Natural health and beauty is making a comeback in today’s society, and that means we are continuously learning new things about old ingredients that can actually make a huge difference in our medicinal and cosmetic practices.
Natural substances you thought were only good for one thing may actually be good for several, and that fact could rightly change the way you look at natural health and beauty. The planet we live on provides so much for us; all we need to do is open our minds, do a little research, and use what has been naturally provided.
A lot of the natural ingredients we’ve been using in our food dishes could actually be used for many other purposes.
What are Curry Leaves?
Curry leaves come from the tropical curry tree which is known scientifically as Murraya koenigii Spreng of the Rutaceae family. Although these leaves are commonly known as curry leaves and they are often used as an ingredient in curries, they are actually sweet neem leaves as opposed to the more bitter regular neem leaves.
The curry tree is relatively small growing to between 4 and 8 meters in height. The tree’s pinnate and aromatic leaves have a number of small leaflets around 3 to 4 centimeters long and 1 to 2 centimeters in width. The tree also produces small flowers which produce small black berries. Although these berries are edible, they are usually not used in cooking or medicine.
The herb is native to South Asia and is commonly used in South Indian recipes to add a pleasant aroma or complex flavor to dishes that have been heavily spiced. The leaves are edible after being cooked, but people tend not to eat them when included in dishes and instead simply push them aside. Curry leaves are very versatile because they can be frozen for longer storage between cooking uses; with that said, they should not be dried before cooking, as this will cause the leaves to lose their flavor and aroma.
The leaves, however, are a very popular culinary ingredient in Indian and Sri Lanka and the leaves are valued as a medicinal herb in traditional Ayurvedic medicine. As well as being used for cooking and medicine, the leaves are also used in cosmetics like soaps and body lotions, perfumes and massage oils because of their sweet, aromatic properties.
The tree is also cultivated in Australia, Ceylon, China, and Nigeria. The tree is typically found in more tropical or subtropical regions. Its name actually translates to “sweet neem” in most Indian languages, which is relevant to its common purpose as a flavoring agent in Indian and other Asian dishes; the leaves may also be commonly referred to as “Kadi patta.”
Curry Leaves Nutrition
Although it is mainly valued for its flavoring qualities, there is far more to this leaf than taste. For such a small leaf, it comes with a surprising amount of nutritional value which gives it so many of its health benefits. The curry leaf is packed with dietary fiber and essential minerals including , iron, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, and calcium. It is also rich in vitamins C, A, E and several members of the B vitamin family.
Curry leaves are also rich in carbazole alkaloids. These chemical compounds include murrayanol, isomahanina, bismahanine, mahanimbine, bispyrayafoline, mahanineoenimbine, O-methyl murrayamine, and O-methyl murrayamine A.
Scientific studies have shown that these carbazole alkaloids give the curry leaves a lot of their antioxidant properties. They also provide insecticidal (specifically mosquitocidal) and antimicrobial properties. It also is rich in nicotinic acid, amino acids, glycosides, flavonoids, and plant sterols. On top of that, there is so little fat contained in curry leaves that the number might as well be zero.
Curry Leaves Health Benefits
1) Healthy Blood
Curry leaves which are known as Kadi patta in the Hindi language are a great source of iron which is essential to ensuring a healthy supply of blood in the body. A deficiency in iron often leads to a condition called anemia which causes a range of symptoms from physical fatigue and weakness to dizziness and shortness of breath.
Not only does a lack of iron cause anemia but it can also be caused by the body’s inability to properly absorb and utilize the mineral. The good news here is that curry leaves also contain folic acid which plays a vital role in the absorption of iron. Because they contain both folic acid and iron, curry leaves are the perfect remedy for and protection against anemia.
2) Liver Protection
There is no harder working organ in the human body than the liver so ensuring its health is absolutely vital to your wellbeing. Studies have demonstrated that curry leaves can help protect the body and the liver in particular from oxidative stress damage while also protecting against the build-up of various toxins. This is because curry leaves contain a powerful antioxidant called kaempferol as well as vitamins A and C which also possess antioxidant abilities. (1)
For liver health, try drinking a mixture made from a spoonful of ghee and a cupful of the juice of curry leaves. The mixture should be heated at a low temperature because kaempferol boils away if it is exposed to too much heat.
3) Heart health
The antioxidants in curry leaves that help protect the liver from damage play a similar role when it comes to ensuring a healthy heart. According to several studies, curry leaves can help reduce bad cholesterol levels while simultaneously increasing the ‘good’ HDL cholesterol in the blood.
One Chinese study published in 2006 found that curry leaves could prevent cholesterol oxidation because they are so packed with powerful antioxidants. Reducing your cholesterol levels plays a significant role in cardiovascular health and reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. (2)
4) Blood Sugar
Curry leaves may also play an important role in controlling blood sugar levels in diabetics or those who simply want to keep their blood sugar in check. First of all, the fiber content of the leaves can help control a person’s blood glucose level but studies have also shown that certain compounds in the curry leaf can play a significant role.
A very recent study published in 2016 found that an alkaloid present in the leaves called mahanimbine could affect the activity of insulin and help regulate blood sugar. (3)
Add some curry leaves to your savory dishes or simply eat a few fresh leaves each day to help keep blood sugar under control.
5) Improved Digestion
Curry leaves can help improve the digestive system in many different ways. First of all, they have carminative qualities that can help relax the digestive muscles and are highly effective in treating common conditions like indigestion and cramps. Once they have been ingested, curry leaves which contain plenty of dietary fiber help the process of excretion.
Traditional Ayurvedic medicine uses curry leaves as a mild laxative which can help to treat cases of constipation but the effect is considered to be mild and simply aids the smooth removal of waste from the body.
6) Diarrhea Relief
Despite the fact that curry leaves have mild laxative actions, they are considered to be a great remedy for diarrhea and stomach upset in general. First of all, the fiber content of the leaves can help bind the stools but they also possess a carbazole alkaloid which has both an antibacterial and anti-inflammatory action.
These activities make curry leaves the ideal remedy for stomach upset and diarrhea. Ayurvedic practitioners recommend crushing a few curry leaves into a small ball and drinking it down with buttermilk several times a day to relieve stomach upsets.
7) For the Skin
The idea of smearing curry leaves onto your skin sounds odd but many people swear by its positive effects. Curry leaves have strong antibacterial and antifungal effects as well as possessing numerous antioxidants that can help repair skin damage.
Applying the juice of the curry leaves to the skin can help clear up certain chronic skin infections caused either by bacteria or fungus. In Ayurveda, curry leaves are often used to treat common fungal infections like nail or toenail fungus.
8) For the Hair
Curry leaves have traditionally been used in India on the hair to help overall hair health and also to prevent hair from graying prematurely. The leaves are considered to be an effective means of strengthening damaged hair and adding more vigor and life to weak and limp looking locks. Additional benefits include stimulating hair growth, repairing damaged roots, and reducing hair loss.
Eating plenty of curry leaves can help improve the overall health of your hair because they are full of important nutrients like Vitamin C and A. Alternatively, you can apply a juice made from crushed curry leaves to your hair an scalp to help deal with dry hair or fungal conditions like dandruff.
A variety of studies have demonstrated that extracts from curry leaves have anticancer potential that can help protect the body from a variety of different forms of cancer including breast cancer. (4) (5)
Studies have also found that curry leaves could actually benefit people undergoing chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatment for cancer. Not only do the leaves protect against chromosome damage but they also protect bone marrow and prevent free radical damage.
Curry leaves are an excellent remedy against respiratory problems such as coughs, chest congestion and sinus infection. They are packed full of essential nutrients like vitamin A and C as well. They also contain therapeutic compounds such as kaempferol which is a powerful anti-inflammatory with decongestant actions.
Add a spoonful of dry powdered leaves to a spoonful of honey, mix well into a paste and eat it several times a day until you are feeling better.
Overall, curry leaves are very underappreciated for their significant health benefits. It’s easy to forget how incredibly useful something is when it only ever gets attention for a certain, specific use.
While curry leaves are very useful when added in with recipes to strengthen a dish or add a pleasant aroma, they can also provide many significant health benefits. A lot of the health benefits provided by curry leaves are actually more strongly experienced when the leaves are used outside of cooking. By combining them with things like milk or tea, you can experience far more potent effects.
Because curry leaves have little to no negative side effects, they’re safe for use by essentially anyone and everyone. Even people with sensitive skin should be able to use a curry leaf paste or other mixture when treating skin irritations or wounds. With that said, it may be best to speak with your doctor before using curry leaves to treat any serious health condition to make sure the benefits won’t interfere with any medications you may already be taking.
A great way to experience all of the possible health benefits provided by curry leaves is to speak with a holistic health practitioner after speaking with your doctor. If your doctor approves the use of curry leaves as an at-home treatment of any health condition you may have or may be trying to prevent, a holistic health practitioner could assist you in determining the proper dosages and methods of use that will be best for you and your body.
By working with a professional, you won’t need to waste any time trying to figure out what the best way to use curry leaves is to get the results you’re looking for; a holistic health practitioner can skip all of that and let you know the best ways to use the leaves right away.