Bay leaf, most commonly known as “Tejpatta” in Hindi, ‘Masala Aku‘ in Telugu, ‘Birinji Ilai‘ in Tamil, ‘Karuvaela‘ in Malayalam, ‘Paththa‘ in Kannada, ‘Tej Patha‘ in Bengali, ‘Tamal Patr‘ in Gujarati, ‘Tamal Patra‘ in Marathi, ‘Tezpatta‘ in Punjabi. Bay leaf is an aromatic leaf from the evergreen bay laurel tree, native to the Mediterranean. It is most widely used in cooking and preparing perfumes. The Indian bay leaf is basically a three veined leaf which is elliptical, pointed, smooth and tough.
These leaves are pungent and have a sharp, bitter flavor. Their taste and fragrance are somewhat similar to the cinnamon bark but slightly milder. They are used in fresh, dried or powdered form. The oil extracted from bay leaves, called bay leaf oil has medicinal properties and is used to treat several ailments.
Due to their bitter taste, bay leaves cannot be eaten directly but are often used to impart flavor to a variety of dishes, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Bay leaf is extensively used in Indian, Nepalese and Bhutanese cuisines. It is an important spice in Moghulai dishes, particularly biryani and korma. Roasted and ground bay leaves are added to the Indian mixture of spices called “Garam Masala”. Myrcene, which is a component of essential oils extracted from bay leaves, is used in perfumery. They also have the property of repelling flies, moths, mice etc. Apart from their culinary uses, they have medicinal properties and are known for their anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, diuretic and astringent qualities.
Types of Bay Leaves:
These aromatic leaves belong to a variety of plants from different genera. Some of the common varieties of bay leaves are as follows.
- Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis lauraceae): Also known as Mediterranean bay leaves, these leaves are used in both their fresh and dried forms to flavor soups, stews, braises etc in Mediterranean cuisine. The fresh leaves have a milder flavor and they take several weeks after drying and picking to develop their full flavor.
- California Bay Leaf (Umbellularia californica): Also known as California laurel, pepperwood and Oregon myrtle, this variety is similar to the Mediterranean bay laurel but has a stronger flavor.
- Indian Bay Leaf (Cinnamomum tamala, Lauraceae): Indian Bay leaf or malabathrum is somewhat similar in appearance to bay laurel but has a taste and fragrance similar to cinnamon bark which is slightly milder.
- Indonesian Bay Leaf or Indonesian laurel (salam leaf, Syzgium polyanthum, Myrtaceae): Native to Indonesia, this herb is mostly used for meats and less often for vegetables.
- West Indian Bay Leaf (Pimenta racemosa, Myrtaceae): This variety is mostly used to produce cologne called bay rum.
Bay Leaf Health Benefits:
Bay leaves contain notable plant-derived compounds, vitamins and minerals which offer a range of benefits. This herb was widely used by the Greeks and Romans who believed that it symbolizes wisdom, peace and protection. The various bay leaf health benefits are given below.
1. Treatment of Diabetes:
Bay leaves have been found to be effective in treating type 2 diabetes as they cause reduction in blood glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. To get maximum results, these leaves can be powdered and consumed for 30 days. This will cause a drop in sugar levels in the body as well as regulate the functioning of your heart. This is because the antioxidants in bay leaf enable the body to process insulin more efficiently, thus making it a good choice for diabetics and people with insulin resistance.
2. Good for Digestion:
Bay leaves are good for promoting digestion and can treat digestive disorders such as heartburn and flatulence. Drinking a concoction of bay leaf tea with hot water can alleviate common digestive disorders like constipation, acid reflux and irregular bowel movements. It contains enzymes that enable the breakdown of proteins, thus making it an excellent spice for non-vegetarian diets. In case of indigestion and bloating, you can take 5 grams of bay leaves, add a piece of ginger and boil this in 200 mil of water till ¼ water remains. Add some honey and consume this twice a day for relief. It also acts as an appetite stimulant if you are recovering from illness.
3. Cardiovascular Benefits:
The powerful phytonutrients in bay leaf provide protection against cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes. They contain valuable compounds such as rutin, salicylates, caffeic acid and phytonutrients which boost heart health and improve heart function. In case of heart disease and anxiety, boil 3 grams of bay leaves and 3-4 grams of wild rose flowers in 300 ml water till only 75 ml remains. Strain and drink this concoction for relief.
4. Treatment of Cold and Infection:
Bay leaves are effective in fighting the symptoms of cold, flu and infections. In case of respiratory problems, boil water and add 2 to 3 bay leaves. Allow it to steam for 10 minutes. Soak a cloth in this water and place it on your chest to alleviate flu, cold and cough. Bay leaf tea is effective in reducing fever. In case of repeated sneezing, boil some bay leaves in 200 ml water till ¼ remains. Strain and drink this concoction.
5. Relieves Pain:
The oil extracted from bay leaf has anti-inflammatory properties which can ease the pain resulting from sprains, strains, arthritis, rheumatism as well as general pains and aches. Massaging your temples with bay leaf oil helps to relieve migraines and headaches. It also boosts circulation and promotes a feeling of well-being. In case of joint pain, you can make a poultice of ground bay leaves and castor leaves, and tie it around the inflamed joints to reduce pain and swelling. In case of headache, you can boil a few bay leaves in water for a few minutes. Strain and drink this concoction while it is still hot. You can apply a paste of bay leaves on your forehead to get relief from severe headache.
6. Anti-cancer Properties:
Bay leaf contains caffeic acid, quercetin, euganol and catechins all of which possess chemo-protective properties which provide resistance against different types of cancer. They also contain a phytonutrient called parthenolide which has shown to specifically restrain the proliferation of cervical cancer cells.
7. Beneficial during Periconception Period:
Being rich in folic acid, bay leaves are extremely beneficial during the periconception period (3 months before and after pregnancy).By providing sufficient folic acid content to the child; they prevent birth defects in the child. These leaves also have the property of inducing pregnancy.
8. Treatment of Menstrual Problems:
Bay leaves, when taken orally, can induce regular and normal menstruation. They also have the property of curing vaginal discharge.
9. Induces Sleep:
Consuming bay leaves at bedtime helps to induce proper sleep. For this purpose, mix a few drops of the bay leaf extract with water and consume it.
10. Treatment of Nosebleed:
In case of nosebleed, crush 2 to 3 fresh or dry bay leaves. Boil them in 200 ml water till 100 ml remains. Strain and drink this concoction for relief.
11. Clean Teeth:
To get sparkling white teeth, brush them with powdered bay leaves once in 3 days.
12. Insect Repellent:
Bay leaves are a great insect repellent as they contain lauric acid. A dish of bay leaves will ward off insects. A paste made from crushed leaves and little oil relieves stings and bites when applied topically.
13. Treatment of Kidney Problems:
Bay leaves help in treating kidney infections and even kidney stones. For this purpose, boil 5 grams bay leaves in 200 ml water till 50 ml water remains. Strain and drink this twice daily. This will stop the formation of kidney stones.
Bay Leaf Skin Benefits:
Being rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, bay leaf offers various benefits to your skin and has been used in herbal medicine for this purpose. Some of its skin benefits are as follows.
14. Relieves Stressed Skin:
Bay leaf helps to de-stress your skin, thus preventing the occurrence of wrinkles and skin outbreaks. For this purpose, boil 5 dried bay leaves with 2 cups of water, keeping the container covered. Then remove the lid and let it boil for about 2 minutes. Now pour the brew into a large bowl and covering your head with a towel, inhale this steam.
15. Healing Qualities:
Bay leaf has excellent healing properties. It was often used by herbal practitioners for treating snakebite, insect stings and relieving cuts and bruises. Bay leaf oil has antifungal and anti-bacterial properties which can cure skin infections. It is applied topically to heal cuts, bruises and insect bites.
[Read:Top 25 Calcium Rich Foods]
Bay Leaf Hair Benefits:
The nutritional value of bay leaves makes them beneficial for hair health. It has the following benefits for your hair.
16. Treatment of Dandruff and Hair Loss:
A rinse made from infused bay leaves is effective in treating dandruff. Bay leaf tea is considered a great remedy for hair loss. Bay leaf oil is a tonic for hair that effectively combats dandruff and hair loss.
17. Treatment of Head Lice:
For getting rid of head lice, boil about 50 grams of crushed bay leaves in 400 ml water until 100 ml water remains. Strain out the water and apply this on the hair roots. Leave it for 3 to 4 hours and wash off. This will remove the head lice effectively. Adding bhringraj to the bay leaves before boiling will make your hair black, lustrous and healthy.
[Read:Benefit of Neem leaves]
Nutritional Value of Bay Leaf:
The various benefits of bay leaf can be attributed to its rich nutritional value. These leaves are exceptionally rich in vitamins as well as copper, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, selenium and manganese. They also contain essential phytochemicals and volatile oils.
Their nutritional profile is explained below:
|See the table below for in depth analysis of nutrients:Bay leaf (Laurus nobilis),Nutritional value per 100 g.(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)|
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||8.36 g||29%|
|Dietary Fiber||26.3 g||69%|
|Vitamin A||6185 IU||206%|
|Vitamin C||46.5 mg||77.5%|
- Vitamin C: Bay leaves are a rich source of Vitamin C. 100 grams of fresh bay leaves provides about 46.5 mg of this vitamin which is equivalent to 77.5% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA). Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is a powerful antioxidant that plays an important role in removing free radicals from the body and boosts the immune system.
- Vitamin A: Bay leaves are an excellent source of Vitamin A with a 100 gram serving providing about 6185 IU (International Units) or 206% of the RDA of this vitamin. Besides being a natural antioxidant, it is vital for healthy visual sight and for the maintenance of mucus membranes and skin health.
- Folic Acid: Bay leaves also contain folic acid with a 100 gram serving providing about 180 mg or 45% of the RDA. Folates are required in DNA synthesis and during the peri-conception period to prevent neural tube defects in the baby.
- Other Vitamins: This spice is a good source of the B-complex group of vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid and riboflavin. These vitamins help in enzyme synthesis, nervous system function and regulate body metabolism.
- Volatile Oils: This spice contains volatile active components such as α-pinene, β-pinene, myrcene, limonene, linalool, methyl chavicol, neral, α-terpineol, gernyl acetate p-cymene, euganol and chavicol. These compounds possess antiseptic, antioxidant and even anti-cancer properties. The essential oils from bay leaves contain about 50% cineol.
- Minerals: Bay leaf is a rich source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, iron and selenium. Potassium, an important component of cell and body fluids, controls blood pressure and heart rate while manganese and copper are used by the body as co-factors of the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is vital for red blood cell formation and is a co-factor for cytochrome oxidase enzymes.
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