese rats. Mahanimbine present in curry leaves has potential therapeutic use to prevent obesity. Consumption of curry leaves supplemented by exercise and proper diet helps reduce weight quickly.
Curry leaf to reduce Cholesterol
Studies have identified use of curry leaves in reducing blood cholesterol. Food preparations of turmeric and curry leaves are considered good for heart and lowering blood cholesterol. Chewing curry leaves helps in reduction of cholesterol in body.
Curry leaf for gastro intestinal problems
Curry leaves contains the antioxidants and alkaloids which are good for gastrointestinal health. Curry leaves juice along with fresh lemon juice and sugar/honey is home remedy for indigestion and nausea. Carbozole alkaloids in Curry leaves are good remedy for diarrhea. Curry leaves juice or curry leaves paste has been traditionally used in treatment of diarrhea. Dried curry leaves are also used in treatment of indigestion and heartburn. Curry leave paste along with buttermilk can treat stomach upsets. Fresh curry leaves can treat dysentery and piles as well.
Curry leaves, roots and bark are found to be tonic, stomachic and carminative in nature. Curry tree seeds are also considered good for diarrhea. Curry tree bark is considered useful over bilious vomiting. Curry leaves extract has found to prevent gastric ulcers and treat them.
Curry leaf benefits for eyesight
Curry leaves are very good source of carotenes and vitamin A and are considered good for eye. Regular consumption of curry leaves help better eyesight and prevent eye cataract. Chewing 1-2 fresh raw curry leaves daily is good habit for better vision.
Curry leaf benefits for impacts of radiation therapy
Curry leaves cures side effects of drugs, chemotherapy and radiation therapy. This can be attributed to antioxidant activity of curry leaves. A study found that curry leaves prevents oxidation and mutation of body cells.
Curry leaves as mosquito repellant
Studies (1,2,3) have identified certain chemicals in curry leaves which have potent used as bio-pesticide. Curry leaves extract can kill mosquito larvae and strong aroma of curry leaves can ward of mosquitoes. Thus curry leaves offer prevention of diseases transmitted by mosquitoes and other pests.
Anti cancer properties of Curry leaves
Today curry leaves are being researched for various chemicals present in them which can not only prevent cancer but also treat them. Much of this anti cancer property is attributed to antioxidant nature of curry leaves. Girinimbine, a chemical isolated from curry leaf bark has shown in vitro anti-tumor properties. The curry leaves also offers antimicrobial property for protection of cancer patients from microbial infections.
Analgesic property of curry leaves
Diuretic properties of curry leaves
Curry leaves is considered diuretic in nature and increase removal of water from body. It can induce urination and sweating. This helps in reducing swelling and removal of toxic materials form body.
Curry leaves for treatment of Dementia
Dementia is syndrome of declining brain functioning and is common disorder in elderly people. A study published in Food and Chemical Toxicology claims that curry leaves extract can enhance brain function and be used as remedy for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Another study has validated the claim showing that mice fed with curry leaves extract showed better brain activity and memory.
Curry leaves and antifungal properties
Curry leaves contains constituents which are antifungal in nature. It is the reason why curry leaves paste is applied externally to bruises and skin eruption. Curry leaves can be chewed and the same mixture of saliva and curry leaves can be applied to affected area for quick healing.
Root of Curry plant for kidney disorders
Root of curry plant is good in treatment of kidney disorders. Curry plant root juice is used in ayurveda to relieve pain associated with kidneys.
Curry leaves for Insect bite
Fruits of the tree are edible and juice of the berries mixed in equal proportion of lime juice is an effective liquid for external application in case of insect bite or stings. It helps in relieving pain and irritation from insect bite.
Curry leaves as remedy for women problems
Morning sickness, nausea and vomiting are common discomforts in first trimester of pregnancy. Curry leaves helps in relieving these discomforts. Curry leaves paste along with buttermilk is considered useful for pregnant women. Curry leaf tea or curry leaf juice while it is beneficial over nausea and morning sickness, is considered safe for mother and child. Curry leave powder is consumed after childbirth in some parts of India for boosting health and preventing infection.
Benefits of Curry leaf essential oil
Curry leaf oil offers similar aroma as curry leaves. It is used in skin and hair nourishment and soap production.
Side effect of curry leaves
Curry leaves contain considerable amount of oxalic acid. Hence excess consumption of curry leaves or curry leaf powder should be avoided. Oxalic acid along with calcium in food produces calcium oxalate, which is prime cause of kidney stones.
Other names of Curry leaves: Feuilles de Curry (French), Curryblätter (German), leaves of sweet neem (Indian Languages), Kariveppilai, Karuveppilai (Tamil), Hoja (Spanish)
Culinary uses of curry leaf
Curry leaves are used as flavoring agent in food for its distinct flavor. It also works as carminative reducing flatulence from other spices. The flavor blends well with other Indian and Mediterranean spices. Curry powder is spice mixture introduced by colonial British, and it contains curry leaves and other herbs like coriander, cumin, pepper and fenugreek. Curry leaves and curry powder are main ingredient for any curry or sauces. Maju Krueng is Cambodian soup which uses roasted and crushed curry leaf powder.
Kaffir leaves or Kaffir lemon leaves are considered Curry leaves substitute as it offers similar aroma. Holy basil is used in various rituals and sacred offerings. In absence of basil, curry leaves are used.Image Credits: Flickr-Glenmaclarty, Flickr - Premii, Gujarathi Kadhi Recipe