Bay leaf (Laurus nobilis)Synonyms
Note: Bay leaf (Laurus nobilis) may be confused with California bay leaf (Umbellularia californica), also known as "California laurel" or "Oregon myrtle," or Indian bay leaf (Cinnamoma tamala). This monograph only covers bay leaf (Laurus nobilis).
Background to flavor foods, and it is used by chefs of ethnic cuisines, from Italian to Thai. It is also frequently used in salt-free seasonings.
Bay leaf is thought to be useful for gastric ulcers, high blood sugar, migraines, and infections. Bay leaves and berries have been used for their astringent, diaphoretic (promotes sweating), carminative (promotes digestion), digestive, and stomachic (tones and strengthens the stomach) properties. In the Middle Ages bay leaf was believed to induce abortions. Traditionally, the berries of the bay tree were used to treat furuncles. The leaf essential oil of Laurus nobilis has been used as an antiepileptic remedy in Iranian traditional medicine.
Currently, there is not enough scientific evidence to draw any firm conclusions about the medicinal safety, effectiveness or dosing of bay leaf.
Individuals with a known allergy to bay leaf (Laurus nobilis), its constituents, and related plants in the Lauraceae family as well as the Compositae/Asteraceae family should not use bay leaf. Contact dermatitis and occupational asthma have been reported.
Overall, bay leaf has very few adverse effects, and is likely safe when consumed in amounts used in foods. However, it may cause contact dermatitis and occupational asthma. Bay leaves may become lodged in the gastrointestinal tract, causing tears or blockages. These impacted leaves may also obstruct breathing.
Other reported side effects include hand and face eczema and airborne contact dermatitis.
Bay leaf is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to lack of available scientific evidence.
Alcohol extracts of bay leaf may interact with ACE inhibitor drugs. Caution is advised.
Bay leaf essential oil may have anticonvulsant effects. Individuals using bay leaf with other medications with anticonvulsant effects should consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist.
Bay leaf essential oil may cause sedation and motor impairment. Caution is advised when using in combination with other medications that have sedative effects, such as chamomile.
Bay leaf essential oil may have anticonvulsant effects. Individuals using bay leaf with other herbs and supplements with anticonvulsant effects should consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist.
Bay leaf essential oil may cause sedation and motor impairment. Caution is advised when using in combination with other herbs and supplements that have sedative effects, such as chamomile.
Apart from Indian Bay leaf it is also known as Indian cassia, Indian cassia bark, Tamala cassia, Tejpat (India), Cassia Vera and Indian Bark. They are used in fresh, dried or powdered form. The oil extracted from bay leaves, called bay leaf oil has medicinal properties and is used to treat several ailments. Bay leaf is extensively used in Indian, Nepalese and Bhutanese cuisines. It is an important spice in Moghulai dishes, mainly biryani and korma. Roasted and ground bay leaves are added to the Indian mixture of spices called "Garam Masala". Myrcene, which is a component of essential oils extracted from bay leaves, is used in perfumery. They also have the property of repelling flies, moths, mice etc. Apart from their culinary uses, they have medicinal properties and are known for their anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, diuretic and astringent qualities.
Apart from their wonderful benefits, Indian Bay Leaf is a good source of nutrients, vitamins and minerals. Using 100 gram of Indian Bay Leaf offers 43 mg of Iron, 8.167 mg of Manganese, 1.74 mg of Vitamin B6, 834 mg of Calcium, 26.3 g of Total dietary Fiber, 74.97 g of Carbohydrate, 46.5 mg of Vitamin C, 0.416 mg of Copper,180 ug of Vitamin B9 and 3.7 mg of Zinc.
Types of Bay Leaves
These aromatic leaves belong to a variety of plants from different genera. Some of the common varieties of bay leaves are as follows.
1. Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis lauraceae):Also known as Mediterranean bay leaves, these leaves are used in both their fresh and dried forms to flavor soups, stews, braises etc. in Mediterranean cuisine. The fresh leaves have a milder flavor and they take several weeks after drying and picking to develop their full flavor.
3. Good for Digestion
Bay leaves are good for promoting digestion and can treat digestive disorders such as heartburn and flatulence. Drinking a concoction of bay leaf tea with hot water can alleviate common digestive disorders like 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. In case of indigestion and bloating, you can take 5 grams of bay leaves, add a piece of ginger and boil this in 200 mil of water till 1/4 water remains. Add some honey and consume this twice a day for relief. It also acts as an appetite stimulant if you are recovering from illness.
4. Relieves Pain
The oil extracted from bay leaf has got anti-inflammatory properties which ease the pain resulting from sprains, strains, arthritis, rheumatism as well as general pains and aches. Massaging your temples with bay leaf oil helps to relieve migraines and headaches. Apart from that it boosts circulation and promotes a feeling of well-being. In case of joint pain, you can make a poultice of ground bay leaves and castor leaves, and tie it around the inflamed joints to reduce pain and swelling. In case of headache, you can boil a few bay leaves in water for a few minutes. Strain and drink this concoction while it is still hot. You can apply a paste of bay leaves on your forehead to get relief from severe headache.
5. Anti-cancer Properties
Bay leaf contains caffeic acid, quercetin, euganol and catechins all of which have chemo-protective properties which offer 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.
6. Treatment of Menstrual Problems
Bay leaves, when taken orally, help to induce regular and normal menstruation. They also have the property of curing vaginal discharge.
7. Clean Teeth
To get sparkling white teeth, brush them with powdered bay leaves once in 3 days.
8. Insect Repellent
Bay leaves are a great insect repellent as they contain lauric acid. A dish of bay leaves will ward off insects. A paste made from crushed leaves and little oil relieves stings and bites when applied topically.
9. Treatment of Kidney Problems
Bay leaves help in treating kidney infections and even kidney stones. For this purpose, boil 5 grams bay leaves in 200 ml water till 50 ml water remains. Strain and drink this twice daily. This will stop the formation of kidney stones.