Bay leaf, dried leaves of the Laurel tree, is also known as sweet bay, laurel leaf, sweet laurel or bay laurel. While bay is a popular spice found in almost every kitchen across America, it may come as a surprise that one of your favorite spices is also a traditional medicine with many healing benefits.
- Benefit from bay leaf in your everyday cooking, as just a few leaves contain an amazing quantity of vitamins and minerals. Bay leaves are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, manganese, calcium, potassium and magnesium.
- Boil water and remove from heat, adding two or three bay leaves per cup of water. Cover the infusion and allow to steep for 15 minutes. Pour yourself a cup of bay leaf tea to promote sweating and help reduce a fever.
- Soak a cloth in the bay leaf tea/water and place it on your chest to help relieve respiratory infections, cough, cold and flu.
- Drink an infusion of bay leaf or add it to heavy meals to help calm an upset stomach and reduce the symptoms of digestive disorders. Bay leaf also contains enzymes which help to break down proteins, making it a great spice for meat dishes. Other digestive benefits of bay leave include improved digestion and reduced gas.
- Massage a few drops of bay leaf essential oil to help reduce swelling and pain caused by strains, sprains, arthritis and general aches and pains. Bay leaf essential oil can also be massaged into the temples to relieve headaches and migraines.
- Make an infusion of bay leaf or add 10 to 15 drops of bay leaf essential oil into 16 oz. of your favorite shampoo to help treat dandruff.
- Enjoy bay leaf tea before meals to help maintain blood sugar levels, as studies have shown that bay leaf helps the body to process insulin more quickly to prevent spikes in blood sugar.
- Use bay leaf infusions for warm compresses, gargles or even body washes, as bay leaf contains eugenol, a compound with anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
- Although bay is a very attractive shrub or small tree, it is grown as a seasoning.
- The dark green leaves are very fragrant, especially when dried. Dried leaves are broken or crumbled into cooking foods and allowed to permeate the dish. The leaves don’t soften much in cooking and are removed before eating.
- Bay can be grown simply as an ornamental. It has attractive foliage and can easily be pruned and sheared into topiary shapes. The leaves are often used to make wreaths and garlands. Since bay is a very slow grower, it’s ideal for container growing.
- Bay has also been a traditional medicinal plant, with uses as varied as earaches, rheumatism and insect repellent. CAUTION: some people find bay to be a skin irritant.
It’s very important that you only grow plants labeled Laurus nobilis, if you plan to use it for cooking and eating. There are other plants that go by the common names of bay and sweet bay and these are not necessarily edible. However, there are a few ornamental cultivars or Laurus nobilis. Whether they season as well as traditional cooking bay leaves.
- Laurus nobilis is a matter of taste.
- Laurus nobilis‘Angustifolia’- Has narrow leaves. aka: willow-leaf laurel.
- Laurus nobilis ‘Aurea’- New foliage is yellow.
- Laurus nobilis ‘Undulata’ – Edges of the leaves are rippled or wavy.
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