The bay leaf is a herb that comes from the bay laurel tree or Laurus nobilis. This herb originated in the Mediterranean area, most likely Asia Minor or Turkey. This herb has been used since the ancient Greeks or earlier. This flavorful leaf has been used in cooking, medicine, cosmetics, and soaps for centuries. The bay leaf's flavor is somewhat bitter if the leaf is ingested rather than added for flavor and removed before serving. It is milder when freshly picked, and its character becomes stronger when dried. Its distinctive flavor goes well in roasts, soups, stews, and other savory dishes. It is also renown for many medicinal benefits.

Many Types of Bay Leaves

Although bay leaves are normally considered from the bay laurel plant, other plants are closely related to the bay laurel that is used like bay leaves. These plants include:

  • California bay tree or Oregon myrtle
  • Indonesian bay tree or Indonesian laurel
  • Indian bay tree or malabathrum
  • West Indian bay tree
  • Mexican bay tree

Only the bay laurel leaf or Laurus nobilis has the benefits described in this piece.



Medicinal Uses of Bay Leaves in History

People historically either ate or infused bay leaves in hot water and drank the tea. The bay leaf was used as a diuretic and also to induce vomiting. Tea from bay leaves was often used for stomach ailments as well. Bay leaves were used in poultices or as a wash to help heal wounds and infections. Bay leaf washes were also used as an astringent to clean wounds and to prevent them from getting infected.



Using Bay Leaves for Good Digestion

Many people use bay leaves to aid digestion. Some people with irritable bowel syndrome, upset stomachs, or even celiac disease claim to obtain relief from a tea of infused bay leaves. Enzymes within bay leaves can also help digestion of certain complex proteins. Bay leaf tea can reduce gas after a meal and leave you feeling more comfortable and less bloated.



Bay Leaves May Help Treat Cancer

Bay leaves contain antioxidants and organic compounds which help the body protect the body from certain types of cancers. These chemicals include caffeic acid, eugenol, quercetin, catechins, and parthenolide, which have been proven effective against different cancers. The compounds in bay leaves not only remove free radicals but help in healthy cell repair and removal of cancerous cells.



Bay Leaves May Help the Respiratory System

Bay leaves work well against colds and flu by reducing inflammation and fighting against bacteria as a natural antibiotic. When used as aromatherapy by steeping bay leaves in hot water, they can help open airways that may be constricted due to asthma, allergies, bronchitis, and colds. Because a person can breath easier, they may get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. To help congestion, infuse bay leaves in hot water and breath in the steam.



Bay Leaves May Help Protect the Heart

It's essential to protect the heart, which is why bay leaves may help you have a healthy heart and keep it healthier longer. Bay leaves have a compound called rutin that helps strengthen the heart and capillary walls. Furthermore, bay leaves help reduce the LDL cholesterol, known as the bad cholesterol, through the compound known as caffeic acid. Bay leaves also reduce triglycerides which can cause fatty deposits in the arteries. At the same time, bay leaves seem to increase the presence of good cholesterol or HDL cholesterol.



Bay Leaves May Treat Diabetes

Research has shown that bay leaves may be able to lower the blood sugar levels before meals. It also lowers the LDL or bad cholesterol and triglycerides and increases the HDL or good cholesterol in people when taken twice daily in the form of a powder. Although it may not cure diabetes, those in the study had better insulin function than those who did not consume bay leaves.

A good food choice for diabetics

Bay Leaves May Improve Your Skin and Hair

If you're suffering from dandruff or dry skin, you might consider adding a bay leaf to your grooming regimen. Rather than eat them, add them to hot water in a bowl and let the steam work on your pores. Then, rub the leaves on your skin and scalp when they are softened. When the water is cool enough, you can use it as a skin and scalp rinse.



Bay Leaves Can Reduce Pain

The anti-inflammatory properties of bay leaves can help reduce pain, including headaches, strains, sprains, arthritis, and overexertion. Use bay leaves in aromatherapy; heat the leaves in water, crush them, and rub them on the affected area; or use in a cream or poultice. You want to release the bay leaf's oils on the area where the pain is because the oils contain the anti-inflammatory properties.



Anti-Anxiety Properties

Bay leaves can help soothe the anxious and those suffering from anxiety. Bay leaves contain linalool, which reduces the stress hormone. Too much stress hormones in your body can severely affect your health, which is why when you are under stress, you need to find a way to reduce them. When you use the bay leaf in aromatherapy or drink bay leaf tea, it will reduce the stress hormones. It will help calm you and even help you get a decent night's sleep even when you're under a lot of stress.



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