What’s So Great About Bay Leaves?

What’s So Great About Bay Leaves?

Umm, off the top of my head? Nothing much. It adds flavour to soup but you want to make sure you pull it out of the pot before serving or someone’s going to end up with a gum injury because that little thing is sharp! But, as with so many foods (especially the green ones) there’s more to bay leaf than you might think and since it is literally as easy as Step 1: toss one into whatever soup, stew or chili you might be whipping up, step 2: there is no step 2, why not?

Like many herbs, bay leaves have been in use for centuries in traditional medicine. Likewise, as is the case with much traditional medicine, these poultices, tinctures and applications tend to get short shrift in Western Medicine with its strict adherence to rigorous scientific proof. But those two worlds seem to be coming together in this case.

According to Everyday Health and Dr. Rovenia Brock, PhD, “bay leaves contain an oil with the active ingredient cineole, which eases discomfort caused by sinusitis.” And you don’t even have to eat it. “Studies show that inhaling the essential oil can reduce inflammation and fluid build-up in the sinuses.” Dr. Brock also says that “bay leaves may play a role in preventing heart disease, treating arthritis, and supporting the immune system.”

According to www.livestrong.com, “a 2006 study in the “BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine” journal found that rats treated with 200 mg of bay leaf extract per kilogram of body weight experienced accelerated wound closure and healing within 10 days. A 2011 study in the journal “Natural Product Research” discovered why — bay leaf extract was found to have antimicrobial activity against some of the most common pathogens, including Staphylococcus aureus and Streptococcus pyogenes”.  Staph AND Strep?! Can I just eat a bowl of the leaves, STAT?! Well other than the whole gum slicing issue, the “old wives tale” (who are these old wives and why do they lie?) that the bay leaf is poisonous is not so much true. Bay leaves sold for the purpose of cooking are not poisonous (unless you eat several quarts at one sitting according to several sources….and why oh why would you ever do that….don’t do that). The myth seems to stem from the fact that bay leaves come from the Laurel family and some laurel leaves are in fact poisonous. But if you’re picking your bay leaves in aisle three at the grocery store and not in the family laurel orchard, you should have no worries.

In addition to their antibacterial and astringent properties, bay leaves are actually considered a good source of folate, vitamin C and vitamin A. I’m gobsmacked really….I honestly thought they only added flavour to chicken soup. Learning is fun!

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