If you're a fan of south Indian cooking, you're probably familiar with curry leaves (kadi patta). These aromatic leaves do exactly what they'd think - add flavor and depth to a curry, soup or dahl dish. Curry leaves grow on the curry tree, which is native to Asia, and have a taste that's likened to lemongrass. You can usually buy dried curry leaves from your local supermarket, and they're widely available online, too.
While curry leaves are a cooking staple for some, we're not here to talk about their culinary benefits. Like many natural, plant-derived herbs and leaves, curry leaves have been found to contain a whole host of healthful ingredients that, when consumed, can benefit us humans immensely.
From improving hair health to reducing diabetes risk, preventing infection, encouraging weight loss and even treating heart problems, stay tuned to learn the most impressive uses and health benefits of curry leaves.
1. High Fiber Content
Being an excellent source of fiber, one of the biggest health benefits of curry leaves is their ability to support and improve digestive health. Fiber in curry leaves helps the body to regulate bowel movements, preventing constipation and equally warding off diarrhea.
If you often suffer from nausea as a result of poor digestion, curry leaves help to prevent this, too. A happy gut makes for a happy body, so it's wise to make the most of curry leaves and other plant-based digestive supporters to improve your overall health and wellbeing.
2. Rich Source of Proteins
We've been taught a very black-and-white approach to proteins, with many of us believing that you can only get protein from meat, fish and dairy. This isn't actually true - many plant-derived foods contain a higher protein content per gram than meat.
Curry leaves have a particularly high protein concentration, and adding them to your daily diet will help you to benefit from the proper growth and repair of cells, especially in children.
3. High Calcium Content
Again, you probably think that calcium can only be found in milk, cheese and yogurt, but you'd be surprised at just how many foods you can actually find it in! Curry leaves are a fantastic source of calcium and can contribute to healthy bones and teeth.
Getting enough calcium from curry leaves and other foods will ensure you can avoid the side-effects of calcium deficiency, namely degenerative bone diseases such as osteoporosis and osteomalacia.
4. Loaded with Phosphorus
Phosphorus is a lesser-known mineral that deserves far more attention than it gets. We need phosphorous to support calcium in the healthy formation of teeth and bones.
It's also needed by the body in conjunction with protein to support healthy growth and development. Curry leaves are rich in phosphorous, and, along with nuts, legumes, and some meat and fish products, can ensure your whole body can benefit from the mineral.
5. Abundant Essential Oils
You probably never knew where the likes of terpinene and pinene came from. These volatile oils can be found in many plant-based sources, including curry leaves.
Boasting anti-inflammatory properties, and also proving effective in encouraging hair growth, maintaining overall skin health and possessing anti-bacterial powers, there are so many reasons to include these oils from curry leaves in your daily diet.
Some studies have even found the volatile essential oils in kadi patta to prevent high blood pressure and high blood sugar.
6. May Treat Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is one of the most common health conditions, and results from the level of blood sugars in the body being too high. It has a range of unpleasant side effects and is considered serious if it isn't treated - but luckily, it is reversible if you catch it early enough.
One of the most impressive benefits of curry leaves is their hypoglycemic properties, which help to reduce blood sugar levels by stimulating the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. When insulin is produced, it can break down starch into glucose, resulting in a decrease in blood sugar levels.
7. Reduces Anemia Risk
You can find plenty of iron, which is important for making the blood cells that carry oxygen around the body, in curry leaves. When you don't get enough iron from your diet, you can end up with iron-deficiency anemia, which can result in tiredness, pale skin, and shortness of breath.
Be sure to include curry leaves in your diet as another healthy source of iron, and they'll ensure you stay nice and energized throughout the week. When you're taking in enough iron from curry leaves and other foods, you should also see a reduced risk of infection as an added bonus.
8. Maintains Good Eye Health
Curry leaves are rich in vitamin A, which helps to reduce the risk of macular (age-related) degeneration and vision loss. Because vitamin A also boosts the immune system, it'll prevent eye infections and inflammation.
Beta-carotene, which is also found in curry leaves, helps to keep the surface of the eye healthy and moist, preventing clouding of the eyes or dryness.
9. Helps Fight Infection
One of the most well-known health benefits of curry leaves is their ability to fight infection. Because of their antioxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory and anti-fungal properties, curry leaves help to support a healthy immune system, ensuring we're well protected from infections and common viruses like cold and flu.
Curry leaves are rich in vitamin C, too, which also supports immune defense against harmful free radicals.
10. May Support Weight Loss
If you're looking to lose weight, you're probably well aware that you can only achieve your weight loss goals by combining a healthy diet with an active lifestyle. While there are no quick-fix weight loss remedies, curry leaves are widely used by those looking to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight, after weight loss.
Curry leaves contain carbazole alkaloids, which, according to research, reduce LDL cholesterol levels and prevent heart disease - two problems that can be reduced with weight loss. Some sources also claim that curry leaves can support fat burn and encourage the removal of toxins from the body, thus promoting weight loss, though there's not much evidence to support this.
11. Encourages Healthy Digestion
The majority of adults suffer from frequent digestive issues, which is likely a result of the processed foods we reach for on a daily basis. To limit the effects of indigestion, try including more curry leaves recipes in your diet.
One of the health benefits of curry leaves is that they can treat gastrointestinal issues thanks to their carminative and anti-dysenteric properties.
Whether you suffer frequently from constipation, nausea, bloating, diarrhea, or piles, dried or fresh curry leaves should help to prevent these common tummy troubles. Curry leaves are a natural stimulant, too, which means they can enhance appetite if you're feeling off your food.
12. May Prevent Cancer
It's early days on this one, but recent research suggests that curry leaves may have some health benefits linked to treating and preventing cancer. In particular, it's thought that phenols and carbazole alkaloids, both of which are present in curry leaves, may help to prevent colorectal cancer and prostate cancer, and may also be used in their treatment.
13. Supports Dental Health
Way back when, our ancestors would use plant-based ingredients like curry leaves for the same purpose as we use dental hygiene products for now. Curry leaves were a particularly popular natural remedy for the gums and teeth thanks to their oral health benefits.
Research suggests that curry leaves contain essential oils that can support healthy teeth and gums, prevent bad breath, and remove bacteria and other pathogens responsible for infections.
14. Heart-Healthy Properties
As well as containing nutrients like folic acid and fiber, Murraya koenigii (curry leaves) also contain high amounts of mahanimbine, an alkaloid that is considered incredibly important for heart health. Studies have found that mahanimbine in curry leaves may prevent oxidative stress, fat accumulation, high cholesterol, and inflammation that result in heart disease.
It's thought that mahanimbine can relax the cardiac system while strengthening the heart muscles, making it beneficial for people suffering from heart palpitations. When you add curry leaves to turmeric to make a mix, the effects of the additional curcumin are said to be even more potent when used to decrease cholesterol.
15. Improves Cognitive Function
Another of the age-old benefits of curry leaves on this list is their ability to improve cognitive function. Curry leaves or curry leaf extract contain bioactive components that prevent certain brain chemicals from breaking down. This helps to ensure your memory remains enhanced even with age, and may also support alertness, concentration and calmness.
Because leaves curry extract is a stimulator and tonic for the brain, it's suggested that those who have consumed curry leaves regularly from a young age have improved cognitive abilities, as well as better memory and improved problem-solving abilities. Some studies even suggest that murraya koenigii may play a role in reducing cognitive decline and conditions like dementia, though we need more evidence before we can say this for certain.
16. Fights Respiratory Problems
If you frequently suffer from chest congestion and issues with mucus, adding curry leaf dishes to your diet may help. Curry leaves have anti-bacterial properties that can help to prevent the occurrence of common respiratory problems and can also treat issues associated with cold and flu.
Consumption of curry leaves may help to clear mucus and free your airways. With curry leaf having soothing properties, it may also help to reduce throat dryness and irritation, and even relieve headache associated with sinus problems.
17. Improves Hair Health
Curry leaves are packed full of properties that are said to be good for treating damaged hair and promoting hair growth. The protein and antioxidant content of curry leaves can help to neutralize free radicals, minimizing day-to-day damage.
To best treat hair damage from home, you'll just need coconut oil (or argan oil) and curry leaves. After thoroughly washing the leaves, grind them to form a paste, then add the paste to the coconut oil and apply it to your hair. Leave in your hair for 15 minutes. Finish by rinsing out the leaves and oil mix and washing your hair as usual.
18. Maintains Healthy Skin
Thanks to their antioxidant properties, curry leaves are ideal for using as a home remedy for skin and nail health. Simply grind curry leaves to make a paste to apply on your face when you want to treat acne and dark spots.
Curry leaf paste can also be used to treat fungal nail and skin infections. The folic acid and vitamin C content of curry leaf powder may also support the development of healthy skin cells, encouraging collagen production and preventing wrinkles.
19. Pain-Reduction Abilities
A recent study on rats found that consuming curry leaves may decrease pain. Curry leaves are often used to alleviate the symptoms of arthritis thanks to their anti-inflammatory benefits, which are good at relieving swelling and pain in the joints.
Curry leaves may also be beneficial in encouraging faster muscle repair after workouts because of their high protein levels. Whether you're exercising to lose weight or build muscle, curry leaves are a good ingredient to add to your foods to reduce post-workout pain.
Packed with high levels of vitamin C, vitamin B, antioxidants and other powerful plant substances, curry leaves can do a whole lot of good for our bodies. The beneficial health effects of curry leaves are relatively unknown, which is a shame, as research suggests these leaves can help with anything from preventing weight gain to lowering cholesterol levels and even treating cancer.
Curry leaves can be found in most health and grocery stores. If you're looking for something more specific, you can also find curry leaf powder and curry leaf extract in some health stores and online.
Even if you don't consider yourself a chef, it's easy to add curry leaves to your dishes. They can be used to infuse broths with a lemony flavor, sauteed with oil or ghee and added to rice and veggies, or dried and used to top dishes for a pop of flavor.
However you choose to use this beneficial plant-based ingredient, whether you add curry leaves or powder to your food, or drink curry leaf extract tea on a daily basis, your body will thank you for it in the long run!