Curry leaves or Sweet neem leaf (Murraya Koenigii) is an aromatic leaf generally used in south Indian cuisine. Curry leaves have antioxidant properties. They are rich in Vitamin C, and minerals calcium, phosphorus and iron, nicotinic acid and therefore serve as good nutritional supplements.
Curry leaves in cooking
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The aroma that assaults your senses when you enter a South Indian household is that emanating from curry leaves. Curry leaves are used for seasoning in south Indian and West coast Indian cuisine, generally in fresh form. Sometimes it is oven dried or roasted immediately before use. A very common technique of using curry leaves is frying it in oil or butter at the start of the preparation.
The main use of curry leaves is in the preparation of thin lentil or vegetable curries, South Indian dry curries and specialty rice dishes. Curry leaves have been used as a natural flavoring agent in South Indian dishes such as Sambhar, rasam, and curries. Curry leaves mixed with coriander leaves, coconut and tomatoes form delicious chutneys in South Indian cuisine!
Curry leaves can be kept fresh for two weeks under refrigeration.
Don’t confuse curry leaves with curry powder. Curry powder was created by British in India around 1700’s and is a mixture of a number of herbs and spices such as curry leaves, cumin, cinnamon, turmeric and coriander.
Home remedies and curry leaves
Curry leaves have the qualities of an herbal tonic. It has many herbal medicinal properties and is used widely in Ayurveda for its therapeutic properties.
A few home remedies utilizing curry leaves throughout India are:
- Curry leaves are your best bet against morning sickness during pregnancy. Mix lime juice, honey juice or sugar crystals with the curry leaf juice and drink it. This prevents nausea and dry vomiting.
- Curry leaves have been used for proper functioning and strengthening of stomach. For this purpose, curry leaf is mixed with finely chopped ginger, mixed with rice and taken early in the morning. This is known to reduce stomach disorders, constipation and even dizziness.
- Curry leaves are known to be good for health of your hair. Mix curry leaves in hot oil (coconut oil, mustard oil) and then wait for the curry leaves to turn darker in color. Remove it from heat, let it cool and store in a glass container. Apply this oil on the scalp and let it stay overnight. This prevents premature greying of hair, nourishes the hair root, and also is a growth stimulant for hair.
- Curry leaves mixed with asafetida added to butter milk, if taken daily after meals is a good home remedy for improper digestion.
- A few curry leaves can be chewed daily to reduce weight.
So, next time you come across curry leaf in a dish, don’t nudge it aside, instead eat it for your lustrous hair, glowing skin and staying healthy.
Medicinal properties of curry leaves in Ayurveda
Curry leaves is an inexpensive condiment which has excellent medicinal properties. The leaves, fruits, bark and roots of curry leaf tree are used in indigenous medicine as tonic, stimulant and antiflatulent. A few uses of curry leaves in Ayurveda are;
Gastrointestinal properties: curry leaves are an herbal tonic which strengthen and promote the function of stomach. They act as mild laxatives. It stimulates the digestive enzymes and helps in the breakdown of food.
Tender curry leaves are useful in dysentery, diarrhea and piles treatment.
- It is used in the treatment of diabetes due to heredity as well as diabetes caused due to obesity. It helps in reducing weight and hence is considered effective in reducing the level of sugar in blood.
- It is a potent blood purifier and restorative of the degenerated blood cells.
- It helps in the building up and strengthening of liver, and also regulates metabolism of fatty acids.
- Kidney disorders: the juice of the roots of curry leaf tree is beneficial in the treatment of pain associated with kidney disorders.
- Curry leaves are known to promote hair growth and inhibit premature greying of hair. They bring about the growth of new hair which is healthier with normal melanin pigment.
- Burns and bruises: Curry leaves help in healing the burns, bruises and skin eruptions. They are applied in the form of poultices over the affected area of the skin.
- Fresh curry leaf juice helps in maintaining the health of the eyes. It also prevents the growth of cataract.
- Insect bites: the fruits of the citrus curry leaf trees are berries and are edible. They juice of the berries mixed with lime juice is applied over the insect stings and bites of poisonous insects for treatment.
Curry leaves in cancer
- Curry leaves have a chemical called mahanin which has been found to be effective against the cure of cancer cells. It causes controlled cell death.
- Curry leaves due to the presence of this chemical can cause selective death of prostate cancer cells. They are coming up as a new chemotherapeutic treatment of prostate cancer.
- A notable fact is that prostate cancer is the second leading cause of death in men in US.
Curry leaves in diabetes
- Curry leaves are considered a good tonic for the spleen and pancreas and increase the number of cells of the islet of Langerhans which form insulin.
- Curry leaves re rich in minerals and trace minerals such as iron, zinc and copper which are known to play a role in maintaining normal glucose levels in the blood. Hence, curry leaves may be effective in the treatment of diabetes.
- Curry leaves are also significant in carbohydrate metabolism and restore the functions of liver and kidney enzymes which bring about the breakdown of carbohydrates.
- The antioxidant property of curry leaves is known to reduce the death of pancreatic cells and hence plays a crucial role in diabetes.
- Curry leaves are also known to reduce blood sugar levels.
Curry leaves in hair and skin care
- All parts of the curry leaf tree can be utilized in preparing oil by steam distillation and applied on head to prevent premature greying of hair. Oil with curry leaves mixed in it provides nourishment to the hair root. Curry leaves are also known to induce hair growth and the new hair follicles are normal with normal concentration of pigments.
- Studies have also reported that curry leaves can be used to maintain natural pigmentation of the skin, and is also known to possess some amount of sun protection factor.
- Curry leaves in formulation
Orthokan massage oil: It is a pure herbal formulation which provides relief in arthritis, rheumatism, gout, paralysis, low back pain, rickets, removes swelling and frozen shoulder and other neuromuscular pain.
Consitap: It is an ayurvedic herbal drink promoting flatulence, and increase the appetite. It is also used for piles.
1. Raj MN, Peter KV, Nybe EV. Spices, New India Publishing, Vol 5, 2007, 170.
2. Pullaiah T. Encyclopedia of world medicinal plants, Daya books, Vol 2, 2006, 1380.