The first couple of years when I was growing bay leaves I didn’t know much about the many bay leaf benefits. I used the leaves for culinary use only. As my mom taught me, I put a few bay leaves into my grain bins to keep insects from hatching. Bay flavored my soups and stews.
When I was studying to get my herbalist certification, bay laurel was one of the herbs I chose for clinical research. That research led me to learn a whole array of bay leaf benefits. I started with bay leaf tea, using fresh, chopped leaves to infuse in boiling water. Bay leaves contain vitamins and minerals, so I knew it would be a healthy drink.
I made a fragrant and healing bay leaf oil for my skin and hair. What I learned during the process is that bay contains powerful antioxidant and antibacterial qualities.
In tests, bay essential oil showed both antimicrobial and antioxidant activities on fresh produce against Salmonella and E coli.
On top of all those qualities, bay contains wound-healing benefits. Bay is used in spa products and soaps. During a foray into the outdoor markets in Turkey, my girlfriend spied bars of green soap made with bay. She brought me back a bar and it was so nourishing for my skin. Now I want to learn how to make green soap! This is a healing soap so gentle it can be used on babies.
Now that I’ve whetted your appetite, so to speak, let’s explore some of the ways to use bay, starting with the healing aspects of bay on the body.
Healing Bay Oil
This recipe may be doubled or tripled. Make sure your bay leaves are clean and dry so that no mold forms during the infusion process.
- 1 cup high-quality oil, such as cold pressed, estate bottled, extra virgin olive oil or almond oil
- 2 heaping tablespoons of chopped fresh bay leaves
- 1 sterilized glass jar with lid
- Leaves need to be pounded or ground until they start releasing their oil.
- Put pounded or ground bay leaves in a jar. Pour oil over and seal.
- Let infuse in a cool, dry place for two weeks.
- Strain leaves out and add two more heaping tablespoons of chopped fresh bay leaves that have been pounded or ground.
- Let infuse in a cool, dry place for another two weeks.
- Strain and store in a cool, dry place for up six months.
If any watery substance forms in the bottom of the jar, discard it while straining, otherwise, it may form mold.
Benefits of Bay Oil
- Rub on sore muscles for soothing relief and smooth skin.
- Before shampooing hair, rub a little oil into scalp to help remove dandruff and for shiny hair.
- Rub a few drops on your temples to relieve a tension headache.
- Gently rub a little oil on a cleaned scrape or cut.
- Substitute this oil in recipes for melt and pour soap
Bay Leaf Tea
The warming aroma of this tea, while it’s brewing, is floral with a slight menthol note.
- 3 fresh bay leaves, chopped
- 8 oz. water
- Desired sweetener
- Pour boiling water over leaves in a teapot. Let infuse until color changes to a light gold-green, about six to eight minutes.
- Strain and sweeten as desired.
Bay Leaf Benefits in Tea
- Helps calm a fluttery tummy.
- Reduces congestion.
- Good for your cardiovascular system.
- Helps reduce anxiety and tension.
Culinary Uses for Bay
Bay is an important culinary herb. Since bay is a salt buster and rounds out the flavor of a dish, you’ll be able to use less salt but still retain flavor. My herbes de Provence recipe includes bay leaves. This blend can turn ordinary pork tenderloin roast into company fare.
Add a bay leaf to homemade or jarred pasta sauce for a boost of flavor and nutrients. Remove leaf before serving.
Bouquet garni sounds so fancy yet it’s so simple. It’s a wonderful addition to stocks, soups, and sauces.
- 1 bay leaf, fresh or dried
- 3 sprigs fresh parsley
- A few small sprigs fresh or dried thyme
- Tie into a bundle.
- Add at beginning of cooking time. Remove before serving.
Potatoes with Bay
Turn a plain baked potato into a gastronomic delight. Slice a baking or sweet potato almost in half horizontally. Insert a couple of bay leaves. Close the potato up. Roll in olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast in a 425-degree oven until tender, about 45 minutes. Remove bay leaves. Yum!
Fresh or Dry – Which is Better?
I use fresh bay leaves but will tell you the flavor is more bitter than dried leaves. So you use what you like.
Always remove bay leaves after cooking!
When adding bay leaves to dishes, use whole bay leaves so that you can remove them easily. They don’t get soft enough in the cooking process to eat and can stick in the throat or cause digestive or tummy troubles with their sharp edges.
Do you use bay in cooking? Have you tried using bay medicinally?