6 Amazing Health Benefits of The Aromatic Bay Leaf
When I think of bay leaf, I immediately recall the aroma of delicious food cooking on the stove. This herb has been around for centuries for medicinal purposes as well as for flavouring food. Bay leaf is used in cooking for its distinctive, aromatic flavour that enriches broths, soups and curries. Read on to know about the incredible health benefits of this popular spice.
Bay leaves contain vitamins, minerals and several phytonutrients such as rutin, salicylates, catechins, linalool, quercetin, eugenol, parthenolide and caffeic acid which offer a range of health benefits. The health benefits of bay leaves include detoxification, anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, accelerated wound healing, and diabetes management. It also reduces heart disorders, optimizes digestion, prevents respiratory issues and certain types of cancer.
Did You Know?
– In ancient times, bay leaves were used to alleviate bee and wasp stings
– The Romans considered them to be a symbol of glory
– Greeks and Romans believed that bay leaves symbolize wisdom, peace and protection
These leaves are pungent and have a sharp, bitter flavour. Due to their bitter taste, bay leaves are not eaten directly but are often used to impart flavour to a variety of dishes. It is an important spice in Mughlai dishes, particularly biryani and korma. Bay leaves are also added, roasted and grounded, to the Indian mixture of spices called “Garam Masala”.
Apart from its culinary uses, bay leaf has medicinal properties and is known for its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, diuretic and astringent qualities. Myrcene, a component of essential oils extracted from bay leaves, is used in perfumery. It also acts as a repellant for flies, moths and mice.
Health Benefits of Bay Leaves
Let us look into the health benefits of this spice.
These leaves can treat various digestive disorders like heartburn and flatulence and are good for promoting digestion. The organic compounds found in bay leaves are very effective in settling down upset stomachs and soothing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The unique enzymes found in bay leaves can facilitate efficient digestion and nutrient intake by breaking down complex proteins in our diet.
Treats Respiratory disorders
Bay leaves are efficient in fighting the symptoms of flu, cough and infections. When the essential oil of bay leaves is extracted and applied to the chest, it helps alleviate the infections.
Due to its natural anti-bacterial quality, inhaling the vapours of the leaves can loosen up phlegm and eliminate dangerous bacteria that may be trapped in the respiratory tracts.
According to studies, bay leaves have been effective in treating type 2 diabetes as they reduce blood glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Regular consumption of bay leaves can significantly lower the chances of diabetic episodes for patients who have already developed the condition or for those who are at risk of developing it.
Maintains Heart Health
The powerful phytonutrients – rutin, salicylates and caffeic acid found in bay leaves provide protection against various cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes. Caffeic acid eliminates HDL cholesterol from the cardiovascular system while rutin strengthens the capillary walls of the heart.
The unique combination of antioxidants and organic compounds in bay leaves like that of phytonutrients – catechins, linalool, quercetin, eugenol and parthenolide helps in protecting the body from the harmful effects of free radicals. They possess cancer preventive properties and hence provide protection against different cancers. Parthenolide specifically restrains the proliferation of cervical cancer cells.
Bay leaf oil extract has anti-inflammatory properties which can reduce pain resulting from strains, sprains, arthritis, and rheumatism. Parthenolide can quickly reduce inflammation and irritation when topically applied to affected areas such as sore joints or areas affected by arthritis. It can also provide relief in general pains and aches.
How do I include bay leaves in my daily life?
Apart from adding it to your soup or stew, bay leaf tea is also very beneficial for your health. Bay leaves are an integral part of Indian cuisine and you can use them in different curries and gravies as a flavouring agent.
Bay leaf also has excellent healing qualities and is often used by herbal practitioners. You can use bay leaf oil to treat insect bites as it has anti-fungal and anti-bacterial properties. You can also use it on minor cuts and bruises. Due to its high lauric acid content, bay leaves also serve as a great insect repellent.
100g of bay leaves provide 313 Calories, Carbs – 75g (Dietary Fiber – 26g), Protein – 7.6g, Fat – 8.4g, Sodium – 23mg
And a percentage daily value of Vitamin A – 124%, Vitamin C – 78%, Iron – 239%, Calcium – 83% (based on a 2000 Calorie diet).