Bay leaves come from bay laurel, a medicinal plant of the Laurus nobilis species. It is commonly used when cooking to offer an aromatic flavor to meals, but it also contains medicinal properties that can help with the treatment of digestive issues, infections, stress or anxiety.
Bay leaves can be used in their fresh or dehydrated form. They contain substances like tannins, flavonoids, alkaloids, linalol, eugenol, methyl chavicol and anthocyanins, which have anti.inflammatory, diuretic, antioxidant, digestive and anti-rheumatic properties.
Bay leaves can be purchased at nearly all grocery stores and at some farmer’s markets and natural health stores. When taken for medicinal goals, usage should be directed by a doctor or medicinal plant specialist.
Uses of bay leaves
Bay leaves and bay leaf tea is rich in potassium, magnesium and vitamins B6, B9 and C. It contains diuretic, antifungal, anti-rheumatic, anti-inflammatory, digestive, stimulant, antioxidant and expectorant properties, making it beneficial for the treatment of many health conditions. It can be used in the following ways:
1. Antimicrobial action
The oils concentrated within bay leaves contain antimicrobial action that are particularly effective against bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus sp., Escherichia coli and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. These bacteria can cause skin, gastrointestinal and urinary tract infections. Bay leaves also contain antifungal action that are effective against some fungal species.
2. Management of type 2 diabetes
Bay leaves improve the function of insulin, which is the hormone responsible for bringing glucose into the cells. Bay leaves can help to regulate blood sugars, which is important for the prevention and management of diabetes.
3. Regulating cholesterol levels
Bay leaf extracts, like eucalyptol and polyphenols with antioxidant action, can help to regulate cholesterol levels in the blood. They reduce LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, while increase HDL levels. Bay leaves can help to prevent cardiovascular diseases, like atherosclerosis, myocardial infarct or stroke.
4. Relieving gastrointestinal problems
Bay leaves contain antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic properties that can help to treat digestive disorders (like ulcers) and relieve gas. Bay leaves also contain tanins, which have a powerful astringent action that is beneficial for treating diarrhea.
The active compounds in bay leaves help to increase gastric enzyme and mucus secretion, which helps to improve digestion and protect against stomach injuries.
5. Pain relief
Bay leaves have anti-inflammatory properties to help relieve rheumatic pain and joint inflammation, as well as arthritis, sprains and contusions.
6. Tumor prevention
The active substances and essential oils in bay leaves contain antioxidant and anticarcinogenic properties that help to prevent the growth of tumor cells.
7. Relieving respiratory symptoms
Bay leaves have an expectorant effect that can help to eliminate accumulated phlegm and mucus in the respiratory tract. This can help to relieve congestion and make breathing easier, especially in cases of a cold, flu and bronchitis.
Because bay leaves have antibacterial and antiseptic properties, it is also helpful for eliminating and protecting against bacteria and viruses that can cause respiratory infection.
8. Preventing kidney stones
Bay leaf extract, together with other medicinal herbs, can help to prevent kidney stones. It is able to decrease the amount of urease, which is an enzyme associated with an increased risk for kidney stone production. More studies are needed to confirm this effect, however.
9. Boosting cognitive ability
Bay leaves contain antioxidant properties that can help to improve memory and reduce other cognitive problems from aging, like neurodegenerative disorders.
10. Relaxation method
Bay leaves contain substances like linalol and eucalyptol that help to relax the central nervous system and relief stress and anxiety.
How to make bay leaf tea
Bay leaf tea is a great way to take advantage of the health benefits this herb can offer. It is a good option for indigestion, anxiety and stress, for example.
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 cup of boiling water
How to prepare:
Soak the bay leaf in the cup of boiling water for 10 minutes. Then strain and drink, 3 to 4 times per day.
Possible side effects
Bay leaves are considered to be safe for use in teas and when cooking. However, very high amounts can cause sleepiness, due to its ability to slow down the nervous system. It can also cause gastrointestinal symptoms, like diarrhea or bloating, as well as headaches.
Because of its influence on blood sugars, excessive consumption can lead to hypoglycemia. Therefore, it should especially be taken with caution by diabetics.
Bay leaves consumed for medicinal purposes should be taken as directed by a registered dietitian, doctor or medicinal plant specialist to ensure ideal dosing without side effects.
Contraindications for use
High amounts of bay leaves should not be consumed by children nor breastfeeding or pregnant women. They should be consumed cautiously by diabetics, as they can reduce blood sugar levels.
Bay leaves should not be consumed whole, as they are unable to be broken down by the digestive system and stay intact. They can perforate an intestine or become lodged in the throat.
They should be discontinued for 2 weeks before any surgery, as they can significantly slow down the nervous system.