The bay tree has been around since the times of the ancient Greeks and Romans, although it wasn’t introduced to Europe until the 16th century. Native to Asia, it is also widely grown in the Mediterranean area. Bay leaves are rich sources of vitamins A and C, and also supply manganese and iron. There are several therapeutic benefits attached to bay leaves, although they are not eaten directly but used to flavour cooking or drunk as a tea.
Good for colds and infections
Bay leaves are used in two ways to fight the symptoms of colds, flu and other infections. Soak a flannel or guest towel in a solution of boiled bay leaves and place on the chest to relieve congestion. Bay leaf tea will make you sweat out a cold or fever.
Massage with bay leaf essential oil to relieve aches and pains and treat sprains and swollen areas. This is particularly good for pain associated with arthritis and rheumatism. The oil also boosts the circulation and promotes a feeling of wellbeing.
Good for the digestion
Add bay leaves to food during cooking to promote good digestion, treat digestive disorders such as heartburn and reduce flatulence. Or sip bay leaf tea if you are prone to digestive problems. Bay leaves also help with the digestion of proteins and other foods which are difficult to digest, and they will act as an appetite stimulant if you are recovering from illness.
Good for the heart
The phytonutrients in bay leaves help protect against disease of the cardiovascular system. Bay leaves are widely used in the Mediterranean Diet, which is often recommended for heart health.
Bay leaves contain querticin, which is a known cancer fighting agent. The phytonutrient parthenolide is also known to slow the growth of cervical cancer cells.
Good for diabetes
The antioxidants in bay leaves helth the body to process insulin more efficiently, making bay leaves a good therapeutic choice for diabetics and people with insulin resistance.
Bay leaves contain lauric acid, which is a known insect repellent. A dish of bay leaves will keep rooms free of insects, and a paste made with crushed leaves and a little oil wil relieve stings and bites when applied topically.
Good for the scalp
A rinse made with infused bay leaves is good for treating dandruff. Bay leaf tea is said to be a good remedy for hair loss.
Bay leaves have so many therapeutic benefits, they should be in every home. Dry the leaves before use, and add to cooking, infuse in boiling water, or crumble to make a topical paste.