Rajan is a botany and chemistry major. He has worked as a poultry breeder for 23 years, breeding layer and broiler parents.
All the varieties of bay leaves have a sharp, bitter taste and are pungent. But, it is for the flavour they impart to foods, rather than the taste, that they are used.
Bay leaf is used as a spice to impart flavour to a variety of dishes of various cuisines around the world, both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. Crushing the leaves imparts a more intense flavour than when they are used whole. When crushed they are used in a muslin bag.
It is one of the constituents of the Indian Garam masala - a mixture of spices.
Bay leaves also have the property of repelling flies, moths, roaches, mice etc.
The Indian Bay Leaf Tree
The Indian Bay Leaf
In this article, I will be talking about the Indian spice - the Indian bay leaf - Cinnamomum tamala.
In Indian cooking, most of the time whole dried bay leaf is used. It is used for its flavour and fragrance. Indian foods like biryani, mutton, vegetable pulao etc use whole bay leaves which are removed before serving the dish.
The Indian bay leaf is native to India, Nepal and Bhutan. Bay leaf in India is also called by names like Tejpatta, Tamalpatra, Tejpat. It is also known as Indian cassia, Malabar leaf etc.
The Indian bay leaf is twice as long as the bay laurel leaf and has an olive green colour. It has 3 prominent veins running down the length of the leaf compared to just 1 prominent vein in the bay laurel leaf.
Indian bay leaf has a very cinnamon-like aroma while the bay laurel leaf's aroma resembles that of pine and lemon.
The Indian bay leaf has been used medicinally since ancient times and was a major medicinal plant in medieval times. Indian sages since the earliest times advocated the use of many spices both for culinary as well as medicinal use and the Indian bay leaf was one of them.
It should be noted however that dried green leaves rather than dried brown leaves be purchased as the brown leaves lose most of their flavour. Keep the bay leaves in a dark airtight container away from light and heat and they will stay good for over 2 years.
Nutrients in Bay Leaf
Bay leaves yield many volatile oils like a-pinene, camphene, myrcene, limonene, p-cymene, eugenol etc with eugenol being the .major essential component. The leaves are also exceptionally rich in many vitamins and minerals as can be seen in the table below.
Nutrients in Bay Leaf
Nutritional value per 100 grams
(Source: USDA National Nutrient data base)
Percentage of RDA
Indian bay leaf has analgesic, astringent, carminative, digestive, stomachic, emetic, diuretic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
It is useful in the treatment of high blood sugar, migraine, headaches, gastric ulcers, rheumatism, colic, amenorrhea and a lot of other health conditions.
Some Ayurvedic Cures
Indian bay leaf is an important ingredient in Ayurvedic tea which is used for treating coughs and colds.
For problems like cough, cold, excess mucus, allergy and other respiratory problems etc, crush 3-4 bay leaves, add 1-2 tulsi (holy basil) leaves and boil this in about 250 ml water. Cool, strain and drink this while still tolerably warm.
For headache, even severe headache, boil a few bay leaves in water for a few minutes. Strain, cool a bit and drink while still hot. Also, apply a paste of bay leaves on the forehead for relief from severe headache.
For getting rid of head lice, take about 50 grams of crushed dry bay leaves and boil in 400 ml water. Remove when the water is about 100 ml remaining. Apply this on the hair roots after straining out the water. Let it remain for 3-4 hours then wash. This removes the lice.
If Bhringraj is added to the bay leaves before boiling, it will make the hair black, lustrous and healthy.
In respiratory diseases like asthma etc, add 2 grams Mulethi (liquorice) and 1 gram Piplali or dry ginger powder to 5 grams of bay leaves and boil in 200 ml water till 100 ml water remains. Strain and drink. It boosts body immunity and cures conditions like cough, asthma and other respiratory problems.
For cough, take 1-2 grams of powdered dry bay leaves mixed with a tsp of honey twice a day. It is very effective in stopping a cough.
Those who suffer from indigestion and bloating or any other digestive problem can take 5 grams of bay leaves, add a piece of ginger and boil this in 200 ml of water till 1/4 water remains. Add a spoonful of honey and consume twice a day for relief.
For kidney problems, kidney infections and even for kidney stone, boil 5 grams bay leaves in 200 ml water till 50 ml water remains. Strain and drink 2 times daily. This stops the formation of kidney stones also.
For heart disease and anxiety, take 3 grams of bay leaves and 3-4 grams of Desi (wild) rose flowers. Add to 300 ml water and boil till only 75 ml remains. Strain and drink for relief.
If there is angina pain, add 2 cloves to the above and then boil the water. It stops angina pain.
For uterus problems like infection, etc, which mostly occur after childbirth, take a few grams each of the bark of the bay leaf tree, bay leaf, carom seeds and dry ginger powder. Boil these in 200 ml water and drink twice a day. This clears the infection and tones the uterus.
Repeated sneezing shows that the body's internal functioning is not very right. To set it right, boil some bay leaves in 200 ml water till 1/4 water remains. Strain and drink.
To relieve joint pains, make a poultice of ground bay leaves and arund (castor) leaves. Tie it around the inflamed joint. It relieves pain and swelling.
For nosebleed, crush 2-3 fresh or dry bay leaves. Add to 200 ml water and boil till 100 ml remains. Strain and drink for relief.
For clean teeth, brush with powdered bay leaves once in 3 days. It will make the teeth sparkle.
- Laboratory Evaluation of Crude Extracts of Cinnamomum tamala for Potential Antibacterial Activity
- The hypolipidemic effect of Cinnamomum tamala Nees. leaves extracts in high cholesterol diet induced hyperlipidemia
- Antidiabetic and Antioxidant Activities of Cinnamomum tamala Leaf Extracts
- Chemical composition of cinnamomum essential oil
- Antimicrobial and antioxidant potential of Cinnamomum tamala essential oil and oleoresins
About the Bay Leaf Plant
Bay leaves are aromatic leaves belonging to a variety of plants from different genera. Some of the common bay leaves are :
- The Indian bay leaf also called malabathrum. It has a taste and fragrance akin to that of cinnamon bark but milder.
- The Mediterranean bay leaf also called Bay laurel, from the tree Laurus nobilis. The leaves are used in both fresh and dried form to flavour soups, stews etc. Fresh leaves have a milder flavour than the dried ones and it takes several weeks of drying for the leaves to develop full flavour.
- The California bay leaf also called California laurel, pepperwood etc, from the tree Umbellularia californica.
- The Indonesian bay leaf also called Indonesian laurel, from the plant Syzygium polyanthum is mainly used in meats.
- The West Indian bay leaf from the tree Pimenta racemosa, which is also used to produce cologne.
- The Mexican bay leaf from the plant Litsea glaycescens.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2013 Rajan Singh Jolly
Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on June 26, 2013:
@Peggy-bay leaves impart a unique flavor to the food and of course the health benefits are an added bonus. Good to know you have a bush growing that provides for you and your friends.
@Rose- thank you. Glad you like the information.
@Naomi-thank you and glad to provide you with some useful info.
Naomi's Banner from United States on June 24, 2013:
Wow, all the things I never knew about Bay leaves and was afraid to ask! Ha ha. Great informative Hub. I use Bay leaves because they add good flavor to dishes. I never knew there were so many healthy properties to the Bay leaf. You made learning about this very fun and interesting. Great job!
rose-the planner from Toronto, Ontario-Canada on June 24, 2013:
The benefits provided by bay leaves is incredible! I use it often in preparing meals as it enhances the flavour of certain dishes. It's good to know that it offers so much more than just flavour. Thank you for sharing. (Voted Up) -Rose
Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 24, 2013:
It was interesting learning about the Indian bay leaf and the health benefits. I have a bay laurel bush that provides us all the bay leaves we could possibly ever use growing in our backyard. Neighbors and friends all know that they do not have to purchase bay leaves as we have plenty to share. I use the bay leaves in various recipes. UUI votes and happy to share and pin.
Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on April 13, 2013:
I agree, Sweetie. Thanks for reading.
sweetie1 from India on April 13, 2013:
Bay leaf is used in our home in most of cooking and I like the aroma it gives to the dishes exp to the rice. Love it
Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on April 04, 2013:
Glad to know this was useful to you. Thanks for visiting, Athul.
athulnair from India on April 04, 2013:
I initially thought bay leaf is just a flavoring substance and it does not have any nutrient value. Thanks for the info.
Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on March 30, 2013:
Thanks Aurelio, I hope you are using these healthy leaves. Thanks for the votes.
Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on March 29, 2013:
Wow, didn't know there were all these different types of bay leaves and flavors. I'm familiar with the Mediterranean kind and even though I live in California, didn't know we had our own version. I'll look for the Indian and California varieties to try them out. Voting this Up and Interesting.
Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on March 25, 2013:
moonlake, I believe its the bay laurel leaf that is available there. Thanks for the feedback regarding it being effective in keeping bugs away. Much appreciated.
moonlake from America on March 25, 2013:
How nice it would be to have a bay leaf tree outside the window. I don't know what kind of bay leaf we buy here but I use it often in cooking. It's also good to put in flour to keep bugs away. Voted up on your very interesting hub.
Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on March 24, 2013:
@ Rasma - good to know you use bay leaves. I appreciate the read and sharing.
@ naturman - glad you like the info. Thanks.
@ vespawoolf - thanks for the comments and the visit.
@ Dora - that's a wonderful way to make the breakfast more healthy. Thanks for stopping by.
@ Au fait - You should try it for your cough. Thanks for the votes and sharing.
C E Clark from North Texas on March 24, 2013:
Didn't realize there were different kinds of bay leaves. I've used them in chicken catetore, but I noticed Indian bay leaf is supposed to be good for a cough. I could sure use that drink for the cough. Have been sick with the flu and a cough remains and won't leave. Indian bay leaf sounds like its worth a try. Voted up, useful, and will share!
Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on March 24, 2013:
More useful information. The home where we're living right now has a bay tree growing outside the kitchen window. I imagine it's a bay laurel tree, but I'm not positive. I would definitely be interesting in trying Indian Bay Leaf just for the flavor it adds to food, let alone the nutritional benefits which I had never considered before. Thank you!
Dora Gray PhD from Brooklyn, New York, United States on March 24, 2013:
I love bay leaf! My mom used to add it to our morning cereal such as oatmeal and farina. My husband and I now have buckwheat groats for our morning cereal and bay leaves are the perfect addition along with vanilla extract and cinnamon. Thanks for this post. Blessings!
Michael Roberts from UK on March 24, 2013:
Nice herb that has health benefits and tasstes nice too
Gypsy Rose Lee from Daytona Beach, Florida on March 24, 2013:
Thanks for another great and interesting hub. Just love the aroma of bay leaves especially in soups and stew. Great to learn more. Passing this on.
Rajan Singh Jolly (author) from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on March 23, 2013:
@ my-veg - thanks.
@ wetnosedogs - nice to know you learnt some useful things. Appreciate the visit.
@ Bill - Not the tea. We do make cinnamon tea though. Thanks for visiting and sharing.
@ Sneha - I agree we do not think of these health benefits while we use it as a matter of habit. Thanks for appreciating, voting and sharing.
@ Carol - I do think bay leaf is available in the States. Thanks for appreciating.
@ Devika - good to know you grow a variety of herbs. Thanks for reading.
@ teaches - Thanks for sharing and good to learn you use bay leaves.
@ Bill - It's a pleasure providing this info, my friend and good to learn you are using this. Always feel good reading your comments.
@ livingsta - Thanks for the appreciation and always good to see you. Glad you find the info useful.
livingsta from United Kingdom on March 23, 2013:
Another piece of useful information Rajan. Thank you for sharing. The medicinal uses of this leaf are surprising.Votes up and sharing!
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on March 23, 2013:
Very good information, Rajan! We do cook with bay leaves but I am always happy to read your hubs and find out the nutritional value of things we use. Thank you!
Dianna Mendez on March 23, 2013:
Wow, this is very interesting. I will have to use it more when I cook. Also, the fact that it helps with so many other ailments is so wonderful. Voted up and shared.
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 23, 2013:
Bay laurel trees are grown everywhere in the region I live in, and it has such a lovely aroma, often I cook with the bay leaf and it gives the food a good taste too. We have many trees around the area. I learned more here about the benefits thanks for this information. In Croatia we have many herbs, and I was quite surprised when I first discovered the many I didn't knew of and decided to make my own herbal garden.
carol stanley from Arizona on March 23, 2013:
I have never heard of this bay leaf. Is it available in the states? Sounds like a valuable addition to health remedies. As always you do a superb job in explaining the value etc...and of course enticing to try. Voting up and pinning.
Sneha Sunny from India on March 23, 2013:
Hi Rajan... I really enjoyed reading this hub. I didn't knew that it has so many health benefits, even though I see it in a lot of dishes that my mother make at home! We don't even realize while eating that the spices we frequently use may have a lots health benefits.
Thanks for sharing this useful information. Rated and shared! :)
Bill De Giulio from Massachusetts on March 23, 2013:
Very interesting rajan. I am not overly familiar with the Indian Bay Leaf but the health benefits are amazing. Do they make a tea from the leaf. With the cinnamon aroma it sounds like it would make a great tea? Thanks for the great info. Voted up, interesting, useful, sharing....
wetnosedogs from Alabama on March 23, 2013:
Wow, I didn't realize this little leaf could do so much.
Thanks for this terrific write up.
mr-veg from Colorado United States on March 22, 2013:
I love aroma of bay leaves, specially in Pulav and chole. Nice to know it has so many other benefits too !! Good one Rajan !!