I often buy bay leaves for Italian recipes, which always seem to call for whole leaves to flavor the dishes. I never really knew much more about the plant though, so I was quite taken aback to learn of how many wonderful health benefits can be gained from using bay leaves. They can help detoxify our bodies, slow down aging, increase the speed our wounds heal, improve heart health and even help prevent cancer.
Here are 8 stunning benefits that we could all do with, since we probably already have bay leaves in our kitchen cabinets just waiting to be used!
Bay leaves (laurus nobilis)
The first thing to ascertain when using bay leaves is whether you have the correct species. Many different varieties of bay exist, some of which are inedible. You want to make absolutely sure that you are using the plant known as laurus nobilis. This Latin name means 'noble laurel', and is a reminder of the laurel crown that would be awarded for victors in chariot races, sporting events and literary competition in the ancient world. The bay tree is native to the Mediterranean nations and has been used medicinally as well as in food since classical times.
Note: All the health benefits described in this article pertain to preventative measures you might take to keep yourself healthy. If you suffer from any of these medical conditions already, please consult with your doctor before radically changing your diet to include more bay leaves.
The health benefits of bay leaves
1. Digestive health benefits
Lots of our modern diet is full of complex proteins that we can't easily digest, but bay leaves can help facilitate digestion, enabling us to take in nutrients, due to their unique enzymes. Amazingly, bay leaves can decrease the body's toxicity by stimulating urination or vomiting (when you've eaten something toxic). Due to their organic compounds, bay leaves can settle upset stomachs, reduce Celiac symptoms and ease irritable bowel syndrome symptoms.
2. Respiratory health benefits
Bay leaves contain vapors that can loosen up phlegm and get rid of trapped bacteria in our respiratory tracts because of their antibacterial properties. All you need to do is apply bay leaves to your chest to reap the benefits. Do this either by making a salve with essential oil from bay leaves, or make a poultice from the leaves themselves and hang it about your neck overnight. Inhaling the vapors will do you a world of good.
Bay leaves contain such volatile ingredients and chemicals that they offer a powerful remedy for dry skin and dandruff. Simply steep some leaves in water and apply to your scalp after shampooing your hair, rubbing deeply. This will both eliminate dandruff and also be beneficial for your hair follicle health.
4. Anti-inflammatory benefits
Bay leaves contain parthenolide, a phytonutrient which is able to reduce irritation and inflammation if applied topically. However, just by consuming bay leaves you can gain this soothing benefit, reducing inflammations throughout your body.
5. Heart health benefits
Bay leaves contain two separate organic compounds that can really give your heart's health a significant boost. Rutin is able to fortify the heart's and body's extremities' capillary walls. While caffeic acid is able to remove 'bad' cholesterol from your cardiovascular system.
Bay leaves are particularly suited to preventing free radicals, that can unfortunately change healthy cells into cancerous cells. Bay leaves contain a wonderful mixture of antioxidants and compounds that enable this anti-cancerous procedure, they include: parthenolide, linalool, catechins and phytonutrients.
7. Stress & anxiety remedy
Stress and anxiety over a prolonged period can dangerously affect your health, and bay leaves are very good at calming and relaxing you when you feel especially stressed out. These naturally soothing leaves contain linalool, which is able to lower the stress hormone. The same effect can also be taken from the wonder herbs, thyme and basil.
8. Manage diabetes
Both for people who are considered to be at risk of becoming diabetic and for those already suffering from diabetes, bay leaves offer extra hope. It has been suggested that regular bay leaf consumption may lower the chances of diabetic episodes from occurring, because bay leaves have been associated with patients' better regulated blood sugar levels and increased insulin receptor functionality.
Bonus: A little about bay leaves, including how to grow bay trees: