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Top 5 Bay Leaf Benefits You Should Know Today + Side Effects

Reviewed By Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and certified Personal Trainer Alexandra Dusenberry, MS, RDN
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Top 5 Bay Leaf Benefits You Should Know Today + Side Effects May 15, 2019

The bay leaf comes from the sweet bay tree. It is used for culinary purposes for its distinct fragrance and flavor – and is removed from the cooked food before eating. But, why should you add the leaf to your dishes if you are only going to remove it? In this article, we will answer that question and discuss a lot more about bay leaf. Keep reading!

Table Of Contents

What Is Bay Leaf?

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

The leaves have a sharp and bitter taste, though we don’t recommend eating them. The leaf is primarily used for its fragrance more than its taste.

In addition to the fragrance, the leaf also has some important benefits.

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What Are The Benefits Of Bay Leaf?

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

2. Can Fight Inflammation

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

Bay leaf contains sesquiterpene lactones2, 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 – and that 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 (6). It achieves this by inhibiting the activation of inflammasome, another compound responsible for the activation of inflammatory responses.

3. Can Help Combat Cancer

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. The study found that the leaf extract induced cell death in breast cancer cell lines (9).

In an Australian study, incorporating ingredients into foods (of which bay leaf is one) had shown positive results in the prevention of colon cancer (10).

4. Helps Fight Fungal Infections

Studies show the antifungal properties of bay leaf, especially against the Candida infection. The leaf had prevented the adhesion of Candida to the cell walls, thereby keeping it from penetrating the membrane (11).

5. May Aid Wound Healing

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

The reasons behind these benefits lie in its nutrients. In the following section, we will look at the rich and varied nutritional profile of bay leaf.

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What Is The Nutritional Profile Of Bay Leaf?

Calorie Information
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Calories5.5(23.0 kJ)0%
From Carbohydrate3.9(16.3 kJ)
From Fat1.2(5.0 kJ)
From Protein0.3(1.3 kJ)
From Alcohol0.0(0.0 kJ)
Vitamins
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Vitamin A108 IU2%
Vitamin C0.8mg1%
Vitamin D~~
Vitamin E (Alpha Tocopherol)~~
Vitamin K~~
Thiamin0.0mg0%
Riboflavin0.0mg0%
Niacin0.0mg0%
Vitamin B60.0mg2%
Folate3.2mcg1%
Vitamin B120.0 mcg0%
Pantothenic Acid~~
Choline~
Betaine~
Minerals
Amounts Per Selected Serving%DV
Calcium14.6 mg1%
Iron0.8 mg4%
Magnesium2.1 mg1%
Phosphorus2.0 mg0%
Potassium9.3 mg0%
Sodium0.4mg0%
Zinc0.1mg0%
Copper0.0mg0%
Manganese0.1mg7%
Selenium0.0 mcg0%
Fluoride

One tablespoon (2 grams) of crumbled bay leaf has about 5.5 calories. It also contains:

  • 0.1 milligrams of manganese (7 percent of the daily value)
  • 0.8 milligrams of iron (4 percent of the daily value)
  • 108 IU of vitamin A (2 percent of the daily value)
  • 1.3 grams of carbohydrates
  • 0.1 grams of protein
  • 0.5 grams of fiber

No matter how good bay leaf is, there are a few things to be kept in mind.

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What Are The Side Effects Of Bay Leaf?

  • Possible Issues During Pregnancy And Breastfeeding

There is no reliable information on the safety of consuming bay leaf during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Hence, stay safe and avoid use.

  • Interaction With Blood Sugar Control

Though bay leaf can help lower blood sugar levels, it may also have some adverse effects. Please consult your doctor if you are already on medications for high blood sugar.

  • Possible Issues During Surgery

Bay leaf might slow down the central nervous system. This can cause problems during surgery (due to the use of anesthesia). Please stop using bay leaf at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.

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Conclusion

Bay leaf makes your food not only flavorful but also healthful. Add it to your food whenever possible and reap its benefits.

Do you know any other benefits of bay leaf that we missed out? Do let us know by leaving a comment in the box below.

Expert’s Answers For Readers’ Questions

Is swallowing a bay leaf dangerous?

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

Are bay leaves toxic to pets?

Bay leaves can be toxic for cats and dogs. Though there is less information, anecdotal evidence suggests that the leaves can be harmful to animals in general.

What does burning a bay leaf do?

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

What other forms is bay leaf available in?

Apart from the leaf, 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.

Glossary
  1. Also called cyclooxygenase-2, it is an enzyme that speeds up the production of prostaglandins, which promote inflammation
  2. A class of chemical compounds with cardioprotective and anticancer properties

References

  1. Insulin potentiating factor and chromium…”. Biological Trace Element Research, US National Library of Medicine.
  2. Bay leaves improve glucose and lipid profile…”. Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition, US National Library of Medicine.
  3. Anti-inflammatory potential of native Australian...”. Toxicology Reports, US National Library of Medicine.
  4. Inhibition of nuclear factor...”. Journal of Medicinal Food, US National Library of Medicine.
  5. Role of nitric oxide in inflammatory diseases”. Inflammopharmacology, US National Library of Medicine.
  6. Laurus nobilis leaf extract controls inflammation…”. Journal of Cell Physiology, US National Library of Medicine.
  7. Anticancer activity of certain herbs...”. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, US National Library of Medicine.
  8. Specific induction of apoptosis by…”. Oncology Reports, US National Library of Medicine.
  9. Evaluation of the volatile oil composition…”. EBSCO Host.
  10. Molecular size fractions of bay leaf…”. Nutrition and Cancer, US National Library of Medicine.
  11. Antifungal activity, mode of action, and...”. Archives of Oral Biology, US National Library of Medicine.
  12. Evaluation of wound healing activity…”. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

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