Growing up, my mom was a very different type of cook than I turned out to be. She was definitely a product of her generation where Betty Crocker and technology in food science were much more appealing than always making stuff from scratch. The section of our cupboard that housed her spices was full of Lawry’s Seasoned salt and a few of the same old McCormick spice tins but there was this one jar that had actual whole leaves in it. I don’t remember her ever using it but I remember seeing it as I reached for the cinnamon sugar. It was decades before I found out just how interesting those leaves are!!
Bay Leaves, are just incredible! The leaves are picked and dried from a bay laurel, a type of evergreen that comes from the Mediterranean Sea although it is now gown all over the planet. In ancient Greece, students wore them as a crown when they finished their school- Baca- meaning branches and Lauris- laurel being the original beginning for baccalaureate. The Bay Laurel leaf was a symbol of victory and courage for both the Greeks and the Romans.
It’s important to note that Bay Laurel is the only plant I’m talking about here but there are several plants that often get interchanged for it due to their common name have “bay” such as California Bay, Indian Bay, or Mexican Bay. These are not the same plant and in fact aren’t even related to the Bay Laurel so don’t be confused. Most Bay Laurels are imported from Turkey or Greece. Look for darker color and those that are hand selected for a better and often fresher herb, as always I recommend organic.
In herbal medicine, BL has been studied for a number of things but it’s antioxidant properties are truly stand out. A group of Korean scientists were looking for the plant with the highest anti oxidant power and guess who came out on top, Yep!! Bay Laurel beat them all and even when tested against over the counter vitamins and supplements like Vit C and BHA and BHT, BL was victorious. In fact it even came up as an equal in resveratrol in red wine that part that makes people swear it’s a health food, so good news for those of us who don’t or can’t drink wine, we can have some Bay instead.
Since it’s the leader of the antioxidant world, it’s wonderful to add to your diet for overall health benefits but also to help with cancer, bacterial infections, SARS, and wound healing through out the body. Research has been done around the world on all of the above mentioned and it's always shown that Bay is a wonderful ally for them all.
One particular compound out of the 80 found in Bay Leaf stands out and it’s in a class called sesquiterpenes which are really keen at helping stabilize blood sugars. In a recent study, people with Type 2 diabetes took bay laurel supplement and in just 30 days, 26% saw consistent drops in blood sugar AND their LDL cholesterol dropped anywhere from 20-24% while their HDL cholesterol rose 20- 29%.
It’s used to help with ulcers and the inflammatory responses in the body such as arthritis, indigestion or minor aches and pains. It’s been compared to anti inflammatory medicines like ibuprofen and naproxen with no known side effects or counter indications.
Bay Laurel is a tasty plant and you can make teas from it, add a little cinnamon, mints or thyme. It’d be great with all three actually. In cooking it’s typically added to savory or fatty dishes. It pairs well with basil, thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, garlic or cumin. I personally never make a pot of soup with out several. Add it to pot roasts, any and all tomato based foods and seafood boils or mashed potatoes.
Wife, Mom, herbalist and friend. Feel free to change the order of the description to fit your needs, I do several times a day.