Organic bay leaves have been in use since times immemorial in many parts of the world. The bay leaf actually comes from different but similar plants, growing in different parts of the world and, depending on the plant, has a somewhat different flavor.
The sweet bay tree called Laurus nobilis grows in Europe. The California bay leaf that has a strong eucalyptus-mint flavor comes from the Umbellularia californica plant. The Indian bay leaf or tej patta plant is known as Cinnamomum tamala. In West Indies, Mexico and Indonesia, the bay leaf that is used in foods, comes from other varieties of the laurel plant. Poet laureate and laurel leaves are words that are associated with bay leaves and signify winners in other parts of the world.
From ancient times fresh and dry bay leaves whole have been used for their medicinal properties. Dry bay leaves can be crushed or ground and can also be used whole.
How are Organic Bay Leaves Used?
Unlike many spices whose flavor intensifies when dry, fresh organic bay leaves have a much stronger flavor that reduces when it dries. If you are using the dried herb instead of the fresh one, use double - two leaves instead of one fresh green leaf. Organic bay leaves are best added in the beginning of the cooking process as the longer they cook or simmer, the more complex flavors they release.
Whole bay leaves or the dried herb can be added to soups and stews, in rice, in gravies and sauces in bouquet garni and even sweets like custards and creams. The ground spice can be added, in small quantities, to stuffing or curries.
Fresh or dry, organic bay leaves are best not eaten as they are woody and fibrous. Ideally, they are removed before serving, or you can just remove them from your food as you are eating. You can also put the organic bay leaves in a muslin cloth or mesh infuser that makes it easy to remove the whole spice. The dried herb can also be ground into a powder and used; do not grind fresh leaves.
What Do Organic Bay Leaves Contain?
Organic bay leaves are a source of Vitamins A and C, B vitamins, manganese, calcium copper, iron, and folic acid. Bay leaf (whole) contains many micronutrients and compounds that have medicinal properties. Some of the substances in bay leaves that give them their characteristic flavor and aroma are:
- Terpinyl acetate
- Lauric acid
These are actually the compounds that yield some of the health benefits of organic bay leaves.
What are the Health Benefits of Organic Bay Leaves?
Whether you use fresh or dry, whole or powdered organic bay leaves, you are not only get a depth that it adds to dishes, but you also reap many health benefits such as protection against:
Using organic bay leaves in food helps with better glucose control and improves blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes.
- Fungal infections
The essential oils that bay leaves contain have shown to have a significant effect against fungal infections caused by candida.
- Heart problems
Compounds like rutin and caffeic acid, found in bay leaves, help lower bad cholesterol levels and also strengthen the capillaries, improving heart health.
- Psychological issues like anxiety and stress
Tea made with bay leaves can aid with anxiety and stress. If you burn bay leaves as part of aromatherapy, it will calm you down.
- Digestive problems
Organic bay leaves contain many compounds that alleviate simple digestive issues, are anti-vomiting and even have a positive effect on IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome) and celiac disease.
- Inflammation disorders
Bay leaves contain parthenolide, a phytonutrient that combats inflammatory disorders such as arthritis and joint pain. Extracts from bay leaf may also be used in topical ointments and creams for local application in pain relief.
- Menstrual cramps
This herb helps regularize periods and also reduces menstrual cramps and the pain associated with them.
When you suffer from insomnia and find it difficult to fall asleep, you can consume some bay leaf extract mixed with water and you will enjoy restful sleep.
Apart from these benefits, organic bay leaves are often used as insect repellents. In fact, crushed bay leaves when mixed with some oil can be used to reduce to the sting of bug bites. Bay leaf oil can be mixed with hair oil and used to combat dandruff and hair fall. It may also help with lice infestation.
Using organic bay leaves, fresh or dried herb, whole, crushed or powdered should be part of your daily cooking routine not only for its taste and flavor, but also its numerous health benefits.