Disclaimer: If you do this once, you’re so going to want to do this again.
Confession time: I am 100% convinced that the reason I ever stuck through that summer of yoga classes, wasn’t because of my best friend’s emotional blackmailing to accompany her or my mother’s unsubtle hints about stress management, or even my somewhat hippie instructor’s over-enthusiasm for his ‘art’ which was frequently accompanied by his fascinating and (unintentionally) hilarious pseudo-philosophical commentary.
I am mortifyingly convinced I attended every single session of those How To Turn Into A Human Noodle 101 classes because of one and only one, simple reason—the smell.
Now, before you cringe and mutter I’m insane, let’s clear a few things. I’m talking about the smell before our group power yoga-ed through the room, and our sweat permeated the air (author’s note: duh). And yes, the insanity thing, well, the jury’s still out on that, but that beautiful, mysterious scent which is so very distinctive has fascinated me for long.
Hence, being the curious little scientist I am, I pestered my instructor to death till he finally, and grudgingly might I add, agreed to part with the secret. Since I’m also such a good Samaritan, I’m going to share this oh-so-sacred secret with you: he burned bay leaves.
According to him, the burning of bay leaves is part of a North American tradition referred to as ‘smudging’. I know, sounds rather bizarre. But, apparently, folks from the yesteryears burned sacred herbs in order to purify their immediate surroundings.
This ritual is strikingly similar to the act of incense burning that we who hail from India are so very familiar with. But I digress. He then proceeded to inform me that not only was this remarkably tranquilizing for the mind and spirit; it was also beneficial for our health. Of course, what followed next was an intense research, where I obsessively read what Science had to say about bay leaves (little scientist here, remember?). Read on to discover the surprise I found:
Why Should We Burn Bay Leaves?
Bay leaves aren’t just a new age fad; they have been a source of fascination for millennia. History recounts its esteemed status in ancient Rome and its legendary status in Greek folklore. Through centuries it’s also been a staple ingredient in Caribbean and Indian cuisine. This is one herb that can truly attest to withstanding the test of time.
But bay leaves, or what we Indians refer to as tejpatta, isn’t only utilized for fancy dishes and fictional fairy tales, it’s also one of the main aromatic ingredients in most lotions, creams, soaps, detergents, and perfumes. Besides that, it also has a list of known scientific benefits:
1. Wards Off Cancer
A recent study discovered that extract from bay leaves could be a possible natural solution for killing cancerous cells (1). It eliminates malignant cells by contributing in ‘apoptosis’ (read: programmed cell death).
2. Remedy For Diabetes
A 2009 study found that diabetes patients who took 1-3g bay leaf capsules per day were able to successfully decrease and manage their cholesterol and glucose levels (2). It’s hypothesized that this may be due to the fact that bay leaves contain powerful antioxidants called, ‘polyphenols’.
3. Treats Wounds
Studies have discovered that bay leaf extract possesses healing properties, which can help reduce inflammation in sustained wounds (3). Though these experiments have been conducted on rats, researchers are optimistic they can replicate these results in human volunteers.
4. Helps With Kidney Stones
A study conducted in 2014, endeavored to assess whether bay leaf extracts helped prevent possible kidney stones (4). The study discovered that along with certain other traditional Iranian medicinal plants, bay leaves could successfully decrease the urease levels in our body. Being an enzyme, when urease levels are imbalanced, it can lead to a variety of gastric disorders, one of which happens to be kidney stones.
5. Possible Solution For Brain Disorders
In ancient medical texts, bay leaves have been recorded as a remedy for seizures. Recently, a group of researchers decided to test the claims of this legend. Their study found that extracts from bay leaves were indeed effective in protecting mice from seizures.
After hearing the many wonders that bay leaves have to offer, admit it, you want to try some ‘smudging’ yourself. If you’re suffering from a bad mood or just way too much stress, then go ahead and grab some tejpatta from your kitchen. Burn 1-2 leaves in a baking tray and let it diffuse through your room.
Caution: while burning the leaves, steer clear from other flammable materials such as wood, linens or paper. And, for God’s sake, don’t burn it right under a smoke detector. That will only serve to make your bad mood worse.
But other than that, I promise you this aromatherapy will relax your muscles and clear your mind. Besides its oh-so-many scientifically proven health benefits, bay leaves just happen to smell fantastic. Try it—you will thank me later!