Bay Leaf also called laurel leaf are dried leaves of an evergreen shrub or more rarely a tree attaining a height of 15 to 20 mtrs. The upper surface of the leaf is glabrous and shiny, olive green, and lower surface is dull olive to brown with a prominent rib and veins. The aroma of the crushed leaves is delicate & fragrant and taste is aromatic and bitter. The size of the leaves is ranging from 2.5 to 7.5 cms in length and 1.6 to 2.5 cms in breadth. The shape is elliptical and tapering to a point at the base and tip of the leaves.
It is a native of Mediterranean and grow widely in scrub land woods in Europe and California. It widely cultivated in Europe, America and Arabian countries. It is not cultivated as a commercial crop in India.
Bay leaves are used as flavouring in soups, stews, meat, fish, sauces and in confectionaries. Both leaves and fruits possess aromatic, stimulant and narcotic properties. The essential oil from the leaves are also used as spice and food flavouring agent.
Bay Leaf has wider application in traditional medicines. The major functional properties are anti-microbial, anti-fungal, hypoglycaemic, anti-ulcerogenic etc.
Diabetes: Bay leaves are very effective to heal type -II diabetes. Bay leaves regulate blood sugar levels in patients at risk of developing diabetes or for those who have already developed the condition.
Hypertension: Bay leaf is very useful for hypertension patients. It has important organic compounds (Rutin) that enhance heart health. Rutin strengthens capillary walls in the heart and the body’s extremities, while caffeic acid can help eliminate “bad” cholesterol.
Digestion: The vitamins and minerals in bay leaves facilitate the digestive system and solve digestive problems, such as diarrhoea and constipation. It is also helpful in abdominal pain, gastrointestinal infections, flatulence, bloating, constipation and diarrhoea. It is also used in soothing Irritational Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Also read about the benefits of other commonly used spices like Mint, Ginger, Fenugreek, Fennel, Curry Leaves, Cumin Seeds, Coriander, Cloves, Cinnamon, Cardamom, Basil, Asafoetida, Aniseeds, on our digestion and metabolism.
Anti Viral: Bay leaves are effective to combat flu symptoms and infection. It helps in solving respiratory problems.
Anxiety and Stress: One of the least commonly known benefits of bay leaves is their naturally soothing quality. Even some bay leaves tea are also available to reduce stress and make your mood refresh. Consumption of bay leaves at bedtime helps to induce proper sleep.
Immunity: The natural substances in bay leaves are beneficial for keeping our healthy and increase our body immunity.
Preventing Cancer: The unique combination of antioxidants and organic compounds present in bay leaves, including phytonutrients, catechins, linalool, and parthenolide, helps to protect the body from various kind of cancers.
Hair Growth: The chemicals and volatile ingredients in bay leaves can help to eliminate dry skin and dandruff. Bay leaves are also useful in hair regrowth and hair loss prevention. Bay leaves are steamed in water and then rubbed on the scalp after shampooing.
Dental Care: Bay leaves help in oral health and when applied to teeth keep them white.
Insect Bite: Bay leaves are a great insect repellent as they contain lauric acid. Applying extracted bay leaves oil will reduce insects bites and stings.