Curry Leaves - Murraya Koenigi
This article summarizes the numerous medical, cosmetic and culinary usage of curry leaves (Murraya Koenigii) , and how to add them safely to our cuisine through various curry leaf recipes. Curry leaves benefit patients with stomach ulcers, type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, obesity, fatty liver, cirrhosis and cancer. They also benefit hair growth, prevent dandruff and hair fall and help in skin & scalp care.
Curry Leaves, scientifically known as Murraya Koenigii are endemic to the Indian subcontinent. They are primarily used for their aroma and taste in seasoning a lot of South Indian dishes. In fact almost 90% of South Indian dishes have mustard seeds, turmeric powder and curry leaf fried in oil as a default seasoning base. Apart from their use for taste, they have a pretty high medicinal value and can be used with zero side effect as a treatment for type 2 diabetes, stomach ulcers, cholesterol, toxic liver, cirrhosis, as antioxidant to remove free radicals and relieve oxidative stress, as antibacterial and antibiotic and as a prevention and treatment for cancer. In addition curry leaves can be used for hair growth & skin care.
Traditional use as medicine
Curry leaves are used in a lot of home remedies since the ancient times. The bark & root of the curry leaf plant are used as antidotes for snake and scorpion bites in folk medicine in South India. The paste of the curry leaf is applied on skin eruptions caused due to excessive heat during summer. They are also used (along with neem leaf paste) as packs for scabies. Butter-milk (diluted skimmed curd) with salt, curry leaves and hing (asafoetida) is generally used as a dessert after a heavy and spicy Indian meal to aid digestion. It is an excellent source of Iron, calcium, Vitamin A, B , B2 , C and beta-carotene.
Modern research into medical benefits of curry leaves
Although there is a sudden surge of interest in herbs as an alternate medicine, modern mainstream medicine is very reluctant to do any authoritative studies into herbal medicine and keeps saying conveniently that " there is no conclusive evidence on the therapeutic value of curry leaf (or amla or anything for that matter) as a cure for blah-blah disease" - after all it is a multi-billion dollar industry and why should the industry spend its money or research grants into shooting its own interests down?
But we can have the benefit of many studies on rats (can science ever be cruelty-free?) and try these herbal medicines at no risk (after all most herbs have a history of being consumed for centuries without any major adverse effect). Below we have collated the results of many scientific studies attempting curry leaves as a cure or supplemental medicine for many illnesses.
Carbazole Alkalaoids - bounty of curry leaves
Ulcer, flatulence, indigestion
By grinding fresh curry leaves into a paste combining them with lemon juice OR curd, we can get a lot of relief from flatulence, indigestion and stomach ulcers. In fact, a team of scientists from Saudi Arabia did a study on rats and found that girinimbine , a carbozole alkaloid extracted from curry leaves, was effective in the treatment of stomach ulcer
"Girinimbine from curry leaves promotes gastro protection against ethanol induced peptic ulcers and improves healing via regulation of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant mechanisms " 1
Type 2 Diabetes
Curry leaves (like Moringa leaf powder) stabilizes and reduces post-prandial blood glucose levels. In the Journal of Natural Products 2016 , a team of researchers from the Central Drug Research Institute (part of CSIR), funded by Government of India , published their findings of a study on rats. 2
"This study identified koenidine(4) as a metabolically stable anti-diabetic compound, when evaluated in a rodent type 2 model (leptin receptor-deficient db/db mice), and showed a considerable reduction in the postprandial blood glucose profile with an improvement in insulin sensitivity. Therefore, these studies suggested that koenidine (4) may serve as a promising natural scaffold for managing insulin resistance and diabetes."
(This is very significant - we may have many natural medicines for type 2 diabetes instead of metformin, like curry leaves , fenugreek sprouts, cinnamon, moringa leaf powder or okra water - but does it mean they will ever come to mainstream? Only in our dreams! The metformin market is over 70 billion dollars worldwide and growing at 6% CAGR!) Cholesterol & Weight loss
The Tang Center for Herbal Medicine Research, Pritzker School of Medicine, University of Chicago published an article by a team of Chinese & Indian Scientists in 2006 3 who concluded that
"We observed that curry leaf (Murraya koenigii) extract possesses the property to decrease blood cholesterol and blood glucose levels in diabetic ob/ob mice. Mice received daily intraperitoneal injections of 80 mg/kg curry leaf extract for 10 consecutive days. The extract significantly decreased blood cholesterol level from 277.6 +/- 16.6 mg/d (day 0) to 182.0 +/- 15.3 mg/d (day 10, p < 0.01 compared with the change in vehicle group). The extract also significantly decreased blood glucose level from 387.0 +/- 15.6 mg/dl (day 0) to 214.0 +/- 26.6 mg/dl (day 10, p < 0.01). In addition, body weight was reduced after extract treatment. Our data suggest that curry leaf may be proved to be of clinical importance in improving the management of high cholesterol level and type 2 diabetes."
It is amazing that even after 15 years of these findings, Murraya koenigii has not made it to the mainstream!
Murraya koenigii as a hepatoprotective drug (De-tox medicine for Liver)
It is common knowledge that alcohol can damage the liver. Well our good friend Curry Leaf can prevent liver toxicity as well as obesity related issues. A study 4 evaluated the effects of mahanimbine, a major carbazole alkaloid from Murraya koenigii (curry leaves), against progression of high-fat diet (HFD)-induced metabolic complications in mice (male and female).
"Mahanimbine prevented HFD-induced hyperlipidemia and fat accumulation in adipose tissue and liver along with the restricted progression of systemic inflammation and oxidative stress. Moreover, mahanimbine treatment improved glucose clearance and upregulated the expression of insulin responsive genes in liver and adipose tissue
5.5 Curry leaves for Obesity
Studying the antiobesity and lipid lowering effects of Murraya koenigii ( fancy name for curry leaves), scientists from the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research Punjab, India, found that rats, in spite of being fed a high fat diet, resisted obesity when they were fed curry leaf extract. 5
"The dichloromethane (MKD) and ethyl acetate (MKE) extracts of Murraya koenigii leaves significantly reduced the body weight gain, plasma total cholesterol (TC) and triglyceride (TG) levels significantly when given orally at a dose of 30 mg/kg/day to the high fat diet (HFD) induced obese rats for 2 weeks. The observed anti-obesity and anti-hyperlipidemic activities of these extract are correlated with the carbazole alkaloids present in them. Mahanimbine (1) when given orally (30 mg/kg/day) also significantly lowered the body weight gain as well as plasma TC and TG levels. These findings demonstrate the excellent pharmacological potential of mahanimbine to prevent obesity. "5
"In addition, mahanimbine lowered the absorption of dietary fat resulting in dietary fat excretion. " 4 5.5 Antioxidant - relieves oxidative stress 5.6 Antibacterial and antibiotic 5.7 Carbazole alkaloids - treatment of cancer 5.8 Curry Leaves for hair growth 5.9 Curry Leaves for Skin care
Some Curry Leaf recipes They contain 18.7% complex carbohydrates and 6% protein. So it is a good food in its own right. Only we are not goats and we cannot digest so much fibre! So the next best thing is to use it in salad dressings and very many recipes as an aromatic spice.