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The leaves of the curry tree are used in a variety of Indian dishes. The plant is native to India and holds a lot of medicinal value.
Curry leaves are used both fresh and dried to add flavor and scent to many dishes.
Nutritional Value of Curry Leaves
Curry leaves contain several alkaloids, flavonoids, terpenoids, and polyphenols.
They are also rich in vitamins; 100 g of curry leaves contain 6.04 mg of vitamin A, 7 mg of vitamin B3, 1 mg of vitamin B1, 19.8 mg of calcium, 49.1 mg of magnesium, and 17 mg of sodium. (1)
The components of curry leaves give this ingredient its several benefits, which may be useful in many conditions.
Read on to know the health benefits curry leaves can offer.
Health Benefits of Curry Leaves
Consuming curry leaves can bring about the following advantages:
1. Improves skin and hair health
Curry leaves have been used cosmetically for ages. These leaves are boiled in oils to produce a hair tonic, which is popularly used to improve and promote hair growth and maintain the hair’s rich natural color. (1)
Several antioxidant compounds present within curry leaves, including mahanine, mahanimbine, koenimbine, isomahanine, and koenoline, among others, can be responsible for reducing oxidative stress within the body. (1)
More studies and direct research is needed to establish the efficacy of curry leaves in skin health, but the capability of curry leaves to fight against oxidative stress cannot be ignored.
2. Aids in weight loss
The alkaloid that is responsible for the antilipid property of curry leaves is also known to be useful against obesity. (3) It prevents fat from accumulating in the tissues and improves glucose clearance and uptake. It also lowers the absorption of fat through the diet, showing potential against high-fat diets. (4)
The mechanism of action by which curry leaves act as an anti-obesity agent is a promising topic for future research, and studies on humans are still needed.
3. Aids in the management of diabetes
Studies have shown that curry leaves helped reduce blood glucose in diabetic rats and also improve the effect of insulin. These findings demonstrated curry leaves to be a promising hypoglycemic agent. (6)
Human trials need to be conducted to establish effective doses that may be beneficial to humans with diabetes, but the existing evidence is encouraging.
4. Balances lipid profile
Curry leaves also possess some cardioprotective properties including balancing the lipids (fats) in the body.
Tests done on high fat-fed rats showed that curry leaves increased HDL (good cholesterol), reduced LDL (bad cholesterol), and total free cholesterol. (6) These activities of curry leaves are linked to a type of alkaloid compound in them called mahanimbine. (3)
Though more human studies are needed, there is enough evidence in animal models to explore the use and efficacy of curry leaves in managing lipid levels.
5. Promotes wound healing
Curry leaves have also been used to treat skin infections such as scabies and other wounds. In one study, curry leaves promoted collagen formation and healing of wounds and reduced inflammation in the rat models. (7)
Curry leaves also exhibit antifungal and antibacterial properties, proving their use in skin infections caused by bacteria and fungi. (1)
6. Improves morning sickness
Curry leaves have been used in traditional medicine for the treatment of indigestion and nausea. (8)
Nausea commonly experienced by pregnant women and patients undergoing cancer treatment can be eased by the consumption of curry leaves.
7. Protects the liver
The liver is the main organ within the body responsible for metabolizing and detoxifying drugs. Several reports have suggested that curry leaves have some protective effect against alcohol-induced impairment. (1)
One study revealed that extracts of curry leaves have been found to prevent toxicity of liver cells in rats while maintaining the levels of enzymatic antioxidants. (9)
8. Supports nerve health
Extracts of curry leaves have been used to manage degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and others. (1)
Compounds of curry leaves have neuroprotective activities, prevent oxidative stress, reduce inflammation and toxicity of cells, and improve cognition. (10) However, more extensive human studies are needed to establish the potential of curry leaves in treating neurodegenerative diseases.
9. Influences the body’s immune response
Immunomodulators modify the body’s immune response by increasing or decreasing the antibodies needed. This function is useful in several infections, tumors, or immune deficiencies. (11)
Tests done on the extracts of curry leaves found them to have improved the activity of macrophages (a type of cells that are responsible for improving the body’s immune functions). The antioxidant capacity of curry leaves also lends them their immunomodulatory properties. (1)
10. Can be cancer protective
The role of curry leaves and their compounds in the management of cancer is most widely discussed.
Curry leaf extracts have been reported to initiate apoptosis of cancer cells – the process by which cancer cells die. It is achieved by the inhibition of compounds that are involved in cancer cell growth. (1)
In addition to promoting cancer cell death, extracts of curry leaves also protect cells from damage during radiation and chemotherapy. (1)
How to Consume Curry Leaves
Curry leaves are often used in cooking as fresh or dried leaves.
But the best way to consume them is to chew 3–4 leaves with every meal. Alternately, 4–5 leaves can be boiled in water for 5–7 minutes to prepare a tea that can be consumed warm with every meal.
It is advisable to not overconsume curry leaves or start supplementation without first consulting your physician.
Precautions to Consider
While research and reports suggest the use of curry leaves for several ailments, ideal dosages for human consumption have not been identified. Moreover, most studies involving animals have been done using various extracts of curry leaves.
Thus, it is very important to consult your doctor first before using curry leaves for medicinal purposes. Eating 3–4 curry leaves in fresh or dried form, as tea or in meals, is safe, but it is important to not overconsume this ingredient as its toxicity has not been identified.
Most-Asked Questions About Curry Leaves
How can I use curry leaves?
Many Indian dishes use curry leaves in lentil-based dishes. They are also used in some curries or gravies much like coriander.
How do I preserve curry leaves?
Curry leaves are often sold or available in large bunches. The leaves are attached to the branches, and most times the leaves start to blacken before the entire lot can be used.
One of the easiest ways to preserve curry leaves for long-term use is by washing and drying the leaves under the sun. The dried leaves can be used whole or powdered for cooking or tea.
Widely grown and popular in India, curry leaves host a ton of antioxidants and phytochemical compounds that are useful in many health conditions. From aiding weight loss to preventing fat formation, curry leaves are also useful in cancer cell death and reducing the discomfort of cancer treatments.
Many digestive troubles such as nausea and indigestion are also managed by curry leaves. Their antibacterial and antifungal properties are useful in preventing skin infections, especially when applied topically.
Curry leaves have applications not only in medicine but also in cosmetics. They are popularly used to promote and maintain skin and hair health. Though dosages are not established, eating 3-4 curry leaves in order to gain their benefits has no known side effects.
Finally, it is important to remember that natural remedies are not meant as replacements for medicines but instead play a protective role, and doctors need to be consulted before including anything new in the diet.