Pleasantly aromatic bay leaf or bay-laurel (Laurus nobilis) belongs to the family of Lauraceae, in the genus; Laurus. Bay Leaves have a long and noble history and in the legends, bay laurel is deemed as the tree of the Sun God, under the celestial sign of Leo. Ancient Romans and Greeks used true Bay Leaves as crowns to honor great and accomplished people including kings, war heroes and Olympians. The term ‘baccalaureate’ originates from this giving of bay leaf crowns to signify success, as does the term “poet laureate”.
Bay leaf is not only used in traditional medicine but freshly dried and crushed bay leaves, due to their warm aroma, are used for flavoring stews, soups and other simmering dishes. Bay leaves give off a pleasing and sweet floral aroma when added to dish. Wilted and dried leaves indeed are strongly aromatic and can be stored for months. The leaf is not eaten but rather removed from the dish before serving or while eating.
Bay leaf (generally referred to as Mediterranean Bay Leaf) traces its origins in Asia Minor region, from where it distributed to all over the Mediterranean region and other parts of Asia. There are several other trees grown around the world that are also called Bay leaves, namely: Californian Bay Leaf, Indian Bay Leaf (tejpatta), Indonesian Bay Leaf (salam leaf), West Indian Bay Leaf, Mexican Bay Leaf, etc.
Because of numerous health benefits of Bay leaf, it is more of a herb than just a spice. Here are some of the health secrets bay leaf has to offer:
TOP 20 HEALTH SECRETS OF BAY LEAF:
- Anti-cancer: Bay leaf contains caffeic acid, quercetin, euganol and catechins all of which possess chemo-protective properties which provide resistance against different types of cancer. They also contain a phytonutrient called parthenolide which has shown to specifically restrain the proliferation of cervical cancer cells.
- Cardiovascular Boost: The powerful compounds such as rutin, salicylates, caffeic acid and phytonutrients boost heart health, protects against cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes.
- Cures Menstrual Problems: Bay leaves, when taken orally, can induce regular and normal menstruation. They also have the property of curing vaginal discharge.
- Diabetes Care: Bay leaves help reduce blood glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The antioxidants in bay leaf enable the body to process insulin more efficiently, thus making it a good choice for diabetics and people with insulin resistance or Type 2 diabetes.
- Digestive Benefits: Bay leaves teas promotes digestion, treats digestive disorders such as heartburn, flatulence, constipation, acid reflux and irregular bowel movements. It contains enzymes that enable the breakdown of proteins, thus making it an excellent spice for non-vegetarian diets. It also acts as an appetite stimulant if you are recovering from illness.
- Fights Hair Loss: Bay leaf essential oil and tea are effective remedies in treating dandruff, hair loss, lice, and nourishing the scalp.
- Folic Acid Source: Bay leaves are extremely beneficial during peri-conception period and in preventing spinal and neural defects in the fetus. These leaves also have the property of inducing pregnancy.
- For Restful Sleep: Mix a few drops of the bay leaf extract with water and consume it at bedtime for relaxing your nerves and inducing deep sleep.
- Insect Repellent: Bay leaves contain lauric acid that ward off insects. A paste made from crushed leaves and little oil relieves stings and bites when applied topically.
- Mineral source: Abundant in copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese and copper are used by the body as co-factors for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is essential for red blood cell production and as a co-factor for cytochrome-oxidase enzymes.
- Pain Reliever: Bay Leaf essential oil has anti-inflammatory properties, boosting blood circulation, easing sprains, strains, arthritis, rheumatism, general pains and aches.
- Relieves Headaches: Bay leaf contains both salicylates and caffeic acid known to be extremely effective in combating headaches and migraines.
- Respiratory soother: Bay leaves are effective in fighting the symptoms of cold, flu, fever, and respiratory infections.
- Skin Care: Inhaling steamed fumes of Bay leaves help de-stress your skin, preventing the occurrence of wrinkles and skin outbreaks like pimples, rashes, blemishes and acne.
- Sparkles Teeth: To get sparkling white teeth, brush them with powdered bay leaves once in 3 days.
- Stops Nosebleed: Drinking a concoction of bay leaf tea provides relief from nosebleed.
- Supports Kidney Function: Bay leaves help in treating kidney infections and blocking the formation of kidney stones.
- Vitamin source: Contains B-complex vitamins like niacin, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid and riboflavin, help in enzyme synthesis, nervous system function, and regulating body metabolism.
- Wound Healer: Bay leaf has been used by herbal practitioners for its antifungal and anti-bacterial properties, treating snakebite, insect stings and relieving cuts and bruises.
- Other benefits: Bay leaves and its berries are have astringent, anti bacterial, diuretic, and appetite stimulant properties.
Side Effects and Precautions:
- Choking and Digestive Tract Injuries: Bay leaves should be removed from the food before serving as they may cause choking, may cut the tongue, esophagus, and become lodged in the gastrointestinal tract, causing tears or blockages.
- Pregnancy: Pregnant women should avoid eating in excess as the chemical compounds in them may cause abortion.
- Allergies: Some people can experience contact dermatitis, eczema, airborne contact dermatitis and occupational asthma on touching or being exposed to its powdered form.
- Surgery: Bay leaf can slow down the central nervous system. There is a concern that it might slow down the nervous system too much when combined with anesthesia and other medications used during and after surgery. Stop using sweet bay at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.