Curry leaves are natural flavoring agents with a number of important health benefits, which make your food both healthy and tasty along with giving it a pleasant aroma. They contain various antioxidant properties and have the ability to control diarrhea, gastrointestinal problems such as indigestion, excessive acid secretion, peptic ulcers, dysentery, diabetes, and an unhealthy cholesterol balance. They are also believed to have cancer-fighting properties and are known to protect the liver.
What are curry leaves?
Curry leaves are the leaves of the curry tree, scientifically known as Murraya koenigii Spreng and it belongs to the Rutaceae family. 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.
Good for Eyesight
Curry leaves contain high amounts of vitamin A and therefore is good for eyesight. Vitamin A contains carotenoids which protect the cornea, the eye surface. Deficiency of vitamin A may cause night blindness, cloud formations in front of the eye and even loss of vision in some cases.
Radioprotective and Chemo-protective
Studies on the extracts of curry leaves have shown positive results in reducing the effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. They also offer protection against chromosomal damage, protection of bone marrow, and prevention of free radicals becoming active in the body.
Protect Against Pathogen Attack
Research on curry leaves has revealed that they are also effective in fighting bacterial and fungal infections. The leaf extracts from the plant have been comparable to popular mainstream antibiotic drugs.
Protect the Liver
Your liver plays a major role in the digestive process and it needs to be protected from any attack by free radicals, as well as from viral and bacterial attacks that can result in infection. Research on curry leaves has indicated that the tannins and carbazole alkaloids present in the leaves exhibited good hepato-protective properties. They are also helpful in protecting the liver from various diseases such as hepatitis and cirrhosis.
Curry Leaves FAQs
Where to buy curry leaves?
Major chains like Walmart and Target have curry leaves in various forms, meaning that you can even grow your own at home! Smaller natural medicine and Ayurveda-oriented stores will also have these leaves for sale. Again, they have a wide variety of uses, so there are plenty of places to find them.
How to store curry leaves?
You should remove the curry leaves from the stems, wash them, and pat them dry. Place them on a large plate with a sieve or mesh cover and set the leaves out in the sun for 2-3 days. Store the dry leaves in a plastic container; you can even keep them in the fridge and simply get one whenever you need!
How to use curry leaves for hair?
Curry leaves are very popular in hair care, primarily because of the antioxidants and amino acids the leaves contain. You can take a handful of these leaves and then mix them with yogurt, smashing them up into a paste. Apply this directly to your hair and leave the mixture in for half an hour. Then, wash the mixture out and clean your hair as usual. This can help rejuvenate hair follicles and prevent hair loss.
How to make curry leaves oil?
You should start with a pan of coconut oil that you heat up before dropping in the curry leaves. Allow this mixture to simmer for 10-15 minutes and then let the oil cool down. You can strain the oil at that point, and then use the remaining curry leaf oil whenever you want to massage your scalp or prevent premature graying.
How to make curry leaves powder?
To make curry leaf powder, all you need is a pan, curry leaves, and a pinch of salt. Heat the dried leaves in the pan until they begin to brown and curl/crisp. Don’t burn the leaves. Add the salt gradually and put the leaves in a food processor or blender. The leaves will powder very quickly into a fine green spice that you can add to dishes. Delicious and easy to prepare!
How to use curry leaves?
You can use curry leaves in a number of different ways, either in the preparation of food or for certain health benefits that this unique plant can bestow. You can make curry leaf oil and use it to increase hair growth or prevent premature graying. You can make curry leaf powder and add it to your food to benefit from the antioxidant content of the leaves. You can also grind fresh leaves into a paste and apply it to the skin to prevent infections.
How to grow curry leaves?
Curry trees are hardy plants and can be grown in home gardens relatively easily in warm climates. An entire plant can be grown from the fallen leaves of these trees; so many people choose to cultivate their own plants for their seasoning needs. Although curry plants are frost tender, they can be grown indoors, particularly if you live in a cold region, and can flourish from cuttings or seeds!