Bay leaves are a must-have ingredient of an all-spice mixture, which is prevalently used in the cuisines of the Indian sub-continent. The leaves come from an evergreen shrub named the laurel, often found as a household ornamental plant. The fresh leaves are used as a flavoring ingredient in the final ‘tarka’ or ‘bhigaar’ of the traditional Indian lentil recipe. In contrast, the dry leaves are used in soups, stews, broths, and other saucy recipes. The addition of two or three dry bay leaves is an obligatory step in making beef broth for Afghani (rice) pilaf.
However, water boiled with a bay leaf has no flavor, yet the leaves have a sharp, bitter taste. So what is the deal with bay leaves that make them such a spice-delicacy?
Bay leaves are an age-old ingredient in Ayurvedic medicine for many ailments. It contains many biologically active elements. The leaves are enriched with vitamin A and C in addition to folic acid, calcium, and potassium. The leaves’ extract is found to contain tannins, flavones, flavonoids, alkaloids, eugenol, linalool, methyl chavicol, and anthocyanins. The leaves have only a trace amount of fats, but they are a rich dietary fiber source. Even today, the bay leaf extract is an essential element of many industrial products, including food, cosmetics, and pharmaceuticals.
So it is no surprise that bay leaf remains an active topic of scientific research. Many biological upshots are attributed to bay leaves. These include wound healing, anti-oxidant, antibacterial, anti-viral, immune-stimulant, anti-fungal, insect repellant, anti-convulsant, analgesic, and anti-inflammatory.
Here is what we know of its benefits:
- The leaf extract acts as a natural wound healer because of its antimicrobial properties.
- The leaf owes its anti-inflammatory upshot to a unique phytonutrient called parthenolide that caters to ward off many inflammatory disease processes like arthritis.
- Stressed out at work? Have a cup of bay leaf tea. The linalool content of the spice helps ease away stress hormone levels in the body.
- The powder form of bay leaf helps lower blood sugar levels in the body, thereby aiding diabetes. It owes this ability to its rich polyphenol content.
- The organic elements of bay leaf bolster the capillary walls, thus adjuncts the cardiovascular system. It also addresses increased LDL levels, the bad cholesterol from the blood, which further seconds the heart health. The same study showed its blood sugar-lowering effects also indicated the benefits of bay leaf consumption on serum cholesterol. The participants had reduced LDL and showed an increase in the HDL, the good cholesterol.
Also, bay leaf is anti-oxidant rich with a fair amount of minerals like potassium and iron. Anti-oxidants are reputed for their role in combating free radical damage in the body. Healthy potassium levels help keep the heart rhythm regular and keep blood pressure at ideal levels. Optimal iron levels are significant to ward off stroke and other heart ailments.