Laurel Leaf and Health Benefits
Updated: Mar 10, 2019
Botanical Name: Laurus nobilis.
Other Common Names: Bay, bayleaf, bayleaf laurel, laurel, Grecian laurel, true laurel, sweet laurel, sweet bay, laurbær (Danish), Lor (German), laurier (French), yue gui (Chinese), lárvidarlauf (Icelandic).
Habitat: Bay laurel is native to the eastern Mediterranean and the east coast of the Black Sea. The plant has been cultivated for centuries and now grows wild throughout the Mediterranean. Today, bay laurel is cultivated in southern and western Europe, including England.
Bay Laurel in Mythology
According to Greek mythology, the female nymph Daphne was transformed into a laurel tree by her father the river god Ladon to save her from the unwanted affections of the god Apollo. Hence, the bay laurel tree is often associated with Apollo.
Bay laurel was also known to be used in rituals by the Delphic oracle, a name given to of any priestess of the temple of Apollo at Delphi. Because large doses of bay laurel leaves can have a narcotic effect it might explain why the herb was used in these rituals.
Bay leaves have a very strong effect on the gastrointestinal system, both stimulating urination as a diuretic, which decreases the toxicity of the body and stimulates vomiting (as an emetic) when something toxic has been consumed. Furthermore, the organic compounds found in bay leaves are very effective for settling upset stomachs, soothing irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or even lessening the symptoms of Celiac disease. Some of the more complex proteins in our modern diet can be difficult to digest, but the unique enzymes found in bay leaves help facilitate efficient digestion and nutrient intake.
If you want to improve the health of your hair follicles and eliminate dandruff, steep bay leaves in water and then rub them on your scalp after shampooing. The chemicals and volatile ingredients in them can help eliminate dry skin and dandruff.
One of the most important benefits of bay leaves is their ability to reduce inflammation throughout the body. This is confirmed by a study published in the Phytotherapy research journal. These leaves contain a unique phytonutrient, called parthenolide, which can quickly reduce inflammation and irritation when topically applied to affected areas, such as sore joints or areas affected by arthritis. This effect can also be achieved through normal consumption of bay leaf spice.
The unique combination of antioxidants and organic compounds in bay leaves, including phytonutrients, catechins, linalool, and parthenolide, helps to protect the body from the effects of cancer-causing free radicals as cited by the journal Nutrition Research. Free radicals can cause healthy cells to mutate into cancerous cells and bay leaves may prevent this activity due to the presence of these antioxidants and organic compounds.
Reduce Anxiety & Stress
Linalool is often associated with thyme and basil, but it is also present in bay leaves and can help lower the level of stress hormones in the body, especially when used in aromatherapy. Excess stress hormones can be dangerous for long-term health, so bay leaves can help you calm down and remain relaxed even in your high-anxiety moments.