What are curry leaves?
Curry leaves are the leaves of the curry tree, scientifically known as Murraya koenigii Spreng and it belongs to the Rutaceaefamily. The plant is native to India and is usually found in tropical and subtropical regions. It is cultivated in various other countries such as China, Australia, Nigeria, and Ceylon. The height of the plant ranges from small to medium. The useful parts of this plant are its leaves, roots, and its bark.
The leaves have always been sought after for their unique flavor and usefulness in cooking, but there are also a number of health benefits that make them highly appealing. The leaves can be dried or fried, depending on the intended use. The fresh form is also very popular, both for cooking and herbal medicines. In Ayurvedic medicine, curry leaves are believed to have several medicinal properties. They are considered to have anti-diabetic, antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, and hepatoprotective (capability to protect the liver from damage) properties. The roots are used for treating body aches and the bark is used for snake bite relief.
The leaves, with their vast herbal properties, are used in various local cuisines across India and other parts of Asia as flavoring agents. Curry leaves resemble ‘neem’ or Indian lilac and their name in most Indian languages translates to ‘sweet neem’.
Curry Leaves Nutrition Facts
The main nutrients found in curry leaves are carbohydrates, energy, fiber, calcium, phosphorous, iron, magnesium, copper, and minerals. It also contains various vitamins like nicotinic acid and vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin E, antioxidants, plant sterols, amino acids, glycosides, and flavonoids. Also, nearly zero fat (0.1 g per 100 g) is found in them.
The other chemical constituents present in curry leaves are carbazole alkaloids. Research studies held by the Department of Home Economics at Kenmei Women’s Junior College in Hyogo, Japan showed that alkaloids found in the leaves possess antioxidant properties. Carbazole alkaloids include mahanimbine, murrayanol, mahanineoenimbine, O-methylmurrayamine A, O-methylmahanine, isomahanine, bismahanine and bispyrayafoline. Further studies conducted at the Department of Horticulture at Michigan State University suggested that these chemicals have insecticidal and antimicrobial properties as well, specifically mosquitocidal properties.
Health Benefits of Curry Leaves
Most people think that curry leaves just add flavor to the food and they throw the leaves away while eating their soup or curry. However, they are far more important than many people realize, and they offer a number of health benefits without any side effects.
Research conducted by Ashish Pagariya and Maithili, V. concluded that the carbazole alkaloids present in curry leaves have anti-diarrheal properties. Experiments on lab rats showed that carbazole extracts from curry leaves had significantly controlled castor oil-induced diarrhea. A bunch of curry leaves can be ground up and the paste can be eaten or the juice of the leaves can be consumed.
Use of curry leaves is recommended as a cure for gastrointestinal issues in Ayurveda.One important use is due to the fact that they are considered to possess mild laxative properties. You can make juice out of a bunch of curry leaves and add lime juice, and consume the mixture to cure indigestion. A paste made from the leaves can also be added to buttermilk and taken every morning on an empty stomach to serve the same function.
Research studies conducted by Mylarappa B.Ningappa et al. at Jawaharlal Nehru Center for Advanced Scientific Research, Molecular Parasitology and Protein Engineering Laboratory in Bengaluru, India have indicated that curry leaves are a good source of antioxidants. The presence of various vitamins like vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C and vitamin E help in reducing oxidative stress and free radical scavenging activity. They are also available in dried powder form.
Perhaps one of the biggest health benefits of curry leaves is its use in diabetes control. Research conducted by the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Madras, Chennai showed that the anti-hyperglycemic properties of the leaves were beneficial in controlling blood glucose level in diabetic rats.
The chemical constituents found in curry leaves such as phenols are helpful in fighting cancers such as leukemia, prostate cancer, and colorectal cancers. Research on these leaves at the Department of Medical Chemistry at the Mejio University, Japan showed evidence of cancer-fighting properties in the carbazole alkaloids extracts from curry leaves.
Lower Cholesterol Levels
Curry leaves are also known to reduce LDL or bad cholesterol levels. Studies conducted at the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Kerala, India have shown that they have the potential to reduce LDL cholesterol levels.
Curry leaves are believed to help in strengthening hair roots. Dry curry leaf powder mixed with oil can be applied to your hair. The paste from curry leaves can also be applied in cases of gray hair. Doing these on a regular basis can improve hair growth as well.