There are many Indian names for the curry leaf. Amongst them are Narsinghs, Bisharhari in Assamese,Kathnim, Mitha neem, Curry or kurry patta, Gandhela, Bareanga in Hindi, Barsanga, Kariphulli in Bengali,Goranimb, Kadhilimbdo in Gujarati,Karibevu in Kannada, Karriveppilei in Malayalam, Karhinimb, Poospala, Gandla and Jhirang in Marathi,Barsan, Basango, Bhuraunga in Oriya, Curry patta in Punjabi, Krishna nimba in Sanskrit, Karivempu, Karuveppilei in Tamil and Karepaku in Telugu.
History and Provenance
The Indian curry leaf tree is a relative of the lemon tree and a native of India and South-east Asia. The leaf of the tree is used as a herb and lends most European curry powder brands its curry flavour. It is used throughout South India to temper curries and also in Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Fiji, where Indian migrants have taken the plant.
Though both fresh and dried leaves are available, fresh leaves are infinitely preferred for their superior flavour. Since it is similar in appearance to the neem leaf it is called “Black neem” or “Kari Bevu” in Kannada.
The present day growing area of the Indian curry leaf is widespread across the Indian subcontinent and South-East Asia. While the tree is native to India and Sri Lanka, it grows prolifically in the tropics and subtropics. It flourishes in rich soils. It is not certain whether it actually grows wild or has reverted to its wild form all over the region right into the Himalayan belt.
In India its growing areas include the area from the Punjab to the northeastern regions of Sikkim, Assam and Bengal. It also grows in central and south India. Curry leaves grow abundantly in all forested areas of this region, usually as undergrowth. Outside India, it may be found in Burma and Malaysia and even in South Africa and the Reunion Islands.
Curry leaf is an important constituent of curry powder, which is being exported out of India in substantial quantity of late.
The curry leaf is an integral part of the South Indian cuisine and provides a typical flavour to all south Indian food. The leaf is used to temper lentil preparations like sambharand rasam, dry vegetables dishes, coconut milk based curries, meat and chicken preparations and cooling drinks made with yoghurt. Curry leaves are also made into chutneys which are delicious.
The curry leaf is used in several “Ayurvedic” and “Unani” prescriptions. According to scientists at the horticulture division of the University of Agricultural Sciences (UAS), Dharward., the leaves are packed with minerals, vitamins A and B, and are rich sources of carbohydrates, proteins, amino acids and alkaloids. Its bark is acrid, cooling, alexiteric( a remedy against contagious diseases), an analgesic and cures piles. It is useful in the treatment of leucoderma and blood disorders.
The leaves, bark and root of the plant are used in the indigenous medicine as a tonic, stimulant, and relaxant and strengthen the functions of the stomach. They also act as a mild laxative.
Here are some other therapeutic uses of Curry Leaves.
- Curry leaves are useful for stomach ailments, morning sickness, nausea, nausea due to indigestion and the excessive intake of fats. They are also useful for the treatment of diarrhea, dysentery and piles. The powdered bark of the tree helps treat bilious vomiting.
- Hereditary diabetes and diabetes due to obesity may also be helped by consuming curry leaves.
- Pain associated with the kidneys is relieved by drinking the juice of the root of the plant.
- Fresh juice of curry leaves brightens the eyes and prevents the early development of cataract.
- The juice of the berries of the Curry Leaf tree mixed with an equal quantity of Lemon juice is a good soothing lotion for insect bites.
Did You Know?
- The volatile oil of curry leaves used as a stabilizer for soap perfume.
- Premature greying of hair may be prevented by consuming curry leaves. Coconut oil in which curry leaves have been burnt when applied to the scalp and hair is also efficacious in this matter.
- Curry leaves can be effectively used to treat burns, bruises and skin eruptions. They should be applied as a poultice over the affected areas.
- The best way to store curry leaves is to not remove them from their stalk. This way, they may be stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or can be dried or frozen.
- The Book of Ingredients, Philip Dowell and Adrian Bailey; Penguin/ Mermaid Books 1993
- Indian Spices and Condiments as Natural Healers, Dr. H.K. Bakhru: Jaico Books
- Indian Spices
- Curry Leaf
- Asian Food Glossary
- Article in the Hindu on the Curry Leaf
- Health Benefits of Curry Leaves