I dare say that most people reading this article have used bay leaves in their cooking. They are a popular aromatic ingredient for adding flavor and fragrance to a range of dishes. Bay leaves also known as laurel leaves also have a variety of potential health benefits. Studies have found that these small leaves have various medicinal properties including antioxidant and antimicrobial properties.
They are used to treat a number of physical conditions from digestive health to arthritis and are also be used to help relieve various emotional issues like anxiety and insomnia. If you would like to learn more about the benefits of laurel leaves and how to use them, please read on.
What Are Laurel Leaves?
Laurel leaves or bay leaves are derived from an evergreen tree called the bay laurel tree known scientifically as Laurus nobilis L. The tree which belongs to the Lauraceae family is native to the Mediterranean and other southern countries in Europe.
The leaves and an essential oil derived from the tree are commonly used in cooking and are valued as a flavoring agent. However, the leaves have also been used in traditional medicine around the world for a very long time.
- In Iranian medicine, they have been used to treat neuralgia, epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.
- The leaves and the fruit of the laurel tree contain anti-cancer, stimulant, aromatic and narcotic properties. (1)
- Several studies have found that laurel leaves have antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. (1) (2)
- According to research, laurel leaves have, anti-fungal and diuretic properties. (3)
- The leaves have been used to treat arthritis and migraines.
- The leaves have been used traditionally to treat gastrointestinal conditions like flatulence and bloating.
- An essential oil extracted from laurel leaves is widely used by the soap and perfume industries.
- A poultice is made from boiled bay laurel leaves to treat rashes caused by stinging nettle and poison ivy.
- Pliny the Elder – the renowned Roman naturalist listed various conditions that could be treated with bay laurel oil including spasms, bruising, sciatica, spasms, rheumatism, headaches, ear infection and paralysis.
- The studies done so far have focused on derived from the bay laurel tree (Laurus nobilis L).
- Apart from the bay laurel tree, bay leaves are also sometimes derived from other laurel trees. These include the California bay tree, the Indonesian laurel, the West Indian bay tree and the Mexican bay tree.
A tablespoon or approximately two grams of bay leaf contains the following:
- 5 calories
- 0.2 gram of protein
- 0.1 gram of fat
- 1.3 grams of carbohydrates
- 0.5 grams of fiber
- 0.8 milligrams of iron
- 0.1 milligrams of manganese
While bay leaf is hardly a nutritional powerhouse, it does contain a variety of compounds with excellent health benefits. According to research, the main active compound found in bay leaves is 1.8-cineol or eucalyptol.
Health Benefits of Bay Leaf
Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Benefits
A number of studies into the composition of laurel leaves and bay leaf essential oil have found that they possess antioxidant properties. Antioxidants are important in protecting us from disease and illness caused by the damaging effects of free radicals.
Antioxidants like the ones found in bay leaf can help protect the cells from damage and even reverse damage already done. Research has also found that bay leaves contain antimicrobial activities. One study published in 2016 examined the antioxidant and antimicrobial activities of essential oils derived from bay laurel, wormwood and geranium. they found that it was effective against E.coli and salmonella. Of the three oils tested, bay laurel oil had the highest antioxidant activity. (4)
Laurel leaves have been traditionally used to treat a range of digestive health issues including bloating, flatulence and dyspepsia. There are very few studies into the digestive health benefits of bay leaves but it is believed they may work because they contain enzymes that can relieve a range of gastrointestinal complaints.
According to proponents, bay leaves can help soothe an upset stomach, relieve symptoms of IBS, reduce gas and bloating. Bay leaves also have diuretic properties that help promote urination and the elimination of toxins from the system while they may also help improve the absorption of nutrients.
Candida and Anti-fungal Properties
According to research, bay leaf also has anti-fungal properties that may be effective against fungal infections like candida. One recent study published in 2017 found that an essential oil of bay laurel leaf was effective against candida.
It worked by disrupting the adhesion of the candida to the cell walls preventing it from penetrating the membrane. the researchers believe its antifungal actions are related to the sesquiterpenes and monoterpenes found in the leaf. (5)
bay leaves have traditionally been applied to the skin in the form of a poultice to help relieve rashes and minor wounds. According to research, the leaves may help heal wounds more quickly while its antibacterial properties can help prevent infection from spreading.
One study examined the effects of bay laurel extract and Allamanda cathartica extract when applied to wounds in rodents. Although bay leaves were less effective than Allamanda, the treatment was still more effective than the control group. (6)
Preliminary studies suggest that laurel leaves may be effective against certain types of cancer. Some earl;y studies have found that laurel leaf extract had antiproliferative activities and may help destroy cancer cells by apoptosis.
One study found that bay laurel leaf extract was effective against breast cancer cells. (7) Another in vitro study found that it may be effective against colorelctal cancer. (8)
While the signs so far are encouraging, experts stress that much more research is necessary before we can be sure just how effective bay laurel is against cancer.
Diabetes and Heart Health
Research has demonstrated that bay leaf can help reduce blood sugar levels making it a potential, natural remedy for people with diabetes.
One study found that taking laurel leaf extract along with their regular medication twice a day helped reduce both blood sugar and LDL cholesterol levels. The study which involved 65 people with type 2 diabetes also found that bay leaves helped boost HDL (the good kind) cholesterol. (9)
Another study published in 2009 found that bay leaves could help improve blood sugar levels and insulin function as well as lipid profile in diabetic patients. 40 people were given different amounts of bay leaf extract in capsule form for 30 days. The researchers found that the people treated with bay leaf extract experienced reductions in blood glucose as well as total cholesterol levels. This suggests that consuming bay leaves regularly could help reduce the risk of diabetes and boost heart health. (10)
Bay leaf essential oil can be used to help treat congestion, coughs and other respiratory issues. The oil contains eucalyptol as well as anti-inflammatory properties that can help treat a variety of respiratory complaints and help you breathe more freely.
You must dilute the essential oil with a carrier oil and then you can massage it into your chest to help improve your breathing. It is also possible to make a poultice using the boiled leaves of the plant which you can then apply to your chest.
Another great way of treating your breathing issues is to make a steam inhaler. Simply add a few drops of your bay laurel essential oil to a sink of hot water, cover your head and shoulders in a towel, lean over the sink and inhale the soothing vapors for 5 minutes or so. This can also help eliminate any bacteria that may be causing your breathing troubles.
Rheumatism and Arthritis
Massaging bay leaf essential oil into your body can also help relieve painful joints caused by conditions like rheumatism and arthritis. Bay leaves have excellent anti-inflammatory properties that make them ideal for relieving joint inflammation and soreness.
Stress and Anxiety
As well as its many internal benefits, bay leaf oil can also be used to help overcome feelings of stress and anxiety. many people find that inhaling the essential oil can help relax the mind and reduce feelings of stress. The oil is also a great option for people who find sleep difficult to come by and many people use it as a natural remedy for insomnia.
Simply diffuse bay leaf essential oil around the home during the day to alleviate feelings of stress and in the bedroom to help you get a better night of sleep.
How to Use Bay Leaf
Bay leaves are usually added to a dish either whole or ground. they add both fragrance and flavor to a variety of meat dishes, soups or stews. When you buy bay leaves make sure they are free of cracks, blemishes and tears. You can also buy fresh laurel leaves which should be bright green in color with a waxy appearance.
Be sure to remove whole laurel leaves from your meal before serving up your dish. Also note that California bay leaves have a stronger flavor than most other types of bay leaf. If you are using the California variety, you will need only about half the amount called for in the recipe.
How to Make Bay Leaf Tea
As well as using the leaves in your cooking, you can make a healthy tea with laurel leaves. One popular recipe is to add cinnamon to the nix. here is how you make it :
- five dried bay leaves
- one teaspoon of ground cinnamon or a cinnamon stick.
- one liter of water
How to make
Simply boil your water and turn down the heat. Add the bay leaves and cinnamon then simmer on a low heat for around 20 minutes. Let the mixture steep for a while and strain out the leaves. drink up. Add honey to taste if you like.
You can also buy bay laurel leaf in the form of an essential oil. You can diffuse the oil to help with respiratory issues or anxiety. you can also dilute the essential oil and use it as a massage therapy to help treat conditions like arthritis.
Side Effects and Precautions
- Bay leaf has been used for a very long time in cooking and there are no reports of any serious side effects.
- You should however be careful to remove the whole leaves from your cooking to make sure that nobody chokes on the leaf.
- Some people may be allergic to bay laurel. If you suffer any form of reaction, stop using the leaf immediately.
- Bay leaf essential oil can be applied topically as long as you dilute it in a carrier oil first. You should also perform a patch test on a discrete area of skin to make sure you are not allergic.
- Bay leaves also known as laurel leaves are a common culinary ingredient but they also have a wide range of potential health benefits.
- Studies have demonstrated that bay leaves contain antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties,
- Several studies suggest that they could help combat cancer while others have demonstrated their effects against diabetes and boosting heart health.
- Bay leaves can also help improve digestive health and treat common symptoms like flatulence and bloating.
- You can also use bay leaf in the form of an essential oil. This can be applied topically to the skin to relieve joint pain and inflammation.
- inhaling the essential oil can also help treat stress and anxiety.