Yes, Bay Leaf is Paleo!
The Aromatic Bay Leaf
Bay leaf or Laurus nobilis is a pleasantly aromatic leaf and is one of the most commonly used culinary herbs since the early times. It is a member of the Lauraceae family and originated from Asia Minor where it spread to the Mediterranean region.
Not usually eaten, bay leaf has a strong aroma with a sharp, bitter taste. Like other herbs and spices, the fragrance of bay leaf is more obvious than its taste. Bay leaf is almond-shaped and has a thick, feathery texture and glossy green color. It has yellow or greenish white, star shaped flowers that appear in clusters.
Bay leaf can be used both in fresh and dried form but the dried ones have a stronger flavor. It gives most recipes a pleasing, sweet aroma. It is a staple ingredient in sauces, stews, soups and as stuffing in meats. Bay leaf is sometimes ground into powder and used as spice.
Uses of Bay Leaf
The bay leaf has been used in many different ways. Throughout history, not only it was used for culinary dishes, but it also served well as a medicinal plant.
In culinary, bay leaf is a good addition to meat and vegetable dishes because of its flavor and aroma. It is an essential in sauces like bread sauce, tomato sauce and béchamel. Bay leaf has been used as ingredient in bouquet garni together with other herbs such as thyme, sage, basil and celery. The dried form of bay leaf is brewed into herbal tea.
Bay leaf has medicinal uses too. It has been used as astringent, appetite stimulant, diuretic and diaphoretic (a substance that promotes sweating) and pain reliever. It is rich in eugenol, a natural anesthetic substance known to alleviate pain including headaches and migraines. This herb is also used to soothe stomach ulcers and aid in relieving flatulence. The essential oils found in bay leaf have been used as treatment for arthritis, IBS, muscle pains, bronchitis and flu.
Nutrition Profile and Health Benefits of Bay Leaf
Bay leaf has many different varieties but the true bay leaf with scientific name Laurus nobilis is the most nutrient-rich variety. It is rich in vitamins A, B6, C and minerals calcium, iron, manganese and dietary fiber. Bay leaf is also a good source of copper, potassium, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Bay leaf contains essential oils that provide remarkable health benefits.
Bay leaf contains various phytonutrients including caffeic acids, catechins, eugenol, linalool, parthenolide and quercetin which help protect the body from the harmful effects of free radicals. According to a recent study, the extract of bay leaf may help in killing cancer cells by programming cell death.
The organic compounds found in bay leaf are effective in relieving upset stomachs, IBS and reduces symptoms of Celiac’s disease. Bay leaf contains enzymes that help facilitate digestion and nutrient absorption. Traditionally used as diuretic, bay leaf can decrease toxicity in the body.
The essential oils in bay leaf can help alleviate respiratory conditions like bronchitis. The vapors of bay leaf can loosen up phlegm and can therefore eliminate bacteria trapped in the respiratory tracts.
Like other herbs, bay leaf has anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to its phytonutrient called parthenolide. It has an ability to reduce inflammation and irritation especially in sore joints and muscle pains.
Bay leaf contains caffeic acid, rutin and salicylates which are compounds that promote heart health and lower the risk of cardiovascular illnesses such as stroke and heart attack. Caffeic acid reduces and eliminates bad cholesterol levels while rutin strengthens the heart’s capillary walls.
Blood Sugar Levels
Based on 2009 study in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition, bay leaf was found to have direct effects on blood sugar levels. Bay leaf contains polyphenols that can lower and regulate glucose levels especially on people with diabetes.
Stress and Anxiety
Linalool, a compound found in bay leaf, thyme and basil has been used for calming and aromatherapy. It lowers the levels of stress hormones in the body which can prevent the its dangerous effects in the long run.
Antioxidant and Immune System Health
Bay leaf is rich in vitamins A and C which are natural, powerful antioxidants. Vitamin C can eliminate harmful free radicals in the body. It is also an immune system booster and has wound healing and anti-viral effects. Vitamin A on the other hand is good for eye sight and skin health. Foods rich in Vitamin A helps protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
Caution on Bay Leaf
Bay leaf has many varieties and not all of them are suitable for culinary purposes. Some bay leaves specifically cherry laurel and mountain laurel are toxic. It can damage the central nervous system and can cause respiratory problems. While these bay leaves are not sold as herbs in stores, be mindful of the bay leaf you are purchasing and make sure it is the bay laurel used for cooking.
Other Names for Bay Leaf
What Experts Say About Bay Leaf
“Bay leaf is rich in eugenol, a natural anesthetic that alleviates pain.” – Mark Sisson
All you ever wanted to know about Bay Leaf and Paleo
Mark’s Daily Apple. Top 10 Favorite Herbs and Spices
Primal Pal. 10 Awesome Herbs and Spices to Add Flavor to Your Paleo Recipes
The Paleo Mom. Bay Leaves
Nutrition and You. Bay Leaf Nutrition Facts
Organic Facts. Health Benefits of Bay Leaves
Paleo Porn. Is Bay Leaf Paleo?
EBSCO Host Connection. Evaluation of the Volatile Oil Composition and Antiproliferative Activity of Laurus nobilis L. (Lauraceae) on Breast Cancer Cell Line Models
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