Curry Leaves Benefits And Side Effects
Curry tree is basically a tree of tropical to subtropical regions. Native to Sri Lanka and India, it belongs to the family Rutaceae along with rue, satinwood, and citrus. A small tree growing 4–6 m tall, curry tree trunk has a diameter of about 40 cm. The aromatic curry leaves are arranged in pairs on the branches of curry tree. Each leaf has 11–21 leaflets. Curry plant bears small white flowers which are capable of self-pollinating. The fruit of curry plant is a small and shiny-dark colored berries. These contain a single and large viable seed. The pulp of the berry is edible. It has a sweet with medicinal flavour. Generally, neither the pulp nor the seed is used for cooking purposes.
Being the best seasoning component, the leaves are highly valued in the regions of southern and west-coast India. When cooked, curry leaves disseminate a distinct aroma and add a unique flavour to the dish. It is very popular in India, Sri Lanka and in the nearby countries. In Sri Lankan cooking recipes, these leaves are usually fried in vegetable oil with some mustard seeds and a few chopped onions in the very first stage of the preparations. Curry leaves also find their use in various south Indian preparations including thoran, rasam, vada. They are also used in the preparation of kadhi, a north Indian recipe.
The name curry leaves may come from the extensive use of these leaves as they are majorly used in the preparation of curries. They are also known as ‘sweet neem leaves’ in many Indian languages. This is contrary to the bitter normal Indian neem leaves, which belong to the family of Meliaceae and not Rutaceae.
Though it is mainly used in cooking or for culinary purposes, Ayurvedic and Siddha fields of medicine highly appreciate the use of curry leaves due to their antidiabetic properties. However, this needs more research as no high-quality evidence supports this. These also serve as a good substitute for the tulsi leaves as a requirement in rituals and pujas.
Basic Facts about Curry Leaves:
Botanical name: Murraya koenigii
Common Name: Curry Leaves, kadipatta in Hindi
Sanskrit name: Girinimba
Parts used: Leaves
Native region and geographical distribution: Being native, these leaves are mainly used in the western and southern parts of India. Indian migrants can be credited rightly for curry leaves cultivation being done in home gardens across Asia. These days, we can easily find fresh curry leaves at specialty markets and stores in India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Fiji, Burma, Malaysia, Europe, South Africa and the United States.
- Curry leaves nutrition facts
- Curry leaves health benefits
- Curry leaves side effects
Curry leaves nutrition facts
Curry leaves have many nutrients, prominent ones being carbohydrates, fibre, calcium, iron, magnesium, copper, phosphorus and minerals. Various vitamins like nicotinic acid and vitamin C, vitamin B, vitamin A along with other secondary ingredients like antioxidants, plant sterols, amino acids, glycosides, and flavonoids are also present in ample amounts.
Based on the Indian Journal of Natural Products and Resources Vol 2(4), December 2011, 100 g of curry leaves contain the following values:
Nutrient Value per 100 g
Fats 1 g
Carbohydrates 18.7 g
Calcium 830 mg
Iron 0.93 mg
Beta-carotene 7560 µg
Curry leaves health benefits
- Curry leaves for anxiety and depression
- Curry leaves for infections
- Curry leaves for stomach
- Curry leaves for skin
- Curry leaves for hair
- Curry leaves for heart
- Curry leaves for anemia
- Curry leaves for diabetes
- Curry leaves for arthritis
Curry leaves for anxiety and depression
Anxiety disorders affect up to 33% of the population during their lifetime, while depression affects 8 to 12% of individuals. A research suggests that the aqueous extract of curry leaves has shown to reduce despair behaviour in experimental animal models, hence proving the antidepressant properties of curry leaves. As per the research, the presence of a free radical scavenging activity highlights its potential to be used in lowering the oxidative stress, and in turn, aiding recovery of anxiety and depressive disorders.
Curry leaves for infections
Curry leaves are said to contain carbazole alkaloids, compounds which contain antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. Studies reveal the antibacterial activity of curry leaves against common infectious bacteria like S. typhi and E.coli. It has also been found to possess potent antifungal activity against C. albicans and Candida glabrata. Thus, curry leaves can aid in protecting the body from various germs and infections.
Additionally, it has been reported to contain linalool, which is capable of killing harmful bacteria and scavenging cell-damaging free radicals.
Curry leaves for stomach
Curry leaves have a number of health benefits for the stomach. They are very useful for relieving an upset stomach. For relieving an upset stomach, a paste of curry leaves can be taken along with buttermilk. This remedy works best when taken on an empty stomach. Furthermore, curry leaves enhance bowel movement and it also works as a laxative. So, it can be very beneficial for relieving constipation. Curry leaves are recommended to be eaten raw for treating dysentery, a form of intestinal inflammation.
Morning sickness and nausea can be treated with the fresh juice of curry leaves, lime juice, and sugar. Vomiting due to indigestion can also be treated using the same syrup of curry leaves with an additional teaspoon of lime.
Curry leaves for skin
Curry leaves act as a good home remedy for boils and skin eruptions that occur due to heat. It is very beneficial in relieving even those irritations which do not subside over time. To get quick relief from skin irritation, a paste made of curry leaves’ is applied to the affected areas. Burn, bruises and skin eruption are treated effectively, by the use of curry leaves. Besides, using the fresh juice of curry leaves lowers the risk of developing a cataract.
Curry leaves for hair
Curry leaves contain a mix of vital nutrients required for the hair growth. Being rich in antioxidants and amino acids, they are capable of reducing hair fall. They strengthen hair follicles which helps in preventing the hair strands from thinning.
Curry leaves are a rich pool of beta-carotene and proteins. Beta-carotene is well known to limit hair loss and the proteins in curry leaves can prevent hair thinning. The leaves are boiled with coconut oil until a blackened residue is obtained. It is then used as a hair tonic. This is excellent for stimulating hair growth and retaining natural hair tone.
Curry leaves for heart
Curry leaves are rich in antioxidants which are known to be beneficial for heart health. In vivo (animal-based) studies suggest that curry leaves inhibit the peroxidation of lipids in the arteries which, otherwise, could lead to problems like atherosclerosis and high blood pressure. Both these problems have a detrimental effect on heart health.
Being a potent provider of the potassium, curry leaves are good for heart patients. A body with low potassium intake is at a higher risk of heart diseases. Recent clinical studies revealed people over 65 years of age with a habit of low intake of potassium were at 50% more risk of high blood pressure and heart problems like arrhythmia. These are ultimately linked to conditions like heart attack and stroke. The risk such problems may be lowered by consuming potassium-rich foods like curry leaves. However, further studies are required on this.
Curry leaves for anemia
Anaemia disease is basically the deficiency of haemoglobin and red blood cells (RBCs) in the human body. Low haemoglobin leads to a reduced supply of oxygen. Oxygen deficit, in turn, leads to symptoms like tiredness and fatigue and an increased chance of infections. According to doctors, iron deficiency could be one of the reasons for anaemia. Curry leaves are a good source of iron. A composition formed with the extracts of curry leaves when ingested on a daily basis helps in anemic situations. Research suggests that a dietary supplement with iron derived from curry leaves showed a higher tolerability. Curry leaves, being a natural supplement indicated lesser side effects too.
Curry leaves for diabetes
Curry leaves can be very beneficial for maintaining glucose levels in the body. This property is due to the presence of minerals like iron, zinc, and copper. Beta-cells of the pancreas, which is responsible for the production of insulin hormone, are activated on consumption of curry leaves. Curry leaves positively influence the metabolism of sugars in the body. Several in vivo studies suggest the hypoglycemic (lowers blood sugar) effects of curry leaves. In an earlier clinical trial, curry leaf powder was found to be useful in lowering blood sugar levels in cases of non-insulin dependent diabetes.
Diabetic patients have low levels of antioxidants so their body cells tend to die at a faster rate. Curry leaves are a natural source of antioxidants. They help reduce cell death in pancreatic cells which are responsible for insulin production.
Curry leaves for arthritis
Arthritis is a condition marked by an inflammation and pain in joints. Studies suggest that the presence of alkaloids, triterpenoids, and flavonoids in curry leaves may be responsible for inhibiting the sensation of pain as all the three have been reported to possess analgesic (relieves pain) and anti-inflammatory properties.
Curry leaves side effects
Curry leaves may cause allergic reactions in some people. It is not advisable to consume curry leaves if you are asthmatic or are allergic to plant parts such as pollen. (Read more: Asthma symptoms)
Topical application of curry leaves may be harmful for the hair in the long term. So, it is advisable to avoid using curry leaves along with hair oil very often.
It is advisable not to eat the small pods coming from the curry leaves. Though more research has to be done in this area, curry pods are believed to be poisonous.
Apart from being a flavourful delight, curry leaves have a lot of health benefits. However, scientists are still trying to figuring out how and why curry leaves tend to work and provide certain benefits to the human body. Like any eatable, curry leaves also have side effects, though temporary; it all depends on individual body constituency and how it is consumed.