An aromatic herb, curry leaves are dark green and often featured in Indian and Asian dishes. The leaves can be used fresh, although they are often sold dried, and used similarly to bay leaves. Sometimes called Murraya koenigii, curry leaves have been associated with several health benefits, including the reduction of inflammation.
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Curry leaves are rich in a number of nutrients, including vitamins A and B, as well as a source of proteins, amino acids and alkaloids. Because curry leaves are used primarily to scent and flavor dishes, however, the nutritional value of a dish using curry leaves will be determined largely by the other ingredients. For example, in a beef curry, the beef and vegetable ingredients used will be the primary source of vitamins, minerals and protein.
A study published in a 2009 issue of the “Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research” stated that curry leaf extracts reduced the number and weight of cancerous cells and tumors in rats with Dalton’s ascitic lymphoma. Over 15 days, the rats were given a dose of curry leaf extract. On the 16th day of the study, a significant decrease in tumor size and weight was found. In addition, scientists also found that curry leaf extract had a strong anti-inflammatory effect.
Reduces Oxidative Stress
A 2007 issue of the journal “Chemico-Biological Interactions” included an animal study on the effect of curry leaf extract on oxidative stress, specifically its effect on the pancreas. Oxidative stress has led to damage in tissues and is often a preliminary indicator of certain disease, including diabetes, arthritis and atherosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries. Scientists found that a regular ingestion of curry leaf extract helped deter and reverse the effects of oxidative stress on the diabetically afflicted pancreatic cells of rats. While human study is needed, scientists concluded that the effect of the extract was similar to glibenclamide, a commonly used drug to treat hypoglycemia in humans.
Using Curry Leaves
Curry leaves resemble bay leaves in size, shape and color, although their scent is very different. With a pronounced curry smell and a touch of citrus, curry leaves are used as a flavoring. You can use curry leaves dried or fresh, and either whole, chopped, sliced or ground up. Curry leaves can be added directly to a cooking liquid, or dropped into hot oil to provide flavor. The leaves are not the same thing as curry powder, which contains dried curry leaves and other dried spices that are mixed and ground together.