Curry Leaves belong to the aromatic tree,urraya Koenigii. They add a savory aroma and taste to the South Indian Cuisine and are used in Ayurveda and home remedies in the Southern part of India extensively. Most of the foods prepared in Southern India use this to flavor the dish by tempering it with oil. Curry leaves are used as powders by drying the leaves and mixed as additives to dishes as well. The leaves when eaten raw are not very palatable and they are mostly discarded as the curry leaves are used to lend a certain flavor but not eaten. However, this might change as recent studies and clinical research has shown them to have certain alkaloids which can help with diabetes, cancer and other ailments. With diabetes and other cholesterol related problems plaguing most of the people in the current era, scienstists have been trying to find a cure to diabetes and curry leaves have been found to have alkaloids that are helpful in lowering sugar levels. But how and why the leaves are helpful is still under investigation and the compounds are being isolated from the leaves to study them and used on animals to see the overall effects and cure factor.
The botanical name of curry leaves is Murraya Koenigii. This grows in Asia and most parts of India upto an elevation of 1500m. Almost all parts of India are familiar with Curry leaves. It is a small sized hardy tree, that grows to a height of about 5-6 m and the trunk of the tree is about 40 cm in diameter. The curry leaves are pinnate in structure and contain about 10-22 leaflets. Each leaflet resembles the leaves of the neem tree and is about 2 cm broad and 2-4 cm long. The plant bears small white fragrant flowers. The berries of the plant are green in color and turn purple on ripening. Apart from India, Curry leaves are also grown in South Africa and Malaysia. One can pluck off a single leaflet and just slide the hand in one direction to take off the leaves from the stem which makes it very easy to wash and use, and they keep long if stored in a damp paper towel put in a ziploc bag. The tree itself puts out shoots around it which its main mode of propagation. One can see a whole bunch of small curry leaf plants sprouting all around the mother tree. During the Indian summer, the tree will shed a lot of leaves due to the heat but the tree grows gloriously during the monsoon months. Trimming it regularly produces new leaves and keeps the tree healthy.
Curry leaves have been studied and found to have many phenols, flavonols, aminoacids and alkaloids which shows them to have high antioxidant capacity as well. Aminoacids such as alanine, tryptophan,tyrosine are some of the many acids found in the leaves. Carbazole alkaloids such as koenigine, mahanimbine, muconicine were extracted and have been found to demonstrate anticancer properties and antioxidant properties. Curry leaves have both hypoglycemic effect and also help in reducing triglycerides count. These tests have been done only on animals and are in very preliminary stages of testing for humans. So until further clinical trials and evaluations are done it is okay to eat curry leaves in moderation as usual with your food and not really start taking them in heavy doses to treat diabetes unless you are being guided and monitored by a doctor.
Our body produces a digestive enzyme, pancreatic alpha-amylase which helps breakdown of starches to glucose (the fundamental block of carbohydrates or sugars). Curry leaves have been seen to stop the production of this enzyme which helps in the sugar or glucose not being released into the blood. Insulin is the enzyme secreted by pancreas to regulate blood sugar levels. In Diabetes, the body has high level of sugars in the blood which are not being regulated by insulin which is due to the (diabetesI or diabtesII)inability of pancreas to produce sufficient amounts of insulin to curb the sugar production. Curry leaves seemed to address this issue on the mark. By reducing the availability of the pancreatic alpha-amylase enzyme, the leaves are able to inhibit the conversion of starches to sugar which can help treat diabetes effectively.
Curry leaves have alkaloids in them, Mahanine is one of them which has been studied by the Indian Institute of Chemical biology. In their study, they treated prostarate cancer cells with the alkaloid, Mahanine and found it kills the prostrate cancer cells but does not kill other cells in teh body such as the heart or liver cells. The study has initiated a new treatment option for patients suffering from prostrate cancer as Mahanine can be the new naturo-chemical treatment. Mahanine seems to block both the proteins, AKt and bcl-x that help in fuelling the growth of cancer cells and aiding the survival of cancer cells.
Curry leaves are antihelminthic, meaning can kill roundworm parasites in the intestine. The methanolic extract of the curry leaves, Murraya keonigii was shown to kill parasite worms.