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                   Curry Leaves


Fresh leaves are rich in an essential oil, but the exact amount depends besides freshness and genetic strain also on the extraction technique. Typical figures run from 0.5 to 2.7%.

The following aroma components have been identified in curry leaves of Sri Lanka (in parentheses, the content in mg/kg fresh leaves): β-caryophyllene (2.6 ppm), β-gurjunene (1.9), β-elemene (0.6), β-phellandrene (0.5), β-thujene (0.4), α-selinene (0.3), β-bisabolene (0.3), furthermore limonene, β-trans-ocimene and β-cadinene (0.2 ppm). (Phytochemistry, 21, 1653, 1982)

Newer work has shown a large variability of the composition of the essential oil of curry leaves. In North Indian plants, monoterpenes prevail (β-phellandrene, α-pinene, β-pinene), whereas South Indian samples yielded sesquiterpenes: β-caryophyllene, aromadendrene, α-selinene.(Flavour and Fragrance Journal, 17, 144, 2002)


The curry tree is native to India; today, it is found wild or become wild again, almost everywhere in the Indian subcontinent excluding the higher levels of the Himalayas. In the East, its range extends into Burma.


The botanical name Murraya koenigii refers to two century botanists: the Swede Johann Andreas Murray (1740–1791) and the German Johann Gerhard König (1728–1785).

The English term curry is of Indian origin: In Tamil, the most important South Indian language, the word kari [கறி] means “soup” or “sauce”; this is also the basis of the Tamil name for curry-leaves, kariveppilai [கறிவேப்பிலை] which contains ilai [இலை] “leaf”. In English usage, curry has a wider meaning encompassing not only spicy foods of various kinds, but also Indian-style spice mixtures (“curry powder”).

In North Indian (Aryan) languages, curry leaves are usually denoted by their Tamil name, or an adaptation thereof, for example Hindi karipatta [कारीपत्ता] and or Bengali karhi-pat [কাঢ়িপাত] “Curry-leaf”, or Sinhala karapincha [කරපිංචා]. The same first element is also found in Marathi kadhi-limb [कढीलिंब] (from limbu [लिंबू] “lemon”) and Kannada kari-bevu [ಕರಿಬೇವು], where second element bevu [ಬೇವು] designates the neem tree (Azadirachta indica), which has similar foliage. Cf. also the Sanskrit name girinimba [गिरिनिंब] “mountain-neem”.

The colloquial name for curry leaves is curry patta and its botanical name is murraya koenigi. Curry leaves grow on a small shrub commonly found in backyards or gardens around Indian houses. The leaves are the edible part and they are shiny, dark green, aromatic and slightly bitter in taste. As the colloquial name suggests, these leaves are one of the ingredients of Indian curries, cooked vegetables, salads, chutneys and spices. They add to the smell and taste of food and in addition to the food value. Although the leaves are added to Indian dishes as a natural flavoring agent, it is well known that they have some medicinal value as well.

Curry leaves improve functioning of the stomach and small intestine and promote their action. They improve the quality of digestive juices secreted during digestion. Their action starts with intake. Their smell, taste and visual impression initiates salivary secretion and initiates the peristaltic wave, which is the first step in good digestion. They are mildly laxative and thus can tackle multiple digestive problems caused by food intake. They are directly added to food or an extract in the form of juice is added to buttermilk and consumed at the end of lunch/dinner. In case of a digestive upset, buttermilk enriched with the paste of curry leaves, common salt and cumin seed powder is recommended. This combination is also useful in problems such as loss of appetite, tastelessness of mouth as in case of fever etc. where food intake is a problem. Curry leaves are one of the important ingredients of herbal tonics and are parallel to digestive enzymatic tonics in allopathy.

A paste of these leaves with limejuice and honey/sugar/crystal sugar powder is a time-tested medicine in the treatment of hyperemesis graviderum. Nausea, dry vomiting, vomiting and food intolerance are few other conditions where this paste is used as a remedy. Curry leaves have some role in the treatment of diarrhea, dysentery and idiopathic loose motions though they are not antidiarrheal in the true sense. Fresh juice/ a paste of fresh leaves/a teaspoonful of powdered dried leaves /a mixture of curry leaves, coriander, mint leaves, etc. is a commonly known home made remedy.

Certain ayurvedic research says that curry leaves have some role in controlling non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus. People with DM due to obesity or heredity should try this treatment. A paste of about 8 to 10 fresh, fully-grown curry leaves is to be taken on an empty stomach in the morning for a minimum of 3 months for desired results. Many people have also reported weight loss, which is an additional benefit in diabetic people.

The bark or root of this plant also has medicinal properties. One ayurvedic school recommends powdered root/bark for relief from kidney/biliary pain. Traditional healers have observed some effects on premature graying of hair. Regular intake of these leaves with buttermilk is advised. Few have tried curry leaves for treatment of minor burns, bruises, abrasions, etc. and claim benefits of the treatment. More clinical trials are necessary to prove effectiveness. Traditional healers in villages use these leaves with a few other medicinal leaves for the treatment of insect bites and claim desired results. In this treatment, these are applied externally in poultice form.