Bay leaves, also known as bay laurel, are an ingredient that features prominently in various types of South Asian cuisines. Used in dishes like curries, soups, rice, etc. not only do they impart a lot of flavor into food, but they are also very beneficial to your health.
The latter part of that statement is not something that many people are aware of. In fact, bay leaves can provide health benefits to various areas of your body – from maintaining a healthy hair and scalp to curing indigestion and even reducing blood sugar levels (which is essential in preventing Type 2 diabetes). Certain studies have indicated that bay leaves are even strong enough to destroy cancer cells!
This is why bay leaves have been used for centuries in traditional medicine. And did you know that Ancient Greeks used to crown their war heroes and Olympians with bay leaf wreaths?
Leaf headpieces aside, here’s why YOU should be adding more bay leaves into your daily meals.
1. Controls Diabetes
As we stated previously, bay leaves have been found effective in reducing blood sugar levels, which are key in preventing type 2 diabetes. A study followed people who consumed a particular dose of ground up bay leaves twice a day. It found that not only did it reduce their blood sugar, it even controlled their cholesterol levels! It found that a compound present in bay leaves was regulating the processing of insulin at a steady rate.
2. Promotes Heart Health
As the previously stated study found, cholesterol levels also dropped with an increased consumption of bay leaves. This is due to rutin and caffeic acid that is present in them. These are essential in toughening up the walls of your heart, as well as decreasing cholesterol levels. High cholesterol could cause a buildup of plaque, which can lead to strokes or heart attacks.
3. Aids Digestion
Ayurvedic medicine has used bay leaves to cure digestive issues long before modern medicine. Bay leaves have diuretic properties, which are known to increase urination. This will help flush out excess toxins from your body and stimulate digestive juices.
The enzymes present in a bay leaf have also been found to help break food down better in your stomach, which could be beneficial for people with digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome. One study even found bay leaves to be helpful in reducing symptoms of celiac disease!
4. Pain Relief
Bay leaves also have many anti-inflammatory properties that are beneficial to people suffering from bone and joint pain – from a simple sprain to even arthritis.
To make a home remedy for joint pain yourself, you could grind up some bay leaves and castor leaves, apply the paste on the affected area, and leave for 20 minutes. Bay leaf oil has also been used as a medicine for a headache (apply some on your forehead), since ancient times.
5. Abundant Anti-Cancer Properties
Some research has been indicating that bay leaves could be used to fight cancer. This is thanks to phytonutrients and catechins, both compounds that are present in abundance in bay leaves and both known to be great adversaries of cancer cells. Another study found that bay leaf extract was an effective remedy for getting rid of breast cancer cells.
6. Express Pass to Heal Wounds
Bay leaves are also known to have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, which have been used to hasten the healing of wounds and scars since the olden days. They are also effective in fighting fungal infections like candida.
7. Soothes Respiratory Issues
Bay leaves are also a great remedy for respiratory issues, unclogging air passages, and ridding them of bacteria. The next time you’re struggling with a cold or cough, boil 4-5 bay leaves in water, and apply a washcloth soaked in it to your chest (once the water has cooled down enough, of course). This will help get rid of some of the built up phlegm and give you some relief.
8. Treats Kidney Stones
A buildup of urease in your body is often the cause of a variety of gastric issues, including the development of kidney stones. The good news is that a study has found bay leaves to be effective in reducing the level of urease in your body.
9. Mental Health Aid
Along with its many physical benefits, bay leaves are also good for your mental health. A cup of bay leaf tea at the end of a stressful day will help you wind down, calm your nerves and prevent anxiety. It could also be helpful to those that have trouble falling asleep.
10. Improves Hair Growth, Relieves Dandruff & Itchy Scalp
Bay leaves also contain a lot of beneficial properties for your hair, helping fix issues from itchy scalp and dandruff, to hair loss. Rinse your hair and scalp with a (cooled down) concoction of bay leaves boiled in water after your regular shampooing process and rinse off for relief from dandruff or hair loss. Or you can also grind up some bay leaves and combine them with coconut oil for itchy scalp. Apply this paste on your scalp and leave on for 30 minutes before rinsing off with lukewarm water.
As with all things, it’s important to know when you should stay away from bay leaves as well. While there haven’t been any known serious effects of bay leaves, pregnant women and nursing mothers are often advised to refrain from eating too much of it. It is also best to stay away from them if you have a surgery scheduled two weeks away, especially in the case of those related to the central nervous system.