Curry leaves are the leaves of Murraya koenigii or curry trees. The curry tree is native to India, and the use of its leaves to enhance the flavour of foods is also specific to the Indian subcontinent. As a result, people use curry leaves in various parts of India, though their frequency of use may vary. However, there are studies which suggest that there are many health benefits of the curry leaves.
Rich in essential oils, terpenes, and other antioxidants
Curry leaves have a strong and specific aroma, thanks to their content of alkaloids, terpenes, glycosides, phenolic compounds, and many other medicinal phytocompounds.
In recent years, there has been massive interest in terpenes among the researchers. These are volatile compounds that provide plants with their aroma. However, any highly aromatic plant contains a blend of various terpenes giving it a unique aroma.
Thus, curry leaves are a rich source of terpenes like linalool, elemol, myrcene, terpinene, and many other terpenes. These terpenes are potent antioxidants. Additionally, these terpenes are known to have excellent antimicrobial properties.
Terpenes are present in most plants, and they help attract pollinators and protect plants from pests. Studies suggest that these aromatic agents may provide many unique health benefits, help fight metabolic disorders, slow down ageing, and more.
Good for cardiovascular health
Indians have a relatively higher incidence of cardiovascular issues when compared to Europeans. These issues have become a significant problem in the last 50 years. Researchers think that it has much to do with altered dietary choices.
High incidence of heart diseases is often associated with obesity, dyslipidemia, and other issues. However, new studies suggest that curry leaves can help counter inflammation. It may also help in weight loss and normalising cholesterol levels.
It appears that many of the wonderful effects on metabolic health are due to a compound called mahanimbine in curry leaves. This compound is good for reducing cholesterol and is quite good for managing systemic inflammation. This low-level systemic inflammation, also called silent inflammation, is now identified as the prime cause of cardiovascular ailment.
Help lose body weight
Obesity, especially central obesity, is one of the leading underlying causes of many chronic disorders. However, some studies suggest that curry leaves may promote weight loss and thus help in many conditions.
It also seems that curry leaves may also help lower the risk of atherosclerosis (a heart condition). This is because they seem to help manage high levels of fat (lipids) in the blood.
Help in diabetes
More than 10% of Indians live with diabetes. It is interesting to note that unlike in the western population, diabetes is not necessarily associated with severe obesity in India. Instead, studies suggest that Indians are prone to central obesity, accumulation of visceral fat. This fat accumulates in the liver, pancreas, and thus considerably increases insulin resistance.
This increase in diabetes has a lot to do with wrong dietary choices. However, it also means that the most effective way of managing these disorders is through dietary corrections. It now appears that adding curry leaves to the diet could be one of the ways of reducing the risk of diabetes. Studies in animal models confirm the anti-diabetic properties of curry leaves.
Help prevent dementia and age-related cognitive decline
Dementia is now among the leading causes of disability and untimely death in western nations. Most population-based studies show that these issues are also rising in India. Unfortunately, researchers have failed to identify the cause of such a swift rise in dementia and other neurodegenerative brain disorders. Nonetheless, they know that it has something to do with changing environments like lifestyle choices.
One of the effective ways to lower the risk of dementia or other neurodegenerative disorders is through lifestyle interventions. Understanding the role of lifestyle interventions is particularly important as there are no medications that can help prevent neurodegenerative diseases.
Studies suggest that people who consume curry leaves regularly may be at a lower risk of dementia and other neurodegenerative disorders. Researchers think that some of the alkaloids and other phytocompounds in curry leaves may also help delay the onset and reduce the extent of cognitive disorders.
Reduces cancer risk
Researchers have noticed the lower prevalence of certain types of cancers in parts of the world with higher dietary consumption of curry leaves. Studies show that curry leaves may also reduce the risk of breast cancer.
According to some researchers, it may have to do with antioxidants, alkaloids, and other compounds in the curry leaves. However, they think that benefits are also due to other compounds like quercetin, rutin, gallic acid, and catechins, as they are known to reduce cancer risk.
Perhaps ancient physicians in the Indian subcontinent noticed that consuming curry leaves also helps prevent various disorders. These leaves are especially good for preventing infections, boosting immunity, reducing the risk of metabolic disorders, promoting weight loss, and normalising heart and brain health.
You do not essentially need to consume curry leaves in large amounts to experience these benefits. You just need to include them frequently in a regular diet. Moreover, when combined with other aromatic herbs, curry leaves may provide added health benefits.
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