The curry tree, a unique citrus tree native to regions of India and Sri Lanka, has become almost synonymous with Indian cuisine. As a member of the citrus family, curry leaves have a strong, fragrant flavor similar to lemongrass.
Used as an herb, curry leaves pack a much subtler flavor than curry powder by lending a complex depth of flavor to any dish. When cooked into a dish, curry leaves enhance the other flavors, giving Indian food its fragrant, robust flavors. Curry leaves have a somewhat sweet taste, earning them the nickname sweet neem leaves.
More than acting as a flavorful herb in Asian cooking, curry leaves have a number of health benefits. In fact, they’re commonly used in Ayurvedic medicine, a type of holistic medicine practice that began in India over 3,000 years ago.
While curry leaves are popular in cooking, they’re also commonly used in holistic medicine. This herb is packed with powerful health benefits worth knowing about.
Support Immune Health
As important as treating an illness once you have it is preventing yourself from getting sick in the first place. Curry leaves are rich with antioxidants, which can help prevent you from getting sick, and which can help lessen the amount of time you stay sick.
Other studies suggest that curry leaves can help your body fight genetic mutation, which has been linked to chronic illnesses including cancer.
Help Treat Breast Cancer
Breast cancerhas surpassed lung cancer as the most common cancer globally as of 2020. Current breast cancer treatments include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation, all of which have their own side effects and risk factors.
However, research suggests that curry leaves may help treat breast cancer by causing cancerous cells to die off. One initial study had a small sample size and has not yet been reproduced, but shows promise for the future of breast cancer treatment.
May Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s Disease is a degenerative disease that causes brain cells to die. Currently, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease, though some medications can slow the disease’s progression.
However, early studies suggest that curry leaves may actually help prevent Alzheimer’s Disease. A study done in rats suggests that curry leaves not only protected against future damage to brain cells, but actually reversed some effects of past brain cell damage.
While this early research is promising, the study has not yet been reproduced with humans.
Curry leaves are an excellent source of the following nutrients:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin B
Nutrients per Serving
The U.S. Department of Agriculture does not yet have a standard portion size for curry leaves, so we don’t know the exact nutrients per serving of curry leaves. This may change as curry leaf becomes more popular in Western cooking.
Things to Watch Out For
Because the USDA does not have a standard portion size for curry leaves, it’s hard to be sure exactly how many nutrients and calories you’re getting when cooking with curry leaves. If you’re on a restricted diet, make sure to talk to your doctor before adding curry leaves to your daily regimen.
How to Prepare Curry Leaf
The best way to draw out the flavor of curry leaves is to first sautee them in oil. Once they’re soft and fragrant, you can add them into dishes to enhance the flavors. Although curry leaves pair most easily with Indian dishes, they can be added to a large array of foods, including:
- Stir Fries