Bay Leaf is an aromatic leaf very commonly used to spice food. Though bay leaf is generally used as an aromatic spice, it has wonderful health benefits and medicinal uses too. The essential oil extracted from the leaves also has wonderful medicinal uses.
What Is Bay Leaf?
Bay leaf is a very very aromatic leaf and it comes from many plants. It is in use from ancient times and was considered a symbol of wisdom and glory. Wreaths made with bay leaves were used to adorn the head of athletes and leaders in ancient Greek and Rome.
Bay leaf has a sharp pungent taste and is usually discarded when eating. It is mainly used to to add a good aroma to the dish. Usually we use the dried leaves for cooking as we don’t get the fresh leaves. Dried leaves have a slightly floral smell when compared to the fresh leaf.
Types Of Bay Leaves
1. Indian Bay Leaf
Indian bay leaf whose botanical name is Cinnamomum Tamala is larger and wider in size compared to other varieties. It has a fragrance similar to cinnamon bark. It is native to India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and China. Though it is mainly used as a spice in India, it has medicinal uses and is used in Ayurveda. Indian bay leaf tree is a medium-sized evergreen tree and in India, it is mainly cultivated for leaf production and for making essential oil.
2. Bay Laurel
The botanical name of bay Laurel is laurus nobilis and it is native to Mediterranean region. Bay Laurel is an evergreen shrub that produces 6 to 12 inch long leaves. This is the variety that was used in ancient Rome and Greece. It is mainly used in cooking and is also used in home remedies.
3. California Bay Leaf
The botanical name of this plant is called Umbellularia Californica. It has a stronger flavour when compared to bay laurel leaf. Apart from these three, there is also Indonesian bay leaf whose botanical name is Syzygium Polyanthum, West Indian bay leaf whose botanical name is Pimenta Racemosa and Mexican bay leaf whose botanical name is Litsea Glaucescens. Here in India, we get both Indian bay leaf and bay laurel so I will be mentioning the medicinal uses of both these varieties in this post.
a. Bay Laurel :
The leaves contains around 45% of eucalyptol, 12% terpenes, 12% terpinyl acetate, 4% sesquiterpenes, 1.5 % essential oils along with other compounds.
b. Indian Bay Leaf
Cinnamaldehyde, eugenol cinnamaldehyde- linalool and linalool are some of the major chemical compounds found in Indian bay leaf.
Bay Leaf Common Names:
Bay leaf is called Tej Patta in Hindi, Biryani Ilai / Birnji Ilai in Tamil, Biryani Aku in Telugu, Karuva Ela in Malayalam, Biryani Ele in Kannada, Tej Petta in Gujarati, Tamal Patra in Marathi, Tej Patta in Punjabi, Tej Patha in Bengali and Tej Patra in Oriya.
Bay Leaf Nutrient Value
100 grams contains around 314 calories, 8 grams of fat and 8 grams of protein. It is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, vitamin B6, magnesium and calcium.
Medicinal Uses Of Indian Bay Leaf
The fresh leaves are chewed to disguise mouth odour and the leaves are kept between clothes to make them smell good. The leaves and the bark of the tree have been used for treating rheumatism, colic, diarrhoea, stomach pain, bronchitis, cold and cough, vomiting, nausea, fever and body odour!
Along with the uses mentioned below, Indian bay leaf also have anti genotoxic, cytoprotective, molluscicidal and immunomodulatory properties.
1. Antibacterial Properties
Both the leaf extract and the essential oil have powerful antibacterial properties against various bacterial strains like Escherichia Coli, Salmonella Typhi, Pseudomonas Aeruginosa, Bacillus Cereus and Staphylococcus Aureus.
2. Antioxidant Properties
Indian bay leaf has powerful antioxidant properties. The flavonoids quercetin, kaempferol and quercetrin are responsible for its wonderful antioxidant properties.
3. Antidiabetic Properties
Indian bay leaf extract have powerful blood glucose lowering effect. The bark extract also has anti diabetic properties. In a study done on 40 patients with type 2 diabetes for 30 days, showed marked decrease in serum glucose levels.
4. Reduces High Cholesterol
Another important medicinal use of bay leaf is cholesterol lowering effect. In the previous study I mentioned, the patients also experienced decreased total cholesterol of around 20% after 30 days. LDL decreased by 32% and HDL increased by 29% while triglycerides decreased by 34%.
5. Gastro & Hepatoprotective Properties
Bay leaf extract also have both gastro and liver protective properties. Bay leaf extract is traditionally used for treating diarrhoea and this traditional use has been proved true research too. Another very important medicinal use of Indian bay leaf extract is its anti ulcer properties.
Medicinal Uses Of Bay Laurel
Traditionally it has been used to treat stomach pain, clear up mucus and treat sore throat and headache. Bay Laurel leaves were used as headbands from ancient times. Like Indian bay leaf, it is used for treating bad mouth odour, vomiting, nausea, fever, anemia, body odour, earache and diarrhoea.
It has wound healing, antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory, immunostimulant, antimutagenic, insect repellent and antimicrobial properties. Especially bay Laurel leaf extract got by boiling the leaves in water has been traditionally used for treating wounds.
If we use bay leaf extract it reduces inflammation and also heals wounds very fast. Like the leaves, the essential oil extracted from bay Laurel also have medicinal properties. It is very effective against mosquitoes, ticks and mites.
Bay Leaf Side Effects
The whole bay leaf cannot be digested so it remains intact if we swallow it. I couldn’t find the safe dosage for consuming bay leaf extract during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Bay leaf extract if consumed regularly might interfere with blood sugar medications and it also might interfere with medications given for nervous problems.
Bay Leaf Dosage
Usually the amount we add to spice up food is very safe and has been used for centuries. But I couldn’t find any research that the shows the effect of consuming bay leaves (in the form of water extract) in large doses for long durations of time.
Where To Buy Bay leaf & Bay Leaf Essential Oil
We get both Indian bay leaf and bay Laurel leaf in most departmental stores in India. I store it in an airtight box in the pantry, you can also store it in the fridge too. Bay leaf essential oils can be bought online through online shops.
3 Top Ways To Use Bay Leaf
1. Hair Rinse
Boil 1 bay leaf along with a tsp of fenugreek seeds along with a cup of water for few minutes and strain. Use this as a final hair rinse and since it has anti bacterial properties, it will help treat scalp problems like dandruff and scalp inflammation.
2. To Heal Wounds
Boil bay leaf in water and use the leaf to wash the wounds. It helps reduce inflammation very fast and it also reduces pain and helps with faster healing.
3. To Treat Ulcers
If you are suffering from stomach ulcer, you can take a cup of bay leaf tea by boiling bay leaf along with a cup of water. You can also add honey to sweeten it too.
4. Burning Bay Leaf:
We can also burn bay leaves, the wonderful smell of bay leaf has a soothing and calming effect and is a wonderful remedy for anxiety. If you are allergic to regular incense stick smoke, you can try bay leaf smoke instead….
5. Bay Leaf Tea For Cough:
Bay leaf tea got steeping the leaves along with a piece of fresh ginger in boiling water is a good remedy for cough, indigestion and headache. Use the tea as a remedy as the safe dose for consuming it for long durations of time is still not clear.