Bay leaves have been used for culinary purposes but did you know that there is much more to bay leaves and bay laurel oil than just flavor enhancer? Learn about it in this article!
Bay leaves have been used all around the world in cooking since time immemorial. They are great for enhancing the flavor and the aroma of the dish. Just add a few bay leaves and you know it can take your rice pilaf to whole new level! When cooking lentils, just add few bay leaves and you get that earthy aroma that is similar to the restaurant flavor you loved. Bay leaves are also an important part of bouquet garni along with sage, thyme, parsley, rosemary, tarragon, chervil, peppercorns, basil and celery (dependent on the recipe).
However, there is another important aspect to bay leaves (and their oil) and it is the fact that bay leaves have a plethora of health benefits to their name! And hold on, this time, we are not talking just about the health benefits but this popular kitchen item is also revered for its spiritual benefits. What do I mean by that? Well, let's find out in today's article.
Benefits of Bay Leaves & Bay Laurel Oil -
Culinary flavor - Bay leaves enhance the flavor and add fragrance to the recipe. They are similar to thyme and oregano in their aroma.
Balance blood sugar - It is said that bay leaves can help balance blood sugar levels. This is because bay leaves help in controlling insulin and regulating blood sugar even in those people who have insulin resistance. Bay leaves must be taken daily for this results to show. This can be done by adding bay leaves powder to the recipes as well as by drinking bay leaves tea 1-hr before or after meals.
Prevent bugs, ants, roaches and moths - Throw some bay leaves around your kitchen cabinets and prevent bugs from coming near food items! You can also spray some bay leaves water (like bay leaves tea) in and around the areas where you get bugs. Alternative method is to use essential oil of bay leaves, add some water in the spray bottle and spray wherever you have ants or bugs problem. This will prevents them from coming - happy you, happy little critters..:)
Hair & Skin - Bay leaves and bay laurel oil both benefit the hair and skin by reducing dryness and inflammation. Bay leaves are famous for hair rinse therapy and bay laurel oil is famous for skin beauty treatment. On how to use - look below.
Helps respiratory issues - Bay leaves promote clear breathing and are known to help ease respiratory distress. Bay leaves oil, when used in diffuser or massaged, can help in flu, fever, asthma, cough or bronchitis like symptoms.
Pain relief - Bay laurel oil is known for reliving pain, muscle cramps, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation, stiffness, migraines, sprains, headaches, etc. Simply take some carrier oil like coconut oil or even better, mustard oil, and add few drops of bay laurel oil and massage on pain areas. This will relieve the underlying inflammation and help greatly.
Helps calm the mind & bring in positivity - Bay leaves and bay laurel oil are unique than your other kitchen ingredients as bay leaves are highly revered in spirituality. The Greeks and Romans considered bay leaves as a symbol of peace, wisdom and victory and this is why the laurel leaves were used as a crown for the winner. Using bay essential oil is said to bring calmness and positivity in the house. Burning bay leaves is a revered spiritual practice to get abundance and simultaneously, get rid of negativity.
Anti-fungal & anti-bacterial - Bay leaves are anti-fungal, anti-bacterial, astringent, diuretic, anti-inflammatory in quality. They also help relieve stomach ulcers and help in keeping the digestive tract clean due to their anti-bacterial quality.
Anti-Cancer & Heart Protective - Though not much evidence, bay leaves contain quecertin and therefore are said to have anti-cancer properties. The quercetin, euganol, catechins and caffeic acid are all said to provide protection from different types of cancer. The rich antioxidants and polyphenols in bay leaves are also said to be good for heart health. Simply drink bay leaves tea for these benefits (more on bay leaves tea below).
Chemical constituents of Bay Leaves -
Bay leaves contain eucalyptol (45%), terpenes (12%), linalool, geraniol, terpineol, essential oil along with lauric acid. Bay leaves are rich in vitamic C, A, sodium, potassium, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, folate, riboflavin, manganese, zinc, phosphorus, selenium and fiber.
Different types of Bay Leaves -
Bay Laurel (Laurel nobilis) - These are also called the Mediterranean bay leaves, sweet bay leaves, Grecian laurel or simply, bay laurel. This is the most significant of all bay leaves or bay tree. Bay laurel leaves were also used by Romans to make 'laurels', the crown made by bay laurel leaves to symbolize victory. This is how it got the name, bay laurel. The bay laurel leaves have only 1 vein down the length of the leaves and are lighter green in color, as opposed to the Indian bay leaves. They are also much shorter than the Indian bay leaves.
Indian Bay Leaves (Cinnamomum tamala) - Also known as malabathrum or tej patta in Hindi, the Indian bay leaves are used a lot in Indian cooking in recipes like rice pulao, lentils, biryani, chickpeas (chole), red kidney beans (rajma chawal) and many more. The Indian bay leaves are described as having a flavor more similar to cinnamon, though much lighter than cinnamon in aroma and taste. The Indian bay leaves have 3 veins down the length of the leaves and are generally dark olive green. They are also much wider and longer than the bay laurel leaves.
California Bay Leaves (Umbrllularia californica) - California bay leaves are also known as Oregon myrtle, California bay and pepperwood. Grown around the coastal areas of California and extending to Oregon, the California bay leaves are used in place of bay laurel as they have similar aroma and flavor. But do know that users of California bay leaves note that these leaves have stronger aroma then bay laurel or Indian bay leaves. So, when cooking with California bay, less is more.
Turkish Bay Leaves - The Turkish bay leaves are considered more sweeter and milder than the California bay leaves. These are more widely used in recipes than the California one due to much lighter taste.
Other kinds of bay leaves are Indonesian bay leaves, Mexican bay leaves, West Indian bay leaves and even though they are used in their Native countries, these bay leaves are not popular outside their countries.
Storing Bay Leaves -
Most people store dried bay leaves in the kitchen cabinets but many prefer storing them in freezer due to the belief that it retains more flavor when stored in the freezer. So, store them per your wish!
How to use Bay Leaves?
NOTE: BAY LEAVES SHOULD NEVER BE CONSUMED WHOLE. DRIED OR FRESH BAY LEAVES CAN CAUSE IRRITATION DUE TO ROUGH ENDS. COOK THEM AND THEN DISCARD THEM. ONLY GROUND BAY LEAVES POWDER IS SAFE TO CONSUME IN RECIPES.
Bay leaves can be used fresh, dried, whole or grounded into fine powder. Fresh or dried bay leaves are used when boiling rice, lentils, chickpeas, red kidney beans, soups and stews, etc (see my recipes). Make sure to remove the leaves once the food is cooked. If your bay leaves are crushed, then use them in muslin bag or tea infuser. Ground bay leaves powder is used in curries, lentils, vegetables, snack recipes, and for tempering at the end.
For e.g. -
1. I used dried whole bay leaves in lentils recipe as well as chickpeas recipes.
2. I used ground bay leaves powder in my Crispy Potatoes recipe (Jeera Aalo).
3. To get more idea on how to use bay leaves and get their benefits, simply type "bay leaves" in the Search bar and all the recipes that have bay leaves or bay leaves powder will pull up. That will help you a lot!
Bay Leaves Tea - Simply add some bay leaves to warm water and cover for good 20-30 minutes. The longer, the better. Drink this as a tea to get the benefits of bay leaves. You can also add some other spices like cloves, ginger, cinnamon, along with some herbs and green tea leaves to make it into one potent concoction!
For medicinal & spiritual reasons -
1. For Diabetes or keep blood sugar stable - Simply add bay leaves powder in every meal you prepare! You can also try taking bay leaves tea 1-hour before meals and see if it helps with your blood sugar.
2. For hair loss and dandruff issues - For any hair issues, make the bay leaves tea (bay leaves + warm water). cover and let sit overnight. This will make the mixture very good and dark brown in color. Now, use this the next day as a hair rinse. Let your hair sun-dry after that. You can, in fact, make enough for a week's supply and store in a glass airtight bottle and keep in fridge.
3. For skin issues like wrinkles, dryness, acne, spots, etc - Use bay leaves tea as a toner and swipe your face with the tea on a organic cotton ball or even better, a small soft organic cotton towel. Consistency is the key here. Doing this daily will bring you the results you want to see.
4. For spirituality manifestation - Bay leaves burning is a simple practice - just take a bay leaf and simply make a wish. Burn it carefully as it burns fast and once it has burned, let the ashes out into the wind. There! You are done! Good luck!
5. For joints, aches and pains - Try bay laurel oil and mix with some carrier oil like olive oil, coconut oil or mustard oil and massage it on pain areas. You can warm the oil mixture for 10 seconds and then massage it if you like. Doing this daily is the best practice for optimum benefits.
Discarding Bay Leaves after cooking -
Once you have used the bay leaves during the cooking process or for making tea or hair rinse, then, do not throw them away in the trash. Use them either in compost pile or simply scatter them around the outdoors or into the yard as they prevent bugs and ants from coming in. It also saves plastic from going unnecessary into the landfills as bay leaves are just like your garden - they can be thrown out instead of in a plastic trash bag!
Are Bay Leaves poisonous?!
Heck NO!! This rumor came about due to the mountain laurel and cherry laurel bay leaves - both of which are poisonous to humans and animals alike. However, the bay leaves that are used worldwide for culinary purposes are not just safe but rather offer immense medicinal benefits along with taste and aroma. Because mountain laurel and cherry laurel leaves and the trees look similar to the culinary bay leaves, they have been confused and the rumor started. You can safely buy the culinary bay leaves as mountain laurel and cherry laurel are never, ever sold for consumption! So, rest assured you are safe and enjoy the zillion benefits of these sacred bay leaves.
This is it for today! Check out so many recipes here that use bay leaves and bay leaves powder and make sure to subscribe to The Garden Recipe YouTube channel. Do let me know how this article has benefited you in the comments and I sure look forward to your feedback.
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To The Leaf That Gives Both Abundance & Health - The Sacred Bay Leaves!
GREAT article. I was taught by my mother that everything tastes better is its cooked in water with a bay leaf, or added to sauce. I didn't realize that you can powder it and add the powder. I'll be doing that from now on.
Oh dear! Thank you. I was going to say that for bay leaves powder, its always better to buy it already grounded. This is because people report that no matter how much you grind, it is never going to be fine like one made from industrial grinder. And you definitely don't want bay leaves left in the powder as they can scratch the throat.
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