Nutritional and Health Benefits of Indian Bay Leaf
All the varieties of bay leaves have a sharp, bitter taste and are pungent. But, it is for the flavor they impart to foods, rather than the taste, that they are used.
Bay leaf is used as a spice to impart flavor to a variety of dishes of various cuisines around the world, both vegetarian and non vegetarian. Crushing the leaves imparts a more intense flavor 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 hub, 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 flavor 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 color. 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 flavor. 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, anti oxidant, antibacterial 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 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 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
- Cinnamomum a promising medicinal plant from the Himalayas.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
The information provided in this hub is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult your physician, or health care provider before taking any home remedies, supplements or starting a new health regime.
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 flavor soups, stews etc. Fresh leaves have a milder flavor than the dried ones and it takes several weeks of drying for the leaves to develop full flavor.
- 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.
© 2013 Rajan Singh Jolly