Health Benefits of Bay Leaves
Some of the most impressive health benefits of bay leaves include their ability to detoxify the body, slow the aging process, speed wound healing, protect the body from bacterial infections, manage diabetes, improve heart health, reduce inflammation, alleviate respiratory issues, optimize digestion, and prevent certain types of cancer.
There are many different types of plants whose leaves are referred to as “bay leaves”, but the true bay leaf is scientifically known as Laurus nobilis, and this is the nutrient-rich variety that we are discussing here. Many other leaves have a similar appearance and aroma to true bay leaves, but not the same nutrient content. This plant is an evergreen shrub or small tree that is native to the Mediterranean region. Laurel trees used to be everywhere in the region, but changing climates have shrunk their natural growth region. However, bay leaves have been a part of culinary and medicinal culture for thousands of years, dating back at least to Roman times.
The uses of bay leaves including grinding the leaves into a spice to flavor soups and stews, but the leaves are most commonly added in whole form as a flavoring for certain Italian dishes and are then removed or used as a garnish. Whole leaves are not commonly consumed. There is not an extensive range of culinary applications for bay leaves, although extracts of bay leaves have numerous medical applications for topical application. It is also a popular element of aromatherapy and herbal treatments for various skin and respiratory conditions. Let’s take a closer look at the unique health benefits of bay leaves.
Health Benefits of Bay Leaves
Digestive Health: Bay leaves have a very strong effect on the gastrointestinal system, both stimulating urination as a diuretic, which decreases the toxicity of the body, but also stimulating vomiting (as an emetic) when something toxic has been consumed. Furthermore, the organic compounds found in bay leaves are very effective for settling upset stomachs, soothing irritable bowel syndrome, or even lessening the symptoms of Celiac’s disease. Some of the more complex proteins in our modern diet can be difficult to digest, but the unique enzymes found in bay leaves help to facilitate efficient digestion and nutrient intake.
Respiratory Conditions: When the essential oil of bay leaves is extracted, it can be mixed into a salve and applied to the chest to help alleviate various respiratory conditions. This can also be achieved with a poultice made of the leaves. Spread it on the chest and allow it to remain overnight. Inhaling the vapors has a similar effect to aromatherapy and can loosen up phlegm and eliminate dangerous bacteria that may be trapped in your respiratory tracts thanks to its natural antibacterial quality.
Hair Health: If you want to improve the health of your hair follicles and eliminate dandruff, steep bay leaves in water and then rub that on your scalp after shampooing. The chemicals and volatile ingredients in bay leaves can help to eliminate dry skin and dandruff.
Anti-Inflammatory Activity: One of the most important benefits of bay leaves is their ability to reduce inflammation throughout the body. Bay leaves contain a rather unique phytonutrient, called parthenolide, which can quickly reduce inflammation and irritation when topically applied to affected areas, such as sore joints or areas affected by arthritis. This effect can also be achieved through normal consumption of bay leaf spice.
Heart Health: Caffeic acid and rutin are both important organic compounds found in bay leaf that greatly boost heart health. Rutin strengthens capillary walls in the heart and the body’s extremities, while caffeic acid can help eliminate “bad” cholesterol from the cardiovascular system.
Cancer Prevention: The unique combination of antioxidants and organic compounds in bay leaves, including phytonutrients, catechins, linalool, and parthenolide, helps to protect the body from the effects of free radicals. Free radicals can cause healthy cells to mutate into cancerous cells, which bay leaves are particularly adept at preventing.
Anxiety and Stress: One of the least commonly known benefits of bay leaves is their naturally soothing quality. Linalool is often associated with thyme and basil, but it is also present in bay leaves and can help to lower the level of stress hormones in the body, especially when used in aromatherapy. Excess stress hormones can be dangerous for long-term health, so bay leaves can help you calm down and remain relaxed even in your most high-anxiety moments.
Diabetes Management: Bay leaves have been directly connected with improved insulin receptor function and regulated blood sugar levels. For patients at risk of developing diabetes or for those who have already developed the condition, regular consumption of bay leaves can significantly lower the chances of diabetic episodes.
A Final Word of Warning: As mentioned earlier, “bay leaf” is a commonly used term that applies to many different plants around the world; however, to achieve all of the health benefits listed above, it is essential that you find true bay leaf, derived from the laurel tree, with the scientific name Laurus nobilis. Other varieties can actually be toxic when consumed, so be certain that you’re getting the real thing! In terms of allergies, bay leaves aren’t widely known as an allergenic substance, but contact dermatitis and eczema breakouts have been sporadically reported. If you’re allergic to other members of the Lauraceae family, you will likely be allergic to bay leaves as well.