Curry leaves: Benefits and uses

By: Nutrition expert- Vidula Kozarekar, Mumbai.

Email id: vidula708@gmail.com

Curry leaves (Murraya koenigii), an inevitable part of spicing up dishes are not a part of mere garnishing. They are rich in medicinal, nutraceutical properties and have even cosmetic uses. Though it is customary to remove these deep green leaves from dishes we are truly unaware of its health benefits. Let us explore it in today’s article!

The curry leaf tree is native to India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and the Andaman Islands. Later spread by Indian migrants, they now grow in other areas of the world where Indian immigrants settled. Widely cultivated, the leaves are particularly associated with South Indian cuisines (1). An alternative name for curry leaf throughout India is kari-pattha. Today curry leaves are cultivated in India, Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands and in Africa as a food flavouring.

Main component responsible for flavour:

The major constituent responsible for the aroma and flavor has been reported as pinene, sabinene, caryophyllene, cadinol and cadinene. Essential oils from Murraya koenigii serves as an important part in soap making ingredients, lotions, massage oils, diffusers, potpourri, scent, air fresheners, body fragrance, perfume oils, aromatherapy products, bath oils, towel scenting, spa’s, incense, facial steams, hair treatments, and more (1).

Nutritional Value:

It has Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Vitamin C, Vitamin B2, Calcium, Iron, Zinc and Copper in plenty.

Pharmacological activity:

  • For Diabetics

Researchers recommended that; people with diabetes may benefit from the addition of curry leaves in the diet. Minerals found in curry leaf extract are important for maintaining normoglycemia, or the normal glucose content of the blood. This is done by the activation of pancreatic beta cells, which are responsible for the creation of insulin (2).

While the nutrients in curry account for only about 1 to 2 percent of the required daily intake for these elements, they are bioavailable, or readily usable by the body. Therefore, the researchers suggested that curry leaves may be useful for the management of diabetes.

  • Antibacterial activity

The essential oil from Murraya koenigii leaves showed antibacterial effect against B. subtilis, S.aureus, C. pyogenes, P. vulgaris and Pasteurella multocida. The pure oil was active against the first three organisms even at a dilution of 1: 500 (3).

The acetone extract of the fresh leaves of Murraya koenigii on fractionation gives three bioactive carbazole alkaloids named as mahanimbine, murrayanol and mahanine, which has shown mosquitocidal, antimicrobial and topoisomerase I and II inhibition activities (4).

  • Hepatoprotective activity

The modulating effect of the aqueous extract and isolates of Murraya koenigii on liver metabolizing enzymes, reduction in lipid peroxidation and decreased cellular damage were found to contribute to the hepatoprotective activity (5).

  • Anti-oxidative property

The result of a shows that the plant might be a novel and powerful therapeutic agent for radical scavenging of NO (Nitric Oxide), the regulation of pathological conditions due to excessive generation of NO and also peroxynitrite, its oxidation product (6).

  • Capability of enhancing memory

Total alkaloid extracts of Murrya koenigii leaves, in doses of 20 and 40 mg/kg p.o., improves the values of protective antioxidants like catalase, glutathione peroxidase, glutathione reductase, reduced glutathione and superoxide dismutase in brain homogenates. Furthermore, a reduction in lipid peroxidation and nitric oxide has also been indicated. Thus, these properties play a beneficial role in protection against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s (7).

  • Effect on dental caries

Dental caries are caused by bacterial species such as Streptococcus mutans and Porphyromonas gingivali. M. koenigii leaf extract containing isomahanine, murrayanol and mahanine compounds are found to be useful as oral disinfectants to protect against dental caries and periodontal disorders and are thus used as active ingredients in toothpaste formulation (8), (9).

  • Use in Cosmeceuticals

M. koenigii contain hyaluronidase inhibitors that are formulated in a cream base. This extract is incorporated in skin-lightening cosmetics for hyaluronidase inhibitory activity as well as for its moisturizing and antioxidant property. Herbal compositions containing M. koenigii stem extract as one of the ingredients show rough skin improving, skin-lightening effect and erythema. M. koenigii has been studied for its sun protective properties and it has been found that it can also be used to maintain the natural pigmentation of the skin or can be used as an adjuvant in other formulations to intensify the activity. The cream prepared from curry leaf oil shows the sun protection factor and hence can be used to maintain natural skin pigmentation (8), (9).

Easy to add to your diet:

  • Sauté curry leaves in ghee at high heat and then add the ghee and softened curry leaves to any dish of your liking.
  • Infuse broths with curry leaves for a fresh flavor.
  • Combine fresh or dried curry leaves with other spices, such as red chili, turmeric, and cumin seeds, to make a flavorful seasoning blend.
  • Top any savory dish with diced or crumbled dried curry leaves for a pop of flavor.
  • Cook curry leaves in hot oil and then use the infused oil as a dip or topping for crusty bread.
  • Add curry leaves to chutneys and sauces.
  • Toss chopped curry leaves into savory baked good recipes like breads and crackers.

Conclusion:

Curry leaves (Murraya koenigii) is a traditional multi-potential plant which has tremendous use in pharmacology. All parts of the plant such as leaf, stem, root, fruits and seeds have medicinal properties and are used to cure various ailments. The oil extracted from the leaves has proven to be useful as well.

References:

  1. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/277143748_CURRY_LEAVES_Murraya_koenigii_Linn_Sprengal-_A_MIRCALE_PLANT
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3093092/
  3. Goutam MP, Purohit R MURRAYA Antimicrobial activity of the essential oil of the leaves of Murraya koenigii. Indian J. Pharm. 1974; 36:11.
  4. Narasimhan, N. S., and NARASIMHAN NS. “ALKALOIDS OF MURRAYA KOENIGII: STRUCTURES OF MAHANIMBINE, KOENIMBINE,(-)-MAHANINE, KOENINE, KOENIGINE, KOENIDINE & (+)-ISOMAHANIMBINE.” (1975).
  5. https://scihub.wikicn.top/10.1016/j.etp.2010.04.012
  6. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/279554918_Comparative_study_of_bioactive_compounds_in_curry_and_coriander_leaves_An_update
  7. http://www.jmnn.org/article.asp?issn=2278-1870;year=2012;volume=1;issue=2;spage=92;epage=97;aulast=Bhandari
  8. Amita P, Aditya M. Journal of Medical Pharmaceutical and Allied Sciences, 2013; 2:1
  9. Sunitha JD, Patel S, Madhusudan AS, Ravindra SV. Int JA PS BMS 2012; 1: 294.

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