Curry leaves - Your secret to good health
What is Curry Leaf?
Most of us must have heard about 'Curry' - and automatically associate it with two things - heavenly smell and Indian cooking. This aroma and distinct flavor comes from the leaves of the 'Murraya koenigii' tree, found mostly in India and Sri Lanka. Commonly known as 'kadi patta' in India, it is a small plant that can easily be grown in homes. Since it requires hot and dry conditions it is found mostly in India and the neighboring countries.
Curry leaves are essentially used as seasoning where this leaf adds a special flavor to the food.
Curry Leaves vs. Curry Powder
Curry leaves are the authentic thing to use to get the 'curry flavor' that people look for. They are best used when fresh. Once they dry out they lose their flavor and smell.
On the other hand, Curry powder is NOT the same thing as curry leaf. It is generally a mix of other spices like turmeric, coriander, cumin, mustard, chilli, cloves, salt etc. Curry powder does not usually contain curry leaves because the leaves lose their aroma and flavor upon drying. Though you will find Curry powders for sale in Indian stores, it isn't always the same.
Curry powder is a 'short-cut-mix' found in stores in an effort to get the flavors of the Indian food. It is essentially similar to garam masala and can be used for making 'sambar' (a South Indian gravy).
But if you really want that 'curry' taste in your food - you might as well use the authentic leaves. Found easily in any Indian store, and very cheap!
The Mighty Curry!
Curry leaves have a variety of nutrients. It is packed with carbohydrates, fiber, phosphorous, iron, calcium and vitamins like vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin E. It is used to flavor many Indian dishes like, sambhar, rasam, poha (flattened rice), kadhai vegetables, chutneys, buttermilk and other curries.
One can simply put them in the preparation and remove them later for just the aroma and flavor, but many people prefer eating them too - and rightly so! Curry leaves have a lot of benefits. They help fight diseases, make the heart function better and can give you better hair and supple skin.
So clearly there is more to the curry leaf than simply flavor.
How to store the leaves
Curry leaves have a limited life and can go bad very fast if not stored in a proper way. The best way I have found to store them is:
- Pluck all the leaves from them stem
- Place them in a clean and dry glass jar
- Place a dry and folded paper napkin/tissue inside the jar, over the leaves. This way the paper absorbs all the dampness.
- Close tightly and put in the refrigerator.
- Check once a week for a couple of leaves that can go black and remove them.
The leaves will stay fresh for over a month!
Benefits of Curry Leaves
Prevents heart disease
Curry leaves have properties that can help lower one’s cholesterol. Packed with antioxidants, curry leaves prevent the oxidation of cholesterol that forms LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol). This increases the amount of good cholesterol (HDL) and protects from heart diseases.
Curry leaves have been known to prevent the greying of hair. It is also very effective in treating damaged hair, adding volume hair, strengthening the roots, reducing hair fall and treating dry scalp. The good part is that both external and internal use of curry leaf help in this process. One can either eat them or apply it to the scalp as a remedy.
Tip: Boil curry leaves in coconut oil and apply few hours before a hair wash.
Helps keep anaemia away
Curry leaves are a rich source of iron and folic acid. Folic acid is mainly responsible for carrying and helping the body absorb iron. Curry leaf, being a rich source of both, helps the body absorb those nutrients and keeps anaemia away.
Tip: An anaemia patient should eat one date with two curry leaves on an empty stomach every morning.
Protects your liver from damage
Curry leaves are a must for a weak liver. They protect the liver from oxidative stress and harmful toxins that build-up in the body. The anti-oxidative property when combined with vitamin A and C stimulate the liver to work better.
Curry leaves is known to improve digestion. It changes the way the body absorbs fat and helps to lose weight. Along with this it also aids the excretion process. In Ayurveda, it is believed that curry leaves have mild laxative properties that help the stomach get rid of unwanted waste. Since weight gain and indigestion is one of the leading problems, curry leaf helps treat it naturally.
The fiber in curry leaves lower the blood sugar levels by affecting the insulin activity. This is significant for people who suffer from diabetes.
Tip: Add the leaves to your meals regularly. Eating fresh curry leaves on an empty stomach every day might do the trick as well.
Can reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy
Cancer patients undergo so many side effects from the chemotherapy. Hair fall, darker skin, lose of taste buds, nausea etc. It is best to prevent those naturally. Curry leaves have the ability to protect the body from the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. It not only protects the chromosomes from damage but also protects the bone marrow and stops the production of free radicals in the body. Studies suggest that the leaves have an ability to protect the body from cancer too.
Prevents skin infections
Curry leaves contain antioxidant properties in addition to anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. Age old remedies include applying curry leaf paste on skin infections. This makes it a great home remedy to treat other skin infections like acne and pimples.
Treats cough and congestion
A paste made from curry leaves mixed with honey is known to sooth an irritated throat. It contains Vitamin A, Vitamin C and kaempferol that are anti-inflammatory and a decongestant agent. Curry leaves can help loosen up and release congested mucous it reduces the congestion in the chest