Well known for its flavour and fragrance in many Indian dishes such as biryani and curries, bay leaf is a nutrient-dense herb that also finds its use in the medicinal world. Bay leaf is rich in antioxidants, minerals and fibres, giving it the ability to promote overall health. It complements food flavour in slow-cooked meals like soups, stews, and sauces. Regular consumption of bay leaf provides various health benefits, including management of diabetes and protection against oxidative stress. Bay leaf tea is gaining popularity to treat stomach aches, colds, and migraines, while oil is in aromatherapy for respiratory conditions.
Commonly found in hot and humid countries, it has served humans with numerous health benefits since history.
What is Bay Leaf?
Bay leaf is an aromatic herb obtained from the small evergreen tree known as the bay laurel tree native to the Mediterranean. The leaf is about two to three inches long, almond-shaped, and green in colour. Bay leaf has spicy, woodsy, floral, sweet and savoury, and slightly bitter undertones.
It is commonly a cooking spice in India that people use to brew tea or in their curry preparations. Although you need to remove it from the dish before serving, it serves many nutrients that keep many chronic diseases away. For example, it relieves you from diabetes, cancer, and stomach problems. But there is a lack of scientific evidence to prove its effectiveness.
Types of Bay Leaf
Bay leaf, also called Tej Patta in India, is fresh and dried.
Fresh Bay Leaves
Fresh bay leaves are shiny and dark green on top with a paler green on the underside. They are used in meat dishes to add a pronounced aroma. However, fresh leaves can dominate a dish if overused and might need to be retrieved early during cooking.
Dried Bay Leaves
The vibrancy is lost as the fresh leaves dry, and the colour becomes uniform and muted. Dried leaves are olive green in colour. Dried bay leaves impart a more subtle flavour and are generally left in a dish as it cooks then removed before serving.
Fresh bay leaves are often costlier and have lesser shelf life than dried bay leaves. Therefore, using dried and crushed forms of bay leaves while cooking meals is more advantageous as the nutrients are more likely to be absorbed from the crushed form.
Nutritional Properties of Bay Leaf
A hundred grams of the bay leaf contains:
- Calories: 313kCal
- Carbohydrates: 74.9g
- Protein: 7.6g
- Fibre: 26.3g
- Fat: 8.3g
Health Benefits of Bay Leaves
Bay leaves offer a wide range of benefits. Here are nine reasons why you must incorporate bay leaves in your diet.
1. Improves Digestion
As per a review, bay leaves substantially affect the gastrointestinal system. So apart from adding a great flavour and taste to your food, they also facilitate digestion giving relief from abdominal pain, gastrointestinal infections, bloating, constipation, and diarrhoea. In addition, the organic compounds found in bay leaves are beneficial in getting rid of an upset stomach and soothing irritable bowel syndrome.
Using bay leaves in your dish will help increase nutrient absorption and further aid your body in functioning well. In addition, bay leaf oil and bay leaf tea is good for digestion problems.
2. Aids Kidney Health
Bay leaves can act as a diuretic and improve the health of kidneys. They are said to stimulate urination, thus reducing your body’s toxicity. A study suggested that bay leaves can help prevent kidney stones by reducing the amount of urease in the body. In addition, bay leaves help remove excess sodium from the body due to their diuretic property.
3. Improves Heart Health
According to a study, bay leaves enhance heart health due to two critical organic compounds, rutin and caffeic. Rutin strengthens the capillary walls of the heart, while caffeic acid plays a role in eliminating LDL or bad cholesterol from the cardiovascular system.
4. Helps Manage Diabetes
Bay leaves can manage and treat diabetes by lowering your body’s blood sugar levels and enhancing insulin function. In addition, the phytochemicals found in bay leaves can counteract symptoms of diabetes due to improved insulin receptor function.
A research study reported that regular consumption of bay leaves could help deal with type 2 diabetes.
5. Provides Antioxidants
Antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, and carotenoids in the bay help lower blood cholesterol and uric acid levels. In addition, the antioxidant properties found in bay leaf extract have phenolic compounds. These phytochemicals aid in protection against oxidative stress caused by free radicals, which further prevents damage to the liver and stomach.
6. Alleviates Respiratory Conditions
Bay leaf benefits the respiratory system. The essential oil of bay leaves can be extracted, mixed and applied to the chest to help relieve various respiratory infections and disorders. Similarly, a poultice can be made using the leaves and applied to the chest for a night. It works in aromatherapy lines and can loosen up the phlegm and eliminate harmful microorganisms that may trap in your respiratory tracts.
7. Has Anticancer Properties
Bay leaves have anti-cancer properties. A study stated that bay leaf extract could facilitate apoptosis to kill cancer cells, thus preventing cancer. In addition, the unique combination of antioxidants and organic compounds in bay leaves helps inhibit the growth of breast and colorectal cancer cells and prevent your body from the effects of cancer-causing free radicals.
8. Provides Antimicrobial Protection
Bay leaves provide antimicrobial properties, including antibacterial and antifungal protection. Bay leaves are effective against many infections from fungi, bacteria, and protozoa. In addition, the research found its essential oil was effective against various foodborne microorganisms. These properties, along with their ascorbic acid or vitamin C content, can protect the skin from any infection and irritation.
9. Reduces Inflammation and Enhances Wound Healing
Bay leaves help in treating wounds for ages. Its extract is applied around the injury to reduce inflammation. In addition, bay leaf oil is gaining importance due to its anti-inflammatory activity. Massaging joints with Tejpatta oil helps relieve and manage rheumatoid arthritis. Furthermore, drinking bay leaf tea can help decrease joint pains and reduce inflammation.
Uses of Bay Leaf
The classical use of bay leaf is an essential ingredient in soups, stews, and stuffings. Furthermore, it is a crucial ingredient in teas, oils, and liquors. In addition, it has acted as herbal medicine against numerous diseases for thousands of years. Apart from culinary and medicinal uses, bay leaves have various applications. Some of the other benefits of bay leaves are listed below:
Reduces Stress and Anxiety
The aromatic fumes of bay leaves have a natural soothing quality as it cleanses the air and affects a person’s mood. Burning a few bay leaves on a flame can be a natural remedy to destress and reduce anxiety.
Bay leaves are also a popular element in aromatherapy. The antioxidant linalool present in bay leaves can help lower the level of stress hormones in the body and help you calm down.
Improves Hair Health
Bay leaves can improve your hair health and lead to hair growth. Soak bay leaves in water and then rub them on your scalp after shampoo. The elements in bay leaves can help you get rid of dry skin and dandruff, thus useful for hair regrowth and prevention of hair loss.
Helps Induce Sleep
The soothing properties of bay leaves can help induce sleep. When consumed at bedtime, bay leaves can act as a mild tranquilliser, affecting the central nervous system. It reduces anxiety, promotes relaxation and induces sleep. You can mix a few drops of the bay leaf extract with water and consume them when you have trouble falling asleep.
Lauric acid present in bay leaves makes them an excellent insect repellent. Moreover, applying a paste made from crushed leaves and a small amount of oil can help relieve stings and bites.
Its oil is essential in the cosmetic industry for soaps, perfumes, and dental products. Bay leaf oil is a tonic for hair that efficiently eliminates dandruff and hair loss. It can be a part of herbal treatments for various natural skincare treatments.
The chemicals in the air fresheners from the market are harmful to your health, especially children. Hence it is better to use natural air fresheners such as bay leaves to remove odour from your house. You can achieve this by burning two to three-bay leaves on an ashtray and allowing the smoke to spread into the room. The smoke and smell that comes from the burning will bring a natural fragrance and purify the atmosphere of your home.
Healthy Recipes Using Bay Leaf
You can use bay leaves as a dried, crushed, and fresh form to many dishes. However, ground bay leaves can be too strong. So it is preferable to use a whole leaf when cooking, then remove the leaf before serving. Here are a few healthy recipes you can follow:
1. Bay Leaf Water
The various health benefits of drinking bay leaf water are:
- It prevents cold, cough and flu.
- Increases body metabolism and helps promote weight loss.
- It relieves joint and muscle pain.
- Fights diabetes.
- It reduces blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Bay leaves
- Take 2-3 bay leaves and cut them into small pieces.
- Add them to a vessel of boiling water.
- Soak overnight.
- Strain the water the following day.
You can enjoy this refreshing drink first thing in the morning and multiple times during the day.
2. Cinnamon and Bay Leaf Tea
It is a healthy weight loss drink with the goodness of cinnamon and the antioxidant properties of bay leaves. They play a significant role in burning fat effectively and preventing fat accumulation in the body. This drink also improves the nutrient absorption ability of the body, lowers LDL and improves HDL cholesterol levels.
- Cinnamon stick or cinnamon powder- 1 or 1tsp, respectively
- Bay leaves- 3-4
- Honey(Optional)- 1 tsp
- Water- 3-4 cups
- Bring water to a boil in a vessel.
- Add bay leaves and cinnamon to the water.
- Let it cook for 10 to 20 minutes.
- Strain and add honey.
Bay leaf is primarily safe to consume. However, it is essential to discard the leaf from dishes before serving to prevent someone choking on them. Its rigid texture and sharp edges make it difficult to chew and digest. The use of bay leaf should not be for pregnant women. Moreover, consuming large quantities of bay leaves may cause drowsiness. Hence, do not have the entire leaf by mouth.
Bay leaf is a nutritious herb that imparts excellent flavour and taste to your food with various health benefits. It is so versatile that adding its leaf to your foods helps treat diabetes and prevents digestive disorders. At the same time, bay leaf oil and extract work as a remedy for arthritis, inflammation, and skin diseases. In addition, it increases the amount of fibre, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants in a dish and plays a vital role in improving health.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What does bay leaf cure?
A. Bay leaf has anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties. It can cure diabetes, cancer, gastrointestinal problems and fungal infections. However, there is not enough scientific information to support these claims.
Q. Is drinking bay leaf water good for you?
A. Yes, drinking bay leaf water is good for you as it is an excellent source of antioxidants, vitamins and other essential minerals. In addition, drinking bay leaf water can improve your immune system, increase body metabolism and can help reduce one’s weight.
Q. Can I drink bay leaf tea every day?
A. Yes. Drinking bay leaf tea every day benefits your heart as it is the potent combination of antioxidants and potassium. Potassium is essential for your heart health, as it helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. In addition, regular consumption of bay leaf tea lowers the risk of diabetes and the prevalence of kidney stones.
Q. Are bay leaves bad for you?
A. Bay leaves are generally safe to cook. However, there is a risk of the leaf getting stuck in your food pipe if you consume it whole. Therefore, you should remove the leaf from the dish before serving. An excess quantity of bay leaves may even cause drowsiness.
Q. Can you boil bay leaves and drink?
A. Yes. All you have to do is cut 2-3 bay leaves in small pieces and add them to a vessel of boiling water. Soak the water overnight and strain the water the following day. You can enjoy this refreshing drink first thing in the morning and multiple times during the day, which will boost your metabolism and aid in healthy weight loss.
Q. Can bay leaves cure an infection?
A. Bay leaf is beneficial against infections due to its antimicrobial properties. You can apply bay leaf oil on the skin to cure skin infections. In addition, its extract can be used around the wound to reduce inflammation.
Q. Can I drink bay leaf tea at night?
A. You can drink bay leaf tea at night if you have trouble falling asleep. Bay leaves have soothing properties making them an excellent sleep aid. In addition, when consumed at bedtime, bay leaves can act as a mild tranquilliser, affecting the central nervous system, thus promoting relaxation and inducing sleep.
Q. Is bay leaf tea good for your kidneys?
A. Bay leaf tea can improve the health of your kidneys. They act as diuretics and stimulate urination, thus reducing your body’s toxicity. In addition, Bay leaf tea can help prevent kidney stones by reducing the amount of urease in the body and removing excess sodium due to its diuretic property.
Q. Are bay leaves medicinal?
A. Yes, bay leaves have had medicinal properties for a thousand years. Bay leaves help manage various health issues such as arthritis, diabetes, cancer, digestive problems, respiratory ailments, and infections. In addition, you can apply bay leaf oil on the skin for muscle and joint pain and reduce inflammation at the wound site.
Q. Does bay leaf burn fat?
A. Bay leaf water or bay leaf extract can help you burn fat. That is because it accelerates your body’s metabolism. As a result, it plays a significant role in burning fat effectively and preventing fat accumulation in the body.
Q. Are fresh bay leaves better than dried?
A. Using dried and crushed forms of bay leaves while cooking meals could be more advantageous as the nutrients are more likely to be absorbed from the crushed form. Moreover, fresh bay leaves are often costlier and have lesser shelf life than dried bay leaves.
Q.Are bay leaves bad for your heart?
A. No, bay leaves are good for your heart. They play a role in enhancing heart health due to two critical organic compounds, rutin and caffeic. Rutin strengthens the capillary walls of the heart, while caffeic acid plays a role in eliminating LDL or bad cholesterol from the cardiovascular system.
Q. What are the side effects of the bay leaf?
A. Bay leaf is primarily safe to consume. However, it is essential to discard the leaf from dishes before serving to prevent someone choking on them. Its rigid texture and sharp edges make it difficult to chew and digest and may also cause drowsiness. The use of bay leaf should not be for pregnant women.
Q. Does bay leaf lower blood pressure?
A. Bay leaves can help you lower your blood pressure. It has potassium and antioxidants, which are essential for your heart health, as it helps lower blood pressure. In addition, it helps lower the bad cholesterol and removes excess sodium from the body, thus managing blood pressure.