Murraya koenigii (PROTA)
|Geographic coverage Africa|
|Geographic coverage World|
|Spice / condiment|
|Essential oil / exudate|
Murraya koenigii (L.) Spreng.
- Protologue: Syst. veg. 2: 315 (1825).
- Family: Rutaceae
- Chromosome number: 2n = 18
- Murraya foetidissima Teijsm. & Binnend. (1864).
- Curry bush, curry leaf, curry leaf plant, curry leaf tree (En).
- Arbre à curry, arbre à feuilles de curry, caloupilé, karipoulé, carri poulet, feuilles de curry (Fr).
- Folhas de caril (Po).
- Bizari, mchuzi, mvuje (Sw).
Origin and geographic distribution
Murraya koenigii originates from Pakistan, Sri Lanka and India east to China and Hainan. It has been widely cultivated in South-East Asia and some parts of the United States and Australia. In tropical Africa it is planted in many countries, including Nigeria, Kenya, Tanzania and most of the Indian Ocean Islands, where Indian immigrants settled.
A decoction of the leaves, bark and roots is taken throughout Asia as a febrifuge, tonic, stimulant and a stomachic, but also to treat diarrhoea and dysentery and inflammation of the gums. In the Indian Ocean Islands a leaf decoction is commonly drunk as an antihypertensive. The crushed bark and roots are used externally to treat skin eruptions and bites of poisonous animals. The fresh leaves are eaten to treat dysentery, and a leaf infusion is drunk to stop vomiting. In northern Nigeria Murraya koenigii is used traditionally as a stimulant and for management of diabetes. The leaves are eaten to treat diarrhoea and dysentery. A leaf infusion is drunk to stop vomiting and to treat fever. A poultice of the leaves is applied to skin eruptions and bruises. The leaves are added to soup with crayfish to treat herpes, scurvy and post-partum pain. Young twigs are used as tooth brush, and are reported to strengthen the gums and the teeth.
In Ayurvedic medicine preparations of the leaves, bark and roots are used for enhancing blood circulation, digestion and metabolism as well as for its anti-inflammatory actions.
The fresh or fried leaves are commonly used in flavouring vegetables and curry but are reported to loose flavour upon drying. The essential oil (curry leaf oil), obtained from the leaves by distillation, is used in the production of soap. Murraya koenigii is of aesthetic value due to its compound leaves and is therefore planted as a hedge and as an ornamental shrub. The wood, especially the root wood, has a very nice figure and is highly prized in Asia for small, decorative objects.
Production and international trade
In Africa trade of leaves for medicinal or culinary use is probably very limited, except for Mauritius and Réunion. In Asia the root wood is locally considered the best of all woods for making small objects. As the supplies are often extremely limited, the wood fetches high prices and is sold by the piece.
A large number of studies have been carried out on the chemical composition of the volatile oil of Murraya koenigii. The leaves contain 35–65 compounds, mainly monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes, depending on the seasonal variation, geographical location and age of the leaves, and which constitute about 95% of the essential oil. Constituents of the essential oil of the leaves that can occur in high concentrations are α-pinene, δ-sabinene, β-caryophyllene, α-copaene, β-ocimene and cadinene; some of the minor compounds are β-pinene, α-phellandrene, β-phellandrene, limonene, terpinene, cadinol and bornyl acetate. The essential oil of the fruits contains c. 40 compounds, of which the most important are α-pinene, β-ocimene, α-copaene and β-phellandrene.
Murraya koenigii is also a major source of carbazole alkaloids; more than 30 have been identified so far. From the stem bark girinimbine, murrayanine, mahanimbine, isomurayazoline have been isolated; from the leaves mahanimbine, isomahanimbine, mahanimbicine, mahanine, girinimbine, koenimbidine, bismurrayafoline E, euchrestine B, murrayacine and koenoline were isolated. Koenoline exhibited cytotoxic activity against certain cell cultures. Bismurrayafoline E, euchrestine B, mahanimbicine, mahanine, isomahanine and mahanimbine exhibited antioxidative properties. Many carbazole alkaloids exhibit significant antibacterial activity against a range of pathogenic bacteria. The essential oil and several carbazole alkaloids from the leaves also exhibited significant antifungal activity against a range of plant pathogenic fungi. Leaf extracts also showed significant activity in the prevention and control of dental caries. Different extracts also exhibited significant anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antipyretic, antidiarrhoeal and anticarcinogenic activities in studies using rats and mice. Many studies have been carried out on the use of the leaf extract to treat diabetes. Most studies confirm that leaf extracts lower the blood glucose levels in diabetic rats, although some tests are inconclusive. Different extracts of the leaves did not show any significant antihypertensive effects. In an experimental set up, the leaves of Murraya koenigii significantly improved memory in mice thus exhibiting their potential in the management of Alzheimer’s disease.
The leaves contain moisture (66.3%), protein (1%), fat (1%), carbohydrate (16%), fibre (6.4%) and mineral matter (4.2%). The leaves contain per 100 g: Ca 810 mg, P 600 mg and Fe 2.1 mg, carotene 12,600 IU, nicotinic acid 2.3 mg and ascorbic acid 4 mg. The leaves also contain oxalic acid, which reduces the availability of calcium.
Evergreen shrub or small tree up to 4 m tall. Leaves arranged spirally, imparipinnate with (9–)17–31 leaflets; stipules absent; leaflets alternate, ovate to ovate-lanceolate or orbicular, 2–5 cm × 0.5–2.8 cm, glandular dotted, base obtuse to rounded and slightly asymmetrical, apex notched, margin entire or irregularly toothed. Inflorescence a terminal branched cyme, many-flowered. Flowers bisexual, regular, 5-merous, aromatic; pedicel short; calyx with tiny ovate teeth; petals oblanceolate to oblong, 5–7 mm long, glandular, white; stamens 10, ovary superior, stigma capitate. Fruit an ovoid to oblong, glandular berry, 1–1.5 cm × 1 cm, bluish black, 1- or 2-seeded.
Other botanical information
Murraya comprises about 15 species which are distributed from continental Asia throughout the Malesian region to north-eastern Australia and New Caledonia. Several species are cultivated throughout the tropics.
Murraya koenigii grows best in deep, well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade; in Africa it is either kept in large pots or grown in home-gardens. Flowering is from March to June and fruiting from June to August.
Murraya koenigii can be propagated by seed, root cuttings or root suckers. Seeds should be sown immediately after harvesting, as they are only viable for about 3 weeks. They can be sown in the shade, without pre-treatment. After transplanting, it takes 12–15 months before the leaves can be harvested. Leaves can be refrigerated in airtight containers for up to 2 weeks without loss of flavour. They can also be frozen for storage for year-round use.
Murraya koenigii is widely cultivated; as there is a large variation in chemical constituents of plants from different provenances, it seems unlikely that it is threatened by genetic erosion.
The essential oils and carbazole alkaloids from Murraya koenigii show many interesting pharmacological activities, including antibacterial, antioxidant, antitumour and hypoglycaemic activities, and more research is needed to evaluate its potential. Besides, the market of the leaves as a spice is increasing.
- Adebayo, A.C., 1997. Isolation of cabazole alkaloids from Murraya koenigii (L.) Spreng. (Rutaceae). Ph.D. Pharmacognosy Degree Thesis, Department of Pharmacognosy, Faculty of Pharmacy, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Nigeria.
- Gurib-Fakim, A., Guého, J. & Bissoondoyal, M.D., 1997. Plantes médicinales de Maurice, tome 3. Editions de l’Océan Indien, Rose-Hill, Mauritius. 471 pp.
- Ha Van Tue, 1998. Murraya J. König ex L. In: Sosef, M.S.M., Hong, L.T. & Prawirohatmodjo, S. (Editors). Plant Resources of South-East Asia No 5(3). Timber trees: Lesser-known timbers. Backhuys Publishers, Leiden, Netherlands. pp. 389–391.
- Lawal, H.A., Atiku, M.K., Khelpai, D.G. & Wannang, N.N., 2008. Hypoglycaemic and hypolipidaemic effect of aqueous leaf extract of Murraya koenigii in normal and alloxan-diabetic rats. Nigerian Journal of Physiological Sciences 23(1–2): 37–40.
- Parthasarathy, V.A., Zachariah, T.J. & Chempakam, B., 2008. 23. Curry leaf. In: Parthasarathy, V.A., Chempakam, B& . Zachariah, T.J. (Eds). Chemistry of spices. CAB International, Wallingford, United Kingdom. 445 pp.
- Adewunmi, C.O., Agbedahunsi, J.M., Adebajo, A.C., Aladesanmi, A.J., Murphy, N. & Wando, J., 2001. Ethno-veterinary medicine: screening of Nigerian medicinal plants for trypanocidal properties. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 77: 19–24.
- Adjanohoun, E.J., Aké Assi, L., Eymé, J., Gassita, J.N., Goudoté, E., Guého, J., Ip, F.S.L., Jackaria, D., Kalachand, S.K.K., Keita, A., Koudogbo, B., Landreau, D., Owadally, A.W. & Soopramanien, A., 1983. Médecine traditionelle et pharmacopée - Contribution aux études ethnobotaniques et floristiques à Maurice (Iles Maurice et Rodrigues). Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, Paris, France. 216 pp.
- Adsersen, A. & Adsersen, H., 1997. Plants from Réunion Island with alleged antihypertensive and diuretic effects - an experimental and ethnobotanical evaluation. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 58: 189–206.
- Banoo, P., 2009. Antimicrobial studies on volatile and non volatile extracts of aromatic plants of the Rutaceae family. BSc (Hons) Dissertation in Food Science with Home Economics, Faculty of Agriculture, University of Mauritius. 74 pp.
- Lavergne, R. & Véra, R., 1989. Médecine traditionelle et pharmacopée - Contribution aux études ethnobotaniques et floristiques à la Réunion. Agence de Coopération Culturelle et Technique, Paris, France. 236 pp.
- Mandal, S., Nayak, A., Kar, M., Banerjee, S. K., Das, A., Upadhyay, S.N., Singh, R.K., Banerji, A. & Banerji, J., 2010. Antidiarrhoeal activity of carbazole alkaloids from Murraya koenigii Spreng. (Rutaceae) seeds. Fitoterapia 81(1): 72–74.
- Onayade, O.A. & Adebajo, A.C., 2000. Composition of the leaf volatile oil of Murraya koenigii growing in Nigeria. Journal of Herbs, Spices & Medicinal Plants 7(4): 59–66.
- Palaniswamy, U.R., Caporuscio, C. & Stuart, J.D., 2003. A chemical analysis of antioxidant vitamins in fresh curry leaf (Murraya koenigii) by reversed phase HPLC with UV detection. Acta Horticulturae 620: 475–478.
- Patel, V.R., Patel, M.G. & Patel, R.K., 2009. Anti-pyretic activity of the ethanolic extract of the powdered leaves of Murraya koenigii (L.) Spreng. Journal of Pharmacy Research 2(4): 731–732.
- E.N. Matu, CTMDR/KEMRI, P.O. Box 54840–00200, Nairobi, Kenya
Correct citation of this article
Matu, E.N., 2011. Murraya koenigii (L.) Spreng. In: Schmelzer, G.H. & Gurib-Fakim, A. (Editors). PROTA (Plant Resources of Tropical Africa / Ressources végétales de l’Afrique tropicale), Wageningen, Netherlands. Accessed 29 June 2022.
- See the Prota4U database.