Curry leaves are derived from a beautiful, aromatic and more or less deciduous shrub growing up to 0.9 metre, or a small downy tree, up to 6 metres in height and 15 to 40 cms in diameter. The leaves are slightly bitter and aromatic.
The curry tree is a native of India and Sri Lanka. It p in all tropical zones and more so in rich soils. It is cultivated extensively for its aromatic leaves and ornamental value throughout India.
An analysis of curry leaves shows them to consist of moisture 66.3 per cent, protein 6.1 per cent, fat (ether extract) 1.0 per cent, carbohydrates 16.0 per cent, fibre 6.4 per cent and mineral matter 4.2 per cent per 100 grams. Their mineral and vitamin contents are calcium, phosphorus, iron, nicotinic acid and vitamin C.
Fresh leaves on steam distillation under pressure yield a volatile oil. Besides the oil, the leaves contain a residual glucoside named as koenigin.
Curry leaves possess the qualities of a herbal tonic. They strengthen the functions of stomach and promote its action. They are also used as a mild laxative. The leaves may be taken mixed with other mild tasting herbs. The juice extracted from 15 grams of leaves may be taken with buttermilk.
Fresh juice of curry leaves, with lime juice and sugar, is an effective medicine in the treatment of morning sickness, nausea and vomiting due to indigestion and excessive use of fats. One or two teaspoons of juice of these leaves mixed with a teaspoon of lime juice may be taken in these conditions. The curry leaves, ground to a fine paste and mixed with buttermilk, can also be taken on an empty stomach with beneficial results in case of stomach upsets.
Tender curry leaves are useful in diarrhoea, dysentery and piles. They should be taken, mixed with honey. The bark of the tree is also useful in bilious vomiting. A teaspoon of the powder or the decoction of the dry bark should be given with cold water in this condition.
Eating 10 fresh fully grown curry leaves every morning for three months is said to prevent diabetes due to heredity factors. It also cures diabetes due to obesity, as the leaves have weight reducing properties. As the weight drops, the diabetic patients stop passing sugar in urine.
The root of the curry plant also has medicinal properties. The juice of the root can be taken to relieve pain associated with the kidneys.
Liberal intake of curry leaves is considered beneficial in preventing premature greying of hair. These leaves have the property to nourish the hair roots. New hair roots that grow are healthier with normal pigment. The leaves can be used in the form of chutney or the juice may be squeezed and taken inbuttermilk or lassi.
Curry leaves can be effectively used to treat burns, bruises and skin eruptions. They should be applied as a poultice over the affected areas.
Fresh juice of curry leaves suffused in the eyes makes them look bright. It also prevents the early development of cataract.
Fruits of the tree, which are berries, are edible. They are green when raw, but purple when ripe. Juice of these berries mixed with equal proportion of lime-juice, is an effective fluid for external application in insect stings and bites of poisonous creatures.
Hair Tonic: When the leaves are boiled in coconut oil Ii they are reduced to a blackened residue, the oil forms 3! excellent hair tonic to stimulate hair growth and in retaining the natural pigmentation.
Curry leaves have been used for centuries in South India I a natural flavouring agent in samber, rasam and curries. Chutney can be made by mixing the leaves with coriander leaves, coconut scrapings and tomatoes.
The leaves, bark and the root of the curry plant are use in indigenous medicine as a tonic, stimulant and antiflatulent.