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Subheshaja (सुभेषज) – Curry Leaves

“Hey, Aunty, it’s been almost a month since we met! How have you been? You look like you’ve lost some weight!” gushed Preethi.

“Hello, Preethi,” replied Dr. Radha full of smiles. “Really? Then I must tell my sister that her remedy works!”

“What remedy, Aunty?”

“The simple curry leaves that we use every day to season our food! My sister said her friend had found it helped with weight loss. So I checked up what the research had to say and then tried it myself.”

“Ah! It seems to have worked, Aunty. How does this happen?”

“Well, there have not been any trials that I know of in humans. But based on anecdotal evidence, like in my own case, it appears to work. Animal studies have shown that curry leaves have an anti-obesity effect. Researchers carried out laboratory experiments in which they fed rats with a high fat diet designed to make them obese. Then, they administered curry leaves extract to one group of such rats and left another group untreated. After two weeks, they found that body weight gain was significantly lower in the group that had received the curry leaves extract. This anti-obesity effect has been traced to a compound called mahanimbine that is found in curry leaves.” (1)

“Oh that’s great!”

“That’s not all – the same study showed that the curry leaves helped to also reduce the levels of triglyceride and total cholesterol, which….”

“…which means it is good for the heart and can prevent heart disease, right, Aunty?”

“Exactly! You have a good memory, Preethi! Do you eat a lot of curry leaves?” laughed Dr. Radha.

“Why, Aunty? What’s the connection between curry leaves and memory?”

“Researchers have found that rats that were fed with an extract of curry leaves showed an improvement in their memory. Also, when scientists induced amnesia or memory loss in some animals and then administered curry leaf extract, they found evidence of reversal of the amnesia.” (2) 

“Ok, so that means people who want to improve their memory should eat more curry leaves?”

“Haha, I haven’t heard of research in this area, Preethi, but yes, it is an area that’s worth exploring. But you know, there was another more interesting finding in the same study. Have you heard of Alzheimer’s disease?”

“Isn’t it the disease where old people start losing their memory of places and events and people?”

“Yes, Alzheimer’s disease is when brain cells begin to degenerate and this causes a steady decline in a person’s thinking, memory and behaviour, even affecting their ability to function independently. Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that’s very important for brain functions such as learning and memory. In persons with Alzheimer’s, there is a drop in the levels of acetylcholine because it gets broken down rapidly by an enzyme called cholinesterase. Now the study with curry leaf extract showed that in rats fed with this extract, there was a drop in the activity of the cholinesterase enzyme. That means the acetylcholine does not get broken down fast, and so, it can improve the brain functions. So the researchers concluded that curry leaves may be useful as a protective against Alzheimer’s disease and also help in its management.” (2), (3)

“Wow! Aunty, what other benefits do curry leaves have?”

“The mahanimbine in curry leaves has been found to have multiple benefits. I already told you about its ability to prevent weight gain. This compound can also lower the body’s absorption of fat from the diet, so that lesser fat gets accumulated in the body. Along with this, mahanimbine has also been found to improve the uptake of glucose from the blood and increase the response of cells to insulin. This means it may play a significant role in reducing blood sugar in persons who are diabetic.”  (4)

“Aunty, my grandfather is a diabetic from many years, and he complains of severe tingling sensation and pain in his legs. Why is that?”

“Well, when a person has diabetes for very long, the high blood sugar levels can injure the nerves in the legs and feet. This is caused diabetic neuropathy. You know, Preethi, yet another study has found that when animals were given curry leaf extract, it was found to have a protective effect against nerve damage. This is a promising result as it indicates that curry leaves may be able to not just reduce blood sugar, but also prevent the development of diabetic neuropathy.” (5)

“Aunty, considering that curry leaves have so many benefits, I’m sure it must be rich in antioxidants!”

“Oh yes, curry leaves contain many ingredients like alkaloids, glycosides and essentials oils containing terpenes all of which have shown significant antioxidant activity.” (6)

“Ok, so that means there has to be anti-cancer action, too!”

“Yes, of course. Studies are showing that extracts from curry leaves are able to induce the death of cancer cells in breast cancer and other types of cancer too. (7)

“You know, Aunty, I always used to throw away the curry leaves that my mother adds into our food. Looks like I must stop doing that now after learning about all its benefits!”

References

  1. Birari R, Javia V, Bhutani KK. Antiobesity and lipid lowering effects of Murraya koenigii (L.) Spreng leaves extracts and mahanimbine on high fat diet induced obese rats. Fitoterapia. 2010 Dec;81(8):1129-33. Available online at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20655993/ 
  2. Mani V, Ramasamy K, Ahmad A, Parle M, Shah SA, Majeed AB. Protective effects of total alkaloidal extract from Murraya koenigii leaves on experimentally induced dementia. Food Chem Toxicol. 2012 Mar;50(3-4):1036-44. Available online at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22142688/ 
  3. Mani V, Ramasamy K, Ahmad A, Wahab SN, Jaafar SM, Kek TL, Salleh MZ, Majeed AB. Effects of the total alkaloidal extract of Murraya koenigii leaf on oxidative stress and cholinergic transmission in aged mice. Phytother Res. 2013 Jan;27(1):46-53. Available online at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22447662/ 
  4. Jagtap S, Khare P, Mangal P, Kondepudi KK, Bishnoi M, Bhutani KK. Effect of mahanimbine, an alkaloid from curry leaves, on high-fat diet-induced adiposity, insulin resistance, and inflammatory alterations. Biofactors. 2017 Mar;43(2):220-231. Available online at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27663177/ 
  5. Tembhurne, S. V., & Sakarkar, D. M. (2010). Influence of Murraya koenigii on experimental model of diabetes and progression of neuropathic pain. Research in pharmaceutical sciences5(1), 41–47. Available online at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3093092/ 
  6. Rajendran, M. P., Pallaiyan, B. B., & Selvaraj, N. (2014). Chemical composition, antibacterial and antioxidant profile of essential oil from Murraya koenigii (L.) leaves. Avicenna journal of phytomedicine4(3), 200–214. Available online at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4104627/ 

Noolu, B., Ajumeera, R., Chauhan, A., Nagalla, B., Manchala, R., & Ismail, A. (2013). Murraya koenigii leaf extract inhibits proteasome activity and induces cell death in breast cancer cells. BMC complementary and alternative medicine13, 7. Available online at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3549284/

Disclaimer: The article is not a medical prescription. It is only for information. The opinion expressed are of the author.

Anusuya Kashi

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