Curry leaves, which look similar to bay leaves with their dark green color, are commonly used in Indian and Asian cooking. Usually, they are used in combination with other ingredients and rarely consumed on their own. Whole leaves are not the same as curry powder, which is actually a blend of spices. Most often sold dried, curry leaves may have a number of health benefits.
Oxidative Stress Study
An animal study published in “Chemico-Biological Interactions” in 2007 concluded that extracts from curry leaves reduce oxidative stress, especially in the pancreas. High levels of oxidative stress can damage tissues, and are often an indicator of arthritis, atherosclerosis and diabetes. Curry leaf extract, when consumed regularly, helps to prevent and reverse the damage done by oxidative stress in the pancreas of diabetic rats. This extract was determined to be similar to glibenclamide, which is used to treat hypoglycemia, but human studies are needed.
In a study published in “Plant Foods For Human Nutrition" in 2000, researchers found that curry leaves are naturally high in antioxidants. These are substances that help protect cells from damage or death as a result of exposure to free radicals or toxins. This animal study found that curry leaf extract helped reduce the effects of dimethylhydrazine hydrochloride, a known carcinogen. However, further research, on humans and on other carcinogens, is required.
Scientists published a study in the “Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research" in 2009 in which curry leaves were shown to have powerful anti-inflammatory abilities. This study found that curry leaf extract significantly reduces swelling in rats induced with cancer. The extract also greatly reduces the number and weight of tumors. The study was conducted over a period of 16 days, and while promising, long-term study on humans is needed.
Nutritional Content and Use
Curry leaves contain trace amounts of a number of vitamins and minerals, including B vitamins and vitamin A. It is also a source of protein, amino acids and alkaloids. Because curry leaves are used in small quantities and in tandem with other ingredients, such as vegetables, meat and legumes, its nutritional role in a finished dish is slight. The leaves are used most often for seasoning oils, soups or stews.