A Miracle Medicinal Plant: CURRY LEAF

Roshni Vijayan- MPS Plant Breeding and Genetics, Cornell University, New York, USA

2017-01-07 08:32:27

Curry Leaf

Curry Leaf

“Let food be your medicine and let medicine be your food.” Curry leaves are a popular leaf spice used in small quantities for their distinct aroma due to the presence of volatile oils and their ability to improve digestion. It is widely used in Indian culinary for flavoring foodstuffs. Leaves have a slightly pungent, bitter and feebly acidic in taste.

The use of curry leaves as a flavoring agent for vegetables has been mentioned in early Tamil literature, which dates back to the 1st to 4th centuries AD. Curry leaves are closely associated with South India, where the word curry, originates from the Tamil Word ”Kari” which means spiced sauces The various names of curry leaves in different languages are : English- Curry leaves; Kannada- Karibevu; Hindi- Karipatta, Mithanim; Tamil- Kariveppilai; Malayalam- Kariveppu; Marathi- Kadhilimb; Sanskrit- Girinimba; Telugu- Karepeku; Tulu- Bevusoppu; Portuguese- Folhas de caril; Russian- Listya karri; Spanish- Hojas de curry; Italian- Fogli di Cari; French- Feuilles de Cari; German- Curryblatter; Gujarathi- Mitholimado. . Today curry leaves are cultivated in India, Sri Lanka, South East Asia, Australia, the Pacific Islands and Africa, as a food flavoring agent.

Origin and Cultivation

MurrayaKoenigii, belongs to the family Rutaceae, commonly known as curry-leaf tree, is a native of India, Sri Lanka and other south Asian countries. It is found almost everywhere in the Indian subcontinent, it shares aromatic nature, more or less deciduous shrub or tree up to 6 m in height and 15-40 cm in diameter with short trunk, thin smooth grey or brown bark and dense shady crown . Most part of plant has a strong peculiar smell. M. koenigiiis genus of tree, native to tropical Asia from Himalaya foothill’s of India to Srilanka eastward through Myanmar, Indonesia, Southern China and Hainan. The M. koenigiiis having grey color bark, longitudinal striations on it and beneath it white bark is present. Leaves are bipinnately compound, 15-30 cm long each bearing 11-25 leaflets alternate on rachis, 2.5-3.5 cm long ovate lanceolate with an oblique base. Margins irregularly cerate, petioles 2-3 mm long, flowers are bisexual, white, funnel shaped sweetly scented, stalked, complete, ebracteate, regular with average diameter of fully opened flower being in average 1.12 cm inflorescence, terminal cymes each bearing 60-90 flowers. Fruits are ovoid to subglobose, wrinkled or rough with glands. It is having the size of 2.5 cm long and 0.3 cm in diameter and gets purplish black when ripen. Fruits are generally biseeded. Seeds generally occur in spinach green color, 11 mm long, 8 mm in diameter and weighs up to 445 mg


Taxonomy of plant

Kingdom- Plantae

Sub-kingdom- Tracheobionta

Superdivision- Spermatophyta

Division- Magnoliophyta

Class- Magnoliospida

Subclass- Rosidae

Order- Sapindales

Family- Rutaceae

Genus- MurrayaJ.Koenig ex L.


Medicinal Uses:

M. koenigiiis a plant which has various important uses in the traditional system of medicine in Eastern Asia.M. koenigiiis used as a stimulant, antidysentric and for the management of diabetes mellitus. The plant is highly valued for its leaves an important ingredient in an Indian cuisine to promote appetite and digestion. The leaves, root and bark are tonic, stomachic and carminative. Leaves are used internally in dysentery also checking vomiting. Steam distillate of the leaves can be used as stomachic, purgative, febrifuge and antianemic. Leaves are applied externally to bruises and eruption. The leaves and roots are bitter, acrid, cooling, anti-helminthic, analgesic, it cures piles, allays heat of the body, thirst, inflammation and itching. It is also useful in leucoderma and blood disorders. An infusion of the toasted leaves in used to stop vomiting. The juice of the root is good for pain associated with kidney. Fruits are also considered as astringent in Indo-China. Crushed leaves are applied externally to cure skin eruption and to relieve burns. The pastes of leaves are applied externally to treat the bites of poisonous animals. The plant is credited with tonic and stomachic property. The fruits are known to have very high nutritional values with many medicinal properties. The branches of M. koenigiiare very popular for cleaning the teeth used as datun. It is also said that the branches of M. koenigiiare used to strengthen gums and teeth. It has also been used as an anti-periodic and many a time the powdered dry leaf, mixed with honey and juice of betel nut, is recommended in the Ayurvedic system of medicine.

The basic pharmacological properties of the leaves, bark, stem, fruits and seeds have been described in the table given below:

Sl. No

Pharmacological Activity

Plant part











Memory enhancer







Bark, Leaf



Stem bark



Whole plant, fresh leaf, fruit.








Radioprotectiveand chemoprotective



Analgesic and Antinociceptive









Skin pigmenting



Anti-lipid peroxidative










Roots, stem


Wound healing activity



Phagocytic activity



Different forms of Curry Leaves:

Curry leaves come in 4 different forms, fresh, dried, powdered and cooked.

  1.  Fresh curry leaves are the preferred form for cooking. Fresh leaves may be used directly after harvesting from the tree. They also may be placed or vacuum packed in plastic bags and refrigerated   or frozen after harvesting, which keeps them fresh from one week to two months.
  2. Dried: Curry leaves may be sun dried or oven dried, producing leaves that have a longer shelf life. Some recipes require the baking or toasting of fresh curry leaves before the leaves are added as a flavoring. Dried leaves are also available commercially.
  3. Powdered:  Powdered curry leaves are also called for in some recipes and powdered curry is also available commercially. After being dried, curry leaves can be pulverized, producing a concentrated powder. Commercial curry powder is usually a mixture of many spices, while powdered curry leaves is the powdered version of the actual dried curry leaf.
  4. Cooked: Fried curry leaves are prepared by the cook or chef prior to or during the cooking process. Some recipes require that fresh curry leaves to be cooked before being added as flavouring. Such fried curry leaves would not generally be purchased in advance. Instead, curry leaves would be purchased fresh, or perhaps dried, then cooked.

MurrayaKoenigiiis a popular remedy among the various ethnic groups, Vaidyas, Hakims and ayurvedic practitioners for cure of variety of ailments. It is interesting to note that pure compounds and crude organic extracts of leaves of MurrayaKoenigiihave been screened for some pharmacological activities and found to possess:

  • anti-diabetic,
  •  cholesterol reducing property,
  • anti-diarrhea activity,
  •  cytotoxic activity antioxidant property,
  • antiulcer activity antimicrobial,      
  • antibacterial potential