Bay Leaf

Laurus Nobilis (Bay Laurel)

The bay leaf originated in Asia Minor and spread to the Mediterranean and then to other countries with similar climates. The bay leaf has been around since ancient Greek and Roman times and was symbolically and literally very important. Emperors, heroes and poets wore wreaths of laurel leaves and it was a sign of success to be crowned with garlands of laurel. In the Elizabethan era, some people believed that placing bay leaves under one’s pillow on St Valentine’s Day would cause the user to dream of his or her future marriage partner. Bay leaves have a distinctive flavour and fragrance and are used throughout the world, particularly in soups, braises and stews. The leaves are never eaten but are used whole and removed before serving. For extra strength the leaves can be crushed or ground before cooking but this makes them harder to remove. Dried leaves should be olive green; brown leaves will have lost their flavour. Turkey is one of the main exporters although they are also grown in France, Italy, Belgium, Russia, Central America, North America and India. Together with thyme and parsley they make up a bouquet garni and they are included in pickling spice.

Health Benefits

Bay leaves can help in curing external infections and skin diseases, while a bay leaf paste is the best medicine for minor cuts and insect bites. Massage bay leaf essential oil to relieve muscle soreness, sprains, arthritic and rheumatic pains, and enhance blood circulation. Bay leaves contain antibacterial and anti-fungal properties that can cure dandruff effectively. A regular intake of bay leaf in your diet cures colds and urinary infections and helps treat digestive disorders.

With the wide range of benefits that these powerful leaves offer, it is a mandate to include them in your diet, so let us explore them in detail.

Improve Digestion

Bay leaves have a very strong effect on the gastrointestinal system, both stimulating urination as a diuretic, which decreases the toxicity of the body and also stimulating vomiting (as an emetic) when something toxic has been consumed. Furthermore, the organic compounds found in bay leaves are very effective for settling upset stomachs, soothing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or even lessening the symptoms of Celiac’s disease. Some of the more complex proteins in our modern diet can be difficult to digest, but the unique enzymes found in bay leaves help to facilitate efficient digestion and nutrient intake.

Treat Respiratory Conditions

When the essential oil of bay leaves is extracted, it can be mixed into a salve and applied to the chest to help alleviate various respiratory conditions. This can also be achieved with a poultice made of the leaves. Spread it on the chest and allow it to remain overnight. Inhaling the vapor has a similar effect to aromatherapy and can loosen up phlegm and eliminate dangerous bacteria that may be trapped in your respiratory tracts, thanks to its natural antibacterial quality.

Hair Care

If you want to improve the health of your hair follicles and eliminate dandruff, steep bay leaves in water and then rub them on your scalp after shampooing. The chemicals and volatile ingredients in them can help to eliminate dry skin and dandruff.

Anti-inflammatory Activity

One of the most important benefits of bay leaves is their ability to reduce inflammation throughout the body. These leaves contain a unique phytonutrient, called parthenolide, which can quickly reduce inflammation and irritation when topically applied to affected areas, such as sore joints or areas affected by arthritis. This effect can also be achieved through normal consumption of bay leaf spice.

Protect Heart Health

Caffeic acid and rutin are both important organic compounds found in the bay leaves that enhance our heart health. Rutin strengthens capillary walls in the heart and the body’s extremities, while caffeic acid can help to eliminate HDL (bad) cholesterol from the cardiovascular system.

Prevent Cancer

The unique combination of antioxidants and organic compounds in bay leaves, including phytonutrients, catechins, linalool, and parthenolide, helps to protect the body from the effects of free radicals. Free radicals can cause healthy cells to mutate into cancerous cells, which bay leaves are particularly adept at preventing.

Reduce Anxiety & Stress

Linalool is often associated with thyme and basil, but it is also present in bay leaves and can help to lower the level of stress hormones in the body, especially when used in aromatherapy. Excess stress hormones can be dangerous for long-term health, so bay leaves can help you calm down and remain relaxed even in your high-anxiety moments.

Manage Diabetes

Bay leaves have been directly connected with improved insulin receptor function and regulated blood sugar levels. For patients at risk of developing diabetes or for those who have already developed the condition, regular consumption of bay leaves can significantly lower the chances of diabetic episodes.

Word of Caution: As mentioned earlier, “bay leaf” is a commonly used term that applies to many different plants around the world; however, to achieve all of the health benefits listed above, it is essential that you find a true bay leaf, derived from the laurel tree. Other varieties can actually be toxic when consumed, so be certain that you’re getting the real thing. In terms of allergies, bay leaves aren’t widely known as an allergenic substance, but contact dermatitis and eczema breakouts have been sporadically reported. If you’re allergic to other members of the Lauraceae family, you will likely be allergic to bay leaves as well.

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