Health Benefits Of Bay Leaves
The humble bay leaf comes with several health benefits. Keep a stock of it in your kitchen cabinet to get rid of various ailments, such as the common cold, digestive disorders and nosebleeds. Read on.
By Monali Bordoloi
Every time the cold weather sets in, Niharika Parihar, 37, falls sick. On her mother-in-law’s advice about the health benefits of bay leaves, she started using them in her food. She started drinking bay leaf tea and including bay leaf in her curries. Soon, she began noticing a significant change in her immunity against the common cold. Her problems with indigestion also became less frequent.
What is bay leaf?
Bay leaf is a spice used in cooking. It's particularly common in Indian and Pakistani cuisines. It adds a wonderful aroma and flavour to the food. Apart from its culinary uses, bay leaf has medicinal properties and is known for its antibacterial, anti-fungal, anti-inflammatory, diuretic and astringent qualities. Thus, it is an immunity-boosting leaf.
10 health benefits of bay leaf
1. Helps in digestion
Bay leaves are good for treating digestive disorders like heartburn and flatulence. Drinking hot bay leaf tea is said to dispel common digestive disorders like constipation, acid reflux and irregular bowel movements. Enzymes in bay leaf enable the breakdown of proteins. For indigestion and bloating, drinking bay leaf tea with ginger and honey twice a day proves to be beneficial. If you are recovering from an illness and looking for ways to stimulate your appetite, bay leaf can act as an appetite stimulant. Bay leaf is a natural diuretic as it stimulates urination and aids in flushing out harmful toxins from the body.
2. Reduces congestion
As Niharika Parihar found out, bay leaf tea is effective in fighting the irritating symptoms of common cold by clearing congestion in the respiratory tract.
3. Eases joint pain and body aches
The anti-inflammatory properties of bay leaf oil can ease the pain resulting from sprains, strains and rheumatism. Rubbing bay leaf oil reduces the pain in inflamed joints affected by arthritis. It also soothes body aches. Adding bay leaf decoction to bathwater can relieve sore muscles and rejuvenate the body. Bay leaf decoction is good for headache too. To get relief from severe headache, a paste of bay leaves on the forehead can be applied.
4. Balances blood sugar level
Bay leaf has been found to be effective in treating type 2 diabetes as it improves insulin sensitivity. It also causes reduction in blood glucose, cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The antioxidants in bay leaf enable the body to process insulin more efficiently, which benefits diabetics and people with insulin resistance.
5. Treats nosebleed
Both kids and adults may have an episode of nosebleed due to many reasons like dry air and common cold. Sometimes kids have nosebleed due to nose-picking too. Bay leaf can be helpful in treating nosebleed. To treat nosebleed, crush two to three fresh or dry bay leaves. Boil them till the water reduces to half. Strain and drink this concoction for relief.
6. Treats respiratory conditions
Bay leaf is useful in treating many respiratory diseases. Due to its natural antibacterial quality, it can loosen up phlegm and eliminate dangerous bacteria that get trapped in the respiratory tract.
7. Prevents the occurrence of wrinkles
As bay leaf helps in de-stressing the skin, it prevents the occurrence of wrinkles and skin outbreaks. Bay leaf decoction can be used as a compress to treat skin infection. Inhaling bay leaf decoction also helps in keeping the skin firm and supple.
Bay leaf oil when applied topically can heal insect stings and small cuts and bruises. It is used to treat snake bite too. Due to its antifungal and antibacterial properties, bay leaf oil can cure skin infections.
8. Induces sleep
Those suffering from sleep disorders can try bay leaf for relief. Consuming just a few drops of bay leaf extract with water at bedtime is said to induce proper sleep.
9. Cleans the scalp
Bay leaf decoction is very helpful in keeping the scalp free of dandruff if used as a post-shampoo hair rinse. The oil extracted from bay leaves is considered to be a great hair tonic.
10. Treats menstrual problems
From the olden days, bay leaves have been used to treat menstrual problems like irregular periods, cramps and vaginal discharges. If bay leaf is taken orally for some time, it regularises periods.
As bay leaf is rich in folic acid, it is beneficial to have it during the preconception period (three months before conception). These leaves can even prevent birth defects in the yet-to-be-born child.
Nutritional value of bay leaf
The many health benefits of the bay leaf can be attributed to its rich nutrients. These leaves are rich in vitamins and minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, magnesium, zinc, iron, selenium and manganese, apart from phytochemicals and essential oils.
Recommended dietary allowance (RDA) comprises estimated amounts of nutrients that a human body requires to maintain good health. Please note that the values are per 100 grams, as is the norm. However, anyone is unlikely to consume 100g of bay leaves in a day, so please keep that in mind).
Energy: 313 Kcal (15.5% of RDA)
Carbohydrates: 74.97g (57% of RDA)
Protein: 7.61g (13% of RDA)
Total fat: 8.36g (29% of RDA)
Cholesterol: 0g (0% of RDA)
Dietary fibre: 26.3g (69% of the RDA)
Folates: 180mcg (45% of the RDA)
Niacin: 2.005mg (12.5% of the RDA)
Pyridoxine: 1.740mg (133% of the RDA)
Riboflavin: 0.421mg (32% of the RDA)
Vitamin A: 6185IU (206% of the RDA)
Vitamin C: 46.5mg (77.5% of the RDA)
Sodium: 23mg (1.5% of the RDA)
Potassium 529mg (11% of the RDA)
Calcium: 834mg (83% of the RDA)
Copper: 0.416mg (46% of the RDA)
Iron: 43mg (537% of the RDA)
Magnesium: 120mg (30% of the RDA)
Manganese: 8.167mg (355% of the RDA)
Phosphorus: 113mg (16% of the RDA)
Selenium: 2.8mcg (5% of the RDA)
Zinc: 3.70mg (33% of the RDA)
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
How to cook with bay leaves
It is always better to use dried bay leaf as it is said that it retains the flavours most when dried. Also, dried bay leaves are easy to store. However, if you have green and fresh bay leaves handy, go ahead and drop a few leaves in your curries.
Bay leaf recipes
1. Add it in biryanis/pulao
If you are preparing any rice dish, along with dried whole spices, fry a few (around 3-4) bay leaves before adding rice and masala. It will bring in that extra zing to your variety rice items.
2. Mix it in curries
Preparing mixed veg, chicken curry or kadai paneer? Along with all the regular ingredients, add 3-4 bay leaves. It will act as that magic ingredient to your curries and bring in a mild flavour to your dishes.
If you are preparing non-vegetarian items like chicken and mutton curry, dry roast all the whole spices and 4-5 dried bay leaves together for 2-3 minutes or until it turns aromatic. Then grind the mixture to a fine powder. You can use this spice mix in your non-veg curries and even use it to marinate meat.
3. Make some bay leaf tea
Boil water and add 3-4 dried bay leaves along with half a spoon of tea leaves. Once it is boiled, strain the water and have it with a dash of honey or sugar. Or you can have bay leaf tea without adding tea leaves. Just add a few bay leaves to a pot of boiling water, squeeze a dash of lemon once it cools a bit, and then drink this refreshing concoction.
You can even add bay leaf to your regular milk tea and enjoy the aroma it brings to your tea.
Side effects of using bay leaf
There is not much scientific evidence regarding side effects of consuming bay leaf in larger quantities. However, it is better to avoid having the whole bay leaf as it may take longer to digest. Also, it is a common practice to remove the whole bay leaf from dal and curries before serving. Using 3-4 bay leaves in your curries and pulao is generally safe.
About the author:
Written by Monali Bordoloi on 26 February 2018; updated on 14 May 2020
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