The curry leaf tree (Murraya koenigii) was originally grown in India for its aromatic leaves and for embellishing ornaments. It soon found its way to the Asian kitchen, the leaves or kadhi patta being added as a flavoring agent in most curries.
But there’s more to curry leaves than just a heady aroma and an appetite-tickling flavor. They are a rich source of vitamins A, B, C, and B2, calcium, and iron.1 Because of this, they have been used in folklore medicine to treat calcium deficiency, among several other conditions.
Health Benefits Of Curry Leaves
Let’s take a look at some ways in which the popular leaf-spice can benefit our health:
1. Eliminates Bacteria And Cell-Damaging Free Radicals
Most illnesses are caused by infections or involve oxidative cell damage at some point or the other. In times of growing incidence of antibiotic-resistant strains, alternative remedies to infections are crucial. That’s where curry leaves show promise.
Curry leaves are loaded with carbazole alkaloids, compounds that have antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, and even anti-cancer properties. The compound linolool, primarily responsible for the flowery scent of curry leaves, is also capable of killing bacteria and eliminating cell-damaging free radicals.2
2. Heals Wounds, Skin Eruption, And Burns
A paste made from curry leaves can serve as a DIY medicine for wounds, rashes, and burns.
Trying to understand why curry leaves are touted for their wound healing properties in Asian folk medicine, a group of Malaysian researchers conducted a study on rats.3
They found that the topical application of mahanimbicine, a carbazole alkaloid extracted from curry leaves, accelerated healing in wounds that were not too deep. Not only did they seal the skin gap but also restored hair growth in the affected area.
Curry leaves have similar curative effects on boils, itchy or inflamed skin, and first-degree burns (mild burns).
How To Use:
- Grind fresh curry leaves into a paste.4 Add a little water if need be. Apply this paste on burns, bruises, and skin eruptions like boils (after you clean the affected area). It’s best to leave the paste on overnight. Cover wounds with a bandage after applying the paste.
3. Encourages Weight Loss
Curry leaves help reduce total body fat, thus, helping you shed some pounds.
Curry leaves play the successful underdog when it comes to weight loss. A study in obese rats showed that the carbazole alkaloids in curry leaves, particularly mahanimbine, work against body weight gain and reduce total body cholesterol.5 This is good news for those trying to shave off a few layers of fat from their bodies.
How To Use:
- Munch on dried curry leaves as snacks or add fresh or dried leaves to your meals. They are a must in green salads. Regularly eating these leaves along with a balanced diet and exercise may help you reach your weight loss goals sooner.
4. Keeps Diabetes In Check
By including curry leaves in your diet, you can protect and stimulate insulin-producing pancreatic cells. This will lower your blood sugar.
A study on diabetic mice showed that curry leaves can reduce blood glucose levels.6
A similar study suggests curry leaves do so by protecting insulin-producing cells of the pancreas from free radical damage.7 The effects are comparable to a well-known sugar-lowering drug called glibenclamide.
Another study offers a different explanation saying that the sugar-lowering effects are possibly due to the minerals (like iron, zinc, and copper) in curry leaves that stimulate the pancreas.8
Though the nutrients in curry leaves may account for only 1–2% of your recommended daily intake, researchers believe it is a good step in the treatment of diabetes.
How To Use:
- Eat as many curry leaves as you can, raw or in your meals. Bear in mind its spicy flavor.
5. Treats Dysentery, Diarrhea, And Constipation
Curry leaves are good for the digestive system, which is why they help relieve digestive problems.
Curry leaves can be eaten raw as mild laxatives.9 By supporting bowel movement and stimulating digestive enzymes, they serve well in the treatment of digestive problems like dysentery and diarrhea.
In a study on rats suffering from constipation, curry leaf extracts were seen to relieve constipation while also easing abdominal pain.
How To Use:
- For an upset stomach, grind curry leaves into a powder using a mortar and pestle.10 Mix a teaspoon of it into a glass of buttermilk. Drink this concoction on an empty stomach.
- Alternatively, eat raw, tender curry leaves on an empty stomach.
6. Stimulates Hair Growth, Prevents Premature Graying, And Cures Dandruff
Curry leaves can be ground into a hair mask for thicker, younger looking hair.
Curry leaves stimulate hair follicles, promoting the growth of healthy strands with normal amounts of hair pigment. They, thus, can be used in treating hair loss and premature graying.11
Dandruff is commonly caused by a Malassezia furfur fungal scalp infection. This fungus causes hair loss and makes the scalp flaky. Curry leaf extracts have shown antifungal activity toward this fungus, which is why it can be used to treat dandruff.12
How To Use:
- For hair fall and dandruff, grind dried curry leaves into a powder and mix in some coconut oil.13 The quantity of oil you add depends on the length of your hair. Massage the mix into your scalp. Leave for half an hour and wash off with a mild shampoo. Do this at least once a week.
- For gray hair, crush fresh curry leaves into a paste. Massage it into your scalp and wash off after half an hour. Do this, too, at least once a week.
7. Relieves Stress
Tip: Purchase the curry leaf essential oil instead of attempting the elaborate home distillation process for making the oil.
This has to do with the calming effects of the fragrance from curry leaves. Studies in rats showed that the inhalation of linalool could help alleviate stress.14 Curry leaf essential oil, thus, may be a useful tool in the treatment of anxiety and depression.
How To Use:
- Apply 2–3 drops of the essential oil on your pillow cover before you sleep to wake up happy.
8. Sharpens Memory
By incorporating curry leaves in your diet, you may be able to sharpen your memory. A study in rats showed that dietary intake of curry leaves can significantly reduce amnesia or loss of memory.15
The potential of curry leaves in the treatment of impaired memory disorders like Alzheimer’s is definitely one that needs to be explored.
How To Use:
- When cooking, saute a couple of curry leaves in the oil before you add the other ingredients. Try incorporating curry leaves, fresh and dried, into as many meals as possible.
9. Relieves Morning Sickness And Nausea
Those in their first trimester of pregnancy and those suffering from general queasiness should definitely give curry leaves a try.
Curry leaves increase digestive secretions and thereby relieve nausea, vomiting, and morning sickness.16 The inherent flavor of curry leaves may contribute as well.
How To Use:
- Blend 15–20 fresh curry leaves into a juice.17 You may manually crush the leaves as well. To one or two teaspoons of the leaf juice, add a teaspoon of lime juice and a pinch of jaggery. Have this mix.
- Alternatively, boil curry leaves in water and strain out the leaves. Drink the infusion when warm to mitigate the urge to vomit.
10. Treats Orofacial Dyskinesia
Orofacial dyskinesia involves involuntary, repetitive movements of muscles in the mouth and face. Twitching below the eye and smacking of lips commonly associated with psychotic patients are examples of this condition.
In animal studies, curry leaves could protect nerve cells from damage by virtue of their rich reserves of antioxidants.18 Here again, curry leaves show promise.
Traditional Use Of Curry Leaves For Better Eyesight
The claim that curry leaves can improve eyesight and prevent the early onset of cataract is mostly based on traditional medicine. The reasoning is that curry leaves are rich in vitamin A that helps protect the eye cornea, the transparent layer covering the eye.
Traditional practices involve suffusing the eyes with the juice from fresh curry leaves. This should never be attempted without professional supervision.
Now knowing what a few naive leaves can offer, you will probably never look at curry leaves the same way again. For something that is so easy to add to your diet, you should definitely give it a try.
|↑1, ↑4, ↑8, ↑10, ↑17||Singh, S. U. M. A. N., P. K. More, and SANDHYA MADAN Mohan. “Curry leaves (Murraya koenigii Linn. Sprengal)-a mircale plant.” Indian Journal of Science Researches 4, no. 1 (2014): 46-52.|
|↑2, ↑14||Rajendran, Mini Priya, Blessed Beautlin Pallaiyan, and Nija Selvaraj. “Chemical composition, antibacterial and antioxidant profile of essential oil from Murraya koenigii (L.) leaves.” Avicenna journal of phytomedicine 4, no. 3 (2014): 200.|
|↑3||Nagappan, Thilahgavani, Thirukanthan Chandra Segaran, Mohd Effendy Abdul Wahid, Perumal Ramasamy, and Charles S. Vairappan. “Efficacy of carbazole alkaloids, essential oil and extract of Murraya koenigii in enhancing subcutaneous wound healing in rats.” Molecules 17, no. 12 (2012): 14449-14463.|
|↑5||Birari, Rahul, Vishal Javia, and Kamlesh Kumar Bhutani. “Antiobesity and lipid lowering effects of Murraya koenigii (L.) Spreng leaves extracts and mahanimbine on high fat diet induced obese rats.” Fitoterapia 81, no. 8 (2010): 1129-1133.|
|↑6||Xie, Jing-Tian, Wei-Tien Chang, Chong-Zhi Wang, Sangeeta R. Mehendale, Jing Li, Ramalingam Ambihaipahar, Umadevi Ambihaipahar, Harry H. Fong, and Chun-Su Yuan. “Curry leaf (Murraya koenigii Spreng.) reduces blood cholesterol and glucose levels in ob/ob mice.” The American journal of Chinese medicine 34, no. 02 (2006): 279-284.|
|↑7||Arulselvan, Palanisamy, and Sorimuthu Pillai Subramanian. “Beneficial effects of Murraya koenigii leaves on antioxidant defense system and ultra structural changes of pancreatic β-cells in experimental diabetes in rats.” Chemico-Biological Interactions 165, no. 2 (2007): 155-164.|
|↑9, ↑11, ↑13||DUA, DEEPTI, and NUPUR S. SRIVASTAV. “Biochemistry and pharmacology of an inevitably important plant Murraya koenigii spreng (rutaceae).” Int. J. Int sci. Inn. Tech. Sec. A 2, no. 6 (2013): 36-43.|
|↑12||Deviha, Meena, and PavithraM KS. “Antifungal activity by ethanolic extracts of medicinal plants against Malassezia furfur: A potential application in the treatment of Dandruff.” International Journal of PharmTech Research 8, no. 3 (2015): 440-443.|
|↑15||Vasudevan, Mani, and Milind Parle. “Antiamnesic potential of Murraya koenigii leaves.” Phytotherapy Research 23, no. 3 (2009): 308-316.|
|↑16||Sasidharan, Indu, and A. Nirmala Menon. “Effects of temperature and solvent on antioxidant properties of curry leaf (Murraya koenigii L.).” Journal of food science and technology 48, no. 3 (2011): 366-370.|
|↑18||Patil, Rupali, Kiran Dhawale, Hanmant Gound, and Rajendra Gadakh. “Protective effect of leaves of Murraya koenigii on reserpine-induced orofacial dyskinesia.” Iranian journal of pharmaceutical research: IJPR 11, no. 2 (2012): 635.|