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You may be familiar with curry leaves as an aromatic culinary herb with a citrusy flavor. Yet they have many other uses, including in hair care.

Curry leaves aren’t the same thing as curry powder, which is a blend of several spices.

The curry leaf plant, native to India, Sri Lanka, and other South Asian countries, is also known as Murraya koenigii or kadi patta.

The leaves are abundant in carbazole alkaloids, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They’re used in holistic medicine to treat a variety of ailments, including digestive problems.

People around the world use curry leaves to care for their hair — but do they actually improve the health of your hair? Research published in peer-reviewed journals is lacking, so evidence is mainly anecdotal.

Let’s take a look at why and how some people use curry leaves on their hair, as well as what the science says.

Graying hair is a common process. It’s typically been thought that half the global population has about 50 percent gray hair by age 50 — though a 2012 survey of 4,192 people suggested a much lower rate.

Aside from aging, a few health conditions and nutritional deficiencies can cause white or gray hair to develop prematurely. For the most part, when you turn gray usually comes down to genetics.

Hair color doesn’t change after it sprouts from your scalp. The color originates in the follicle. You get the first glimpse of a gray or white hair when it replaces a lost strand. This happens due to loss of melanin.

Other than coloring your hair, there’s no way to turn gray hair back to its original color. Any change would have to restore pigment deep within the hair follicles.

The theory is that because curry leaves contain valuable antioxidants and B vitamins, they might have some effect on melanin production in the hair follicles.

Whether curry leaves can act as a gray hair remedy hasn’t been scientifically validated, however.

The hypothesis is that the rich nutrients in curry leaves can help prevent thinning hair or hair loss. The leaves may also help remove dead hair follicles, which can interfere with hair growth.

However, there’s no conclusive evidence that curry leaves or any of their byproducts can stop hair loss or improve hair growth.

A blend of curry leaves boiled with coconut oil is one way to create a hair tonic.

Whether it helps hair retain healthy tone is subjective. For the most part, there’s little you can do to repair already damaged hair.

You can, however, try to determine the underlying cause in order to avoid further damage.

Dandruff, psoriasis, and atopic dermatitis are all conditions that can affect the scalp. According to a 2018 review, some research suggests that oxidative stress may be a factor.

There’s other research from 2013 indicating that curry leaves have a protective effect on oxidative stress. However, studies showing that curry leaf oil can improve scalp health are lacking.

If you have a condition of the scalp or take medications for scalp problems, talk with your doctor before using curry leaves on your head.

Some people who use curry leaves on their hair say it leaves hair smoother and less frizzy.

There’s no research to prove any effect on frizzy hair, but that may be a matter of personal opinion.

Curry leaves are packed with vital nutrients and used to ease a variety of ailments. It’s possible that tea made from curry leaves is good for your hair.

But a lack of studies on the topic of curry leaves and hair means it’s not known how much tea it would take to provide a benefit — if any — to your hair.

You can have a sensitivity or an allergic reaction to just about anything. That’s true of products you consume and those you apply to your skin and hair.

If you’re using curry leaves on your hair and scalp for the first time, try a small amount on a limited area first. You should probably avoid curry leaves if you develop:

  • itchiness
  • skin redness
  • rash

Signs of serious allergic reaction include:

  • swelling of the lips and mouth
  • heart palpitations
  • trouble swallowing and breathing

If you develop these symptoms, call 911 and go to the nearest emergency room.

You can buy curry leaf tea and hair care products that contain curry leaves. And there are numerous do-it-yourself recipes for curry leaf hair care.

Keep in mind, though, that none of these remedies has been medically proven to be effective.

Curry leaves and coconut oil hair mask

  1. In a pan on the stovetop, warm 2 tbsp. coconut oil.
  2. Turn off heat and add 10 to 12 curry leaves.
  3. Allow to sit for 20 minutes.
  4. When cool enough to touch, massage into hair and leave on for 45 minutes to 2 hours.
  5. Shampoo and rinse thoroughly.
  6. Repeat once or twice per week.

Curry leaves and yogurt hair mask

  1. In a bowl, mix 1/4 cup curry leaves with 1/2 cup plain yogurt until it becomes a paste.
  2. Apply to hair and scalp and leave on for 30 minutes.
  3. Rinse thoroughly.
  4. Repeat two or three times per week.

Curry leaves and water hair rinse

  1. In a pot on the stovetop, boil 15 to 20 curry leaves in 2 cups water until it’s reduced to half.
  2. Shampoo as usual.
  3. Rinse your hair with curry leaf water.
  4. Repeat as often as you’d like.

Curry leaves are rich in vital nutrients and are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

The leaves are used in cooking and to aid digestion. In holistic medicine, they’re used to treat a variety of ailments.

Hair care is also a popular use for curry leaves, and there’s no shortage of people who say it helps keep hair smooth and healthy. Scientific research in peer-reviewed publications is lacking, however.

Unless you have an allergic reaction, if you love what curry leaves do for your hair, there’s probably no harm in using them.