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Uses and Health Benefits of Bay Leaves (Laurus nobilis)

Bay Leaves (Laurus nobilis)

Introduction

Laurus nobilis is a small Mediterranean aromatic evergreen tree or large shrub with green, smooth and hairless leaves, belongs to a flowering plant family Lauraceae.

It is used as bay leaf for flavoring in cooking. Its common names are a bay tree, sweet bay, bay laurel, true laurel, Grecian laurel, or simply laurel.

Scientific Classification

  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Clade: Angiosperms
  • Clade: Magnoliids
  • Order: Laurales
  • Family: Lauraceae
  • Genus: Laurus
  • Species: L. nobilis
  • Binomial name: Laurus nobilis

Description

The Laurel is an evergreen small tree or shrub. The size of the tree is variable and sometimes reaches to 7–18 m tall.

The Bay Laurel is unisexual with both male and female flowers on separate plants. Flowers are about 1 cm (0.39 in) diameter, pale yellow-green in color, and they appear in pairs beside a leaf. The leaves are glabrous (smooth and hairless), about 2–4 cm (0.79–1.57 in) broad and 6–12 cm (2.4–4.7 in) long including an untoothed margin. On some leaves, the margin undulates. The fruit is a small, about 1 cm (0.39 in) long, shiny blackberry-like drupe and contains one seed.

Plant Parts Used Medicinally

The leaves, essential oil from leaves are used for Medicinal purpose and very rarely the fruit.

The leaves and fruits are used for their aromatic qualities and used as a flavoring agent in cooking.

The essential oil is extracted from the leaves of bay laurel by steam distillation.

Chemical Constituents

The leaves of Laurus nobilis contain about 1.3% essential oils, comprises 45% eucalyptol, 8-12% terpinyl acetate, 12% other terpenes, 3–4% sesquiterpenes, 3% methyl eugenol, and other α- and β-pinenes, Linalool, phellandrene, Geraniol, and terpineol. It also contains lauric acid.

The most abundant constituents of Laurus nobilis essential oil is 1,8-cineole which is also named as eucalyptol.

The fruit contains 30% fatty oils and about 1% essential oils comprise of terpenes, sesquiterpenes, ketones, and alcohols).

Health Benefits of Laurus nobilis (Bay Leaves)

Laurus nobilis have various health benefits. It has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and also antifungal properties.

Improves Digestion

Bay leaves show a very strong effect on the gastrointestinal system. It stimulates urination, acting as a diuretic, which reduces the toxicity of the body and stimulates vomiting, acting as an emetic) when any toxic substance is consumed. It helps in calming upset stomachs, irritable bowel syndrome, or even reducing the symptoms of Celiac's disease.

Treats Respiratory Conditions

Bay leaves bear antibacterial properties. After the extraction of essential oil from bay leaves, it can be mixed into a balm and apply it to your chest, it will reduce various respiratory conditions. You can also make the paste of the leaves, apply it on the chest and leave overnight. Inhaling the vapor also shows similar effects and eliminate bacteria that cause bad effects on respiratory tracts.

Hair Care

Bay leaves are also used for hair care. To improve the health of hair follicles and eliminate dandruff, soak bay leaves in the water when leaves become soft and then after shampooing rub them on your scalp. The elements and volatile ingredients in leaves help to eliminate dry skin and dandruff.

Anti-inflammatory Activity

One of the most important benefits of bay leaves is they have anti-inflammatory properties that reduces inflammation throughout the body. These leaves have a unique phytonutrient (parthenolide) which reduce inflammation and irritation very quickly. It can be applied topically to affected areas, such as areas affected by arthritis or by oral consumption of bay leaf spice.

Protect Heart

Bay leaves also improve our heart health. Caffeic acid and rutin both organic compounds are found in bay leaves, that improve our heart health. Rutin helps in strengthening of capillary walls in the heart and caffeic acid can help to eliminate Low-density lipoprotein (bad cholesterol) from the cardiovascular system.

Manage Diabetes

Bay leaves improve insulin receptor function and regulates blood sugar levels in the body. It reduces the level of LDL which is known as bad cholesterol and increased levels of HDL (good cholesterol) in patients with type 2 diabetes.

Treat Fungal Infections

Bay leaves also has antifungal properties which especially fight against the Candida infection. The leaf prevents the adhesion of Candida to the cell walls, thereby stopping its penetration through the membrane.

Anti-Cancer Properties

Bay leaves contain phytonutrients, catechins, Linalool, and parthenolide in it which helps to protect our body from the influence of cancer-causing free radicals. Free radicals can convert healthy cells into cancerous cells and Bay leaves may stop this activity because it contains these antioxidants and organic compounds.

Reduces Anxiety & Stress

Linalool in bay leaves can help to reduce the stress hormone level in the body, especially when used as an aromatherapy. Increase in stress hormone levels can be dangerous, so bay leaves provide you calming effect and relaxation even when you are in high-anxiety moments.

Dosage

The appropriate dose of Laurus nobilis depends on several factors such as patient's age, health, and several other conditions. So itis better to consult doctor, pharmacist or health care provider who is familiar to this herb.

Side Effects

  1. Bay leaf and its essential oil are very likely to be safe in food amounts. It is also safe when taken orally in medicinal amounts for short-term. But when you cook with whole bay leaf, remove it before eating the food because it cannot be digested and may be stuck in your digestive system and cause damage to the lining of intestines.
  2. The essential oil should not be given to pregnant or breastfeeding women and children.
  3. Bay leaf might slow down the central nervous system (CNS).
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