Curry ingredient 'could aid diabetics'

(Article printed in The Times, 29th September 2004)

Eating curry could help treat diabetes, medical experts said today.

Researchers at King's College London claim that the curry-leaf tree, which is used in traditional Indian medicine and is found in many curry dishes, could aid people with diabetes.

Diabetics do not produce enough insulin to cope with rapid rises in blood glucose levels, but extracts from the curry-leaf tree were found to slow the rate of starch breakdown, leading to a more even trickle of glucose into the bloodstream.

Professor Peter Houghton, head of the research team, said: "The curry-leaf is used to control diabetes in traditional Indian medicine."

"It is not an uncommon ingredient in some curries and it is quite possible that people who take this regularly as part of their diet could control diabetes."

"Any food which has this curry-leaf in could be helpful to people with diabetes."

The curry-leaf tree is thought to be one of a number of traditional remedies from around the world to have real benefits to patients.

Others include cancer treatments used in the Far East and Ghanaian wound-healing agents.

Plants used in Thai traditional medicine and in Chinese traditional medicine for treatment of cancer appeared to have anti-cancer activity, said Professor Houghton.

Laboratory tests found that extracts from the Thai plant Ammannia baccifera and the Chinese plant Illicium verum inhibited the growth of cancer cells.

Professor Houghton said: "Some promising activity was seen against lung cancer cells."

Research also found that plants used by one of the largest ethnic groups in Ghana, the Ashantis, helped wound-healing.

An extract of Commelina diffusa, or climbing dayflower, was shown to have both antibacterial and antifungal properties.

Professor Houghton said: "This activity indicates that the plant is useful in helping wounds to heal and stopping them getting infected."

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