Bay Leaf: Potential Health Benefits, Nutrition, And Side Effects

Reviewed By Alexandra Dusenberry, MS, RDN, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Certified Personal Trainer
Written by Sindhu Koganti

Bay leaf (scientifically known as Laurus nobilis), is an herb commonly known for its fragrance and flavor. These aromatic leaves are rich in nutrients. They are primarily used for culinary purposes and are removed from cooked food before eating.

The leaves are native to the Mediterranean region and are found to possess anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and antibacterial properties. Some research states that the leaves may also help manage diabetes, fight inflammation and fungal infections, and reduce cancer risk.

In this article, we have discussed the potential health benefits, nutritional profile, and side effects of bay leaf. Scroll down to get started.

What Is Bay Leaf?

Bay leaf is the aromatic leaf that comes from several plants, including the bay laurel, Indian bay leaf plant, Indonesian laurel, and the West Indian bay tree.

The leaf has a sharp and bitter taste. It is primarily used for its fragrance than its taste. However, in addition to the fragrance, the leaf also has some important benefits.

What Are The Benefits Of Bay Leaf?

1. May Aid Diabetes Treatment

Studies show that bay leaves can help people with type 2 diabetes. In addition to rendering flavor to foods, bay leaves were also found to play a role in glucose metabolism (1).

Bay leaves also reduced bad cholesterol levels and increased levels of HDL (the good cholesterol) in patients with type 2 diabetes (2).

Bay leaves may reduce food cravings, thereby reducing body weight. However, more research is required to understand the mechanism of bay leaves on weight loss.

2. May Fight Inflammation

In an Australian study, bay leaf, among a few other leaves, was found to inhibit the activity of the COX-21 enzyme. COX-21 is known to trigger inflammation (3).

Bay leaf contains sesquiterpene lactones, which are known to fight inflammation by inhibiting the production of nitric oxide (4). Studies show that nitric oxide, in higher concentrations, can lead to inflammation. Nitric oxide inhibitors serve as potential treatment options for inflammatory diseases (5).

Cineole, a major compound in bay leaf, was also found to fight inflammation. It achieves this by inhibiting the activation of inflammasome, another compound responsible for the activation of inflammatory responses (6).

3. May Help Reduce Cancer Risk

A study conducted on human cancer cell lines concluded that bay leaf extract showed promising results as an anticancer agent (7). Cineole, the main compound in bay leaves, was found to suppress the growth of leukemia cancer cell lines (8).

Bay leaf was also found to be effective in breast cancer therapy. A study found that the leaf extract induced cell death in breast cancer cell lines (9).

In an Australian study, incorporating ingredients (including bay leaf) into foods showed positive results in the prevention of colon cancer (10).

4. May Help Fight Fungal Infections

Studies highlight the antifungal properties of bay leaf, especially against Candida infection. The leaf can prevent the adhesion of Candida to the cell walls, thereby keeping it from penetrating the membrane (11). More studies are needed to better understand how bay leaf can work to fight fungal infections.

5. May Aid Wound Healing

In rat studies, bay leaf was found to contribute to better wound healing than the control. Though it didn’t fare better than Allamanda (a perennial shrub used in traditional medicine) in terms of healing wounds, it did show beneficial effects (12).

6. May Treat Respiratory Issues

Bay leaf extract may be used to treat respiratory problems. A study showed antibacterial activity of the leaf extracts against some organisms, like Staphylococcus aureus. This leaf extract is strong against the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (13).

7. May Improve Skin Health

As per one study, bay leaves can act against skin rashes (14). These leaves can also help prevent wrinkles and relieve skin from stress. However, more research is required to understand the benefits bay leaves can have on human skin.

8. May Aid Dandruff Treatment

Anecdotal evidence suggests that bay leaf may treat dandruff and reduce hair loss. Bay leaf oil and a rinse made from these leaves were found to be effective in treating hair loss and dandruff.

These leaves are also used to treat head lice effectively. However, more scientific research is required to understand the use of bay leaf in this regard.

In the following section, we will look at the rich and varied nutritional profile of bay leaf.

What Is The Nutritional Profile Of Bay Leaf?

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, one tablespoon of crumbled bay leaf (1.8 g) contains:

  • 63 calories of energy
  • 35 g of carbohydrate
  • 137 g of protein
  • 4733 g of dietary fiber, vitamins, and minerals (15).

Before you start to include bay leaf in your diet, it is important to be aware of its side effects as well.

What Are The Side Effects Of Bay Leaf?

Bay leaf is possibly safe when consumed in recommended amounts in the short term. Excess consumption of these leaves may cause some adverse effects in some people. These may include issues during pregnancy, lactation, and surgery, and interactions with blood sugar control medications. Also, bay leaf may cause allergies in some people.

  • Possible Issues During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding

There is limited information available on the safety of bay leaf intake during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Please consult your doctor before including it in your diet.

  • May Interact With Blood Sugar Control

Bay leaf can play a beneficial role in glucose metabolism (1). This beneficial property may also make it interact with blood sugar medications. Hence, if you are on medications for high blood sugar, consult your doctor before taking bay leaf. Since there is lack of concrete research in this area, it is better to take precautions.

  • Possible Issues During Surgery

Anecdotal evidence suggests that bay leaf may cause issues during surgery. It may slow down the central nervous system. Hence, stop using bay leaf at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.


Bay leaf has several benefits. This spice has been used in cooking as a flavoring agent for centuries. Bay leaf makes your food not only flavorful but also healthy. Add it to your food whenever possible to reap its benefits.

The leaves are generally healthy, and information on their potential side effects is lacking. If you experience any adverse effects, stop intake and consult your doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is swallowing a bay leaf dangerous?

Swallowing a bay leaf is not dangerous as it doesn’t contain toxins. But the leaves are stiff even after cooking. They have sharp edges. Swallowing them may scrape the digestive tract and cause choking.

Are bay leaves toxic to pets?

The only known way the leaves may cause harm to pets is choking. Keep your pets away from the leaves.

What does burning a bay leaf do?

Burning a bay leaf is believed to relieve anxiety. The resulting smoke contains important ingredients, like linalool, which help reduce anxiety. However, there is no scientific evidence backing the claim.

What other forms is bay leaf available in?

You can also avail the benefits of bay leaf in the form of tea, oil, capsules, and powder.

What is bay leaf called in different languages?

Bay leaf is called hoja de laurel in Spanish, feuille de laurier in French, and tej patta in Hindi.

Does bay leaf tea lower blood pressure?

Limited research is available in this regard. Some anecdotal evidence suggests that bay leaf tea may lower blood pressure levels.

Is bay leaf a diuretic?

Yes. Bay leaf is a diuretic (16). It promotes sweating and may help flush out toxins from the body.

Does bay leaf keep bugs away?

Bay leaves could repel fleas and kill flea larvae in a study (17). The pungent odor of bay leaves may keep fleas away.

Does bay leaf help you sleep?

Bay leaves may help in sleep. The leaves possess soothing properties that may aid sleep. They may have sedative effects on the central nervous system. However, research is insufficient.

How can those with diabetes use bay leaves?

Individuals with diabetes may use bay leaves in powdered form. They can also add a whole leaf in soups and curries.


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Alexandra Dusenberry

Alexandra Dusenberry is registered dietitian nutritionist and certified personal trainer based in San Diego, California. She works with clients around the world to help them reach their health and fitness goals. She believes that food is medicine and proper nutrition is healing and essential for wellbeing and quality of life. Alexandra enjoys hitting the gym, spending time at local cafes,... more