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Benefits of
Bay Leaf
Aparna Kuna, Sowmya. M & Sreedhar. M
Bay Leaf (Cinnamomum tamala) is a famous culinary
ingredient used extensively to prepare delicious Biryani,
Mughlai vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes and
spice powders. These leaves are very aromatic and
used as a spicing agent in cooking. Also bay leaves
are used as medicine to treat various health ailments
in Ayurveda. The aromatic bark of bay leaf tree is
called cinnamon and is very commonly used as a spice
There are lots of health benefits for this herbal leaf,
as it works as best as an antioxidant, anti-diabetic,
diuretic and appetite stimulant. These leaves also
contain many important chemical compounds,
minerals, vitamins and essential oils like cineol
(50%) eugenol, chavicol, acetyl eugenol, methyl
eugenol, and ß-pinene, phellandrene, linalool, geraniol,
and terpineol. These essential oils are used in many
traditional medicine preparation for treatment of
arthritis, muscle pain, bronchitis and flu-symptoms.
Types of Bay Leaves
Some of the common varieties of bay leaves are as
Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis lauraceae): Also known
as Mediterranean bay leaves, these leaves are used
in both their fresh and dried forms to flavour soups,
stews, braises etc. in Mediterranean cuisine. The
fresh leaves have a milder flavour and they take
several weeks after drying and picking to develop
their full flavour.
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 flavour.
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.
Indian Bay Leaf (Cinnamomum tamala, Lauraceae):
Indian Bay leaf is somewhat similar in appearance
to bay laurel but has a taste and fragrance similar to
cinnamon bark which is slightly milder.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Uses: Traditionally, bay leaves are picked and dried
slowly under the shade away from direct sunlight to
retain their volatile essential oils. The fresh dark-green
leaves are used in tea preparation and culinary dishes
to enhance the flavour. However, the dried leaves also
give their best flavour after drying under the shade for
few days till their bitterness is gone, but still retaining
its aroma. The leaves are most often used whole in
many culinary preparations and removed before
serving. Sometimes bay leaves are crushed or ground
before cooking. Crushed bay leaves impart more
fragrance than whole leaves, but are more difficult to
remove, and thus they are often used in a muslin bag or
tea infuser.
Health Benefits of Bay leaf
Improves Digestion: Bay leaves have a very strong
effect on the gastrointestinal system, both stimulating
urination as a diuretic, which decreases the toxicity of
the body and stimulates vomiting (as an emetic) when
something toxic has been consumed. Furthermore,
the organic compounds found in bay leaves are very
effective for settling upset stomachs, soothing irritable
bowel syndrome (IBS) or even lessening the symptoms
of celiac disease. Some of the more complex proteins
in our modern diet can be difficult to digest, but the
unique enzymes found in bay leaves help facilitate
efficient digestion and nutrient intake.
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.
Anti-inflammatory Activity
One of the most important benefits of bay leaves is
their ability to reduce inflammation throughout the
body. These leaves contain a unique phytonutrient,
called parthenolide, which can quickly reduce
inflammation and irritation when topically applied
to affected areas, such as sore joints or areas affected
by arthritis. This effect can also be achieved through
normal consumption of bay leaf spice.
Protect Heart Health
Caffeic acid and rutin are both important organic
compounds, found in bay leaves, that enhance our
heart health. Rutin strengthens capillary walls in the
heart and the body’s extremities, while caffeic acid
can help eliminate LDL or bad cholesterol from the
cardiovascular system.
Prevent Cancer
The unique combination of antioxidants and organic
compounds in bay leaves, including phytonutrients,
catechins, linalool, and parthenolide, which has shown
to specifically restrain the proliferation of cervical
cancer cells and helps to protect the body from the
effects of free radicals. Free radicals can cause healthy
cells to mutate into cancerous cells and bay leaves are
particularly adept at preventing this activity.
Beneficial during Periconception Period
Being rich in folic acid, bay leaves are extremely
beneficial during the periconception period by
providing sufficient folic acid content.
Reduce Anxiety & Stress
Linalool is often associated with thyme and basil, but
it is also present in bay leaves and can help lower the
level of stress hormones in the body, especially when
used in aromatherapy.
Regular consumption of bay leaf in the form of spice
mix or tea can provide good amounts of vitamin C,
folic acid, vitamin A, natural antioxidants, dietary fiber
and B-vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine, pantothenic
acid and riboflavin. Regular consumption of 4 to 5
bay leaves will help in nervous system function, enzyme
synthesis and regulating body metabolism. However,
they remain unpleasantly stiff even after thorough
cooking, and if swallowed whole or in large pieces,
they may pose a risk of harming the digestive tract or
causing choking. Hence the leaves should be ground
well before consumption or they should be removed
from the food before serving. n
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