Bay leaves, otherwise known as laurel leaves, are a household staple for many people when it comes to fighting pests such as mice and cockroaches. However, many don’t realize just how many other health benefits they possess, from relieving anxiety to fighting pain, improving respiratory conditions and even balancing blood sugar levels.
How The Scent of Bay Leaves Can Relieve Anxiety
There are three components within bay leaves that help to provide us with the stress relief that we seek: Pinene, Cineol, and Linalool. These three power components are the key ingredients that help to relieve our stress and keep us feeling good throughout the day.
There haven’t been any prominent human studies about pinene and anxiety, but several studies tested the effects of pinene in mice. In all studies, mice inhaled extracts that contained pinene and tests showed that the compound reduced feelings of anxiety. (1, 7, 8)
Researchers wanted to study the effects of cineol on patients who were undergoing coronary angiography. The patients were separated into two groups, one of which did aromatherapy with essential oils containing cineol and the other group inhaled plain distilled water.
The study found that the aromatherapy group had lower levels of anxiety and pain before and after the procedure compared to the non-aromatherapy group. The explanation behind the results is that inhaling cineol prevents the hormones that cause pain in your body from being released. (9)
Another study measured the effects of cineol on patients who were undergoing selective nerve root block. The patients were divided into four groups and all groups inhaled almond oil. One group inhaled almond oil with limonene, another with cineol, the third with eucalyptus oil, and the last one inhaled plain almond oil. The patients in the cineol group had lower anxiety before the operation than all the other groups. (2)
A study showed that rats who inhaled linalool had reduced anxiety levels. The researchers determined the stress reduction in rats by testing their blood cells and gene expression, which means that linalool is so powerful that it can affect blood cells and genes. (4)
How To Burn Bay Leaves
When you burn bay leaves never leave them unattended as they could be a fire hazard.
What you’ll need
- 2-3 dried bay leaves
- Ashtray, metal tray, or aluminum foil
- Matches or lighter
- Close your door and windows to keep the aroma in the room
- Light up the leaves and place them on the ashtray
- Let them burn completely and dispose of the ashes after they have cooled down
Keep in mind that the smoke may set your smoke alarm off so you might want to burn the leaves away from the smoke detector.
Additional Ways to Use Bay Leaves – Respiratory Conditions, Blood Sugar and More
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If you’re coming down with a cold or struggling with congestion, try making this simple bay leaf tea. (5)
What you’ll need
- 3-4 bay leaves
- 2 cups water
- Sweetener of your choice (optional)
- Add water and leaves in saucepan, cover, and boil for 3 minutes
- Remove saucepan from heat and let leaves steep for 4 minutes
- Strain the tea into your cup
Relieve Your Respiratory System
Bay leaves have the ability to reduce the production of interleukin, a small protein that is released by the immune system and can cause inflammation. (3) If you have a respiratory infection or a congested nose, you can boil bay leaves and inhale the steam through your nose. Avoid putting your face directly above the hot steam because it might burn you.
Cook With It
Bay leaves are an excellent spice with a discreet taste that can improve bland foods without attacking your palate. Remove the leaves after cooking and never eat them because although they make food tasty and aromatic, eating the actual leaf can be harmful to your health.
Heal Wounds and Ease Pain
Bay leaves are believed to assist in the healing of wounds and sores. In a study conducted on rats, animals that were treated with bay leaves healed faster, containing less inflammatory cells and increased collagen formation than rats who were not treated(11). The bay leaves, in this case, were collected, dried and ground into a paste before being administered to the wound.
Lower Blood Sugar and Cholesterol
There is a possibility that bay leaves can lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, as well as increase the good cholesterol. In a study where diabetic participants took ground bay leaves two times a day, their blood sugar levels and cholesterol levels dropped(12). It’s important to note that the during the course of the study the participants were also taking their regular medication to treat their diabetes.
Bay leaves have also been proven to have antifungal properties, and to assist in preventing Candida. A study that used the essential oil of bay leaves showed that bay laurel disrupts the adhesion of Candida to cell walls, reducing its ability to penetrate the membrane(13). Because of this, bay leaves are a fantastic addition to the diet in order to combat Candida.
Incorporating bay leaves into your food may be able to help prevent cancer, particularly colorectal cancer. In one study, in vitro tests were conducted using extracts of bay leaves against colon cancer cell growth. The results showed that bay leaves have the potential to protect against colorectal cancer in the early stages of detection(14).
Use It For Aromatherapy
If you prefer not to burn leaves, you can always use bay essential oil to relax. Wear essential oil diffuser jewelry and inhale the aroma whenever you need to or if you need help sleeping put a couple of drops on a towel and place it next to your pillow. You’ll wake up feeling well-rested and energized for the day ahead.
A study suggests that bay leaf essential oil is a good repellent for insects and it can also prevent insects from laying and hatching eggs. (6) You can add a couple of drops to a few pieces of cotton and place them in your cupboards. Alternatively, you can put bay leaves anywhere in your kitchen and even in your containers of flour and grains. The leaves’ odor doesn’t affect your food but can drive pests away.
Incorporating bay leaves into your diet can help you relax after a stressful day, and cure you of a number of other ailments. There are many ways in which you can harness this powerful spice, from burning the leaves to grinding them into a poultice for wounds. Whatever your preferred method, rest assured that you’ll be stress-free in no time as long as you have bay leaves in your life.
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(1) Kasuya, H., Okada, N., Kubohara, M., Satou, T., Masuo, Y., & Koike, K. (2015). Expression of BDNF and TH mRNA in the brain following inhaled administration of α-pinene. Phytotherapy Research, 29(1), 43-47.
(2) Kim, K. Y., Seo, H. J., Min, S. S., Park, M., & Seol, G. H. (2014). The effect of 1,8-cineole inhalation on preoperative anxiety: a randomized clinical trial. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2014(2014), 1-7.
(3) Mueller, M., Hobiger, S., & Jungbauer, A. (2010). Anti-inflammatory activity of extracts from fruits, herbs and spices. Food Chemistry, 122(4), 987-996.
(4) Nakamura, A., Fujiwara, S., Matsumoto, I., & Abe, K. (2009). Stress Repression in Restrained Rats by (R)-(−)-Linalool Inhalation and Gene Expression Profiling of Their Whole Blood Cells, 57 (12), 5480–5485.
(5) Nelson, C. (November 18, 2016). Bay Leaf Tea.
(6) Papachristos, D. & Stamopoulos, D. C. (2002). Repellent, toxic and reproduction inhibitory effects of essential oil vapours on Acanthoscelides obtectus (Say) (Coleoptera: Bruchidae). Journal of Stored Products Research, 38(2), 117-128.
(7) Raza, M., El-Hadiyah, T. M., & Al-Shabanah, O. A. (2008). Nigella sativa Seed Constituents and Anxiety Relief in Experimental Models. Journal of Herbs, Spices & Medicinal Plants, 12(1-2), 153-164.
(8) Satou, T., Kasuya, H., Maeda, K., & Koike, K. (2014). Daily inhalation of α-pinene in mice: effects on behavior and organ accumulation. Phytotherapy Research, 28(9), 1284-1287.
(9) Ziyaeifard, M., Zahedmehr, A., Ferasatkish, R., Faritous, Z., Alavi, M., Alebouyeh, M. R., Dehdashtian, E., Ziyaeifard, P., & Yousefi, Z. (2017). Effects of Lavender Oil Inhalation on Anxiety and Pain in Patients Undergoing Coronary Angiography. Iranian Heart Journal, 18(1), 44-50.
(11) Shivananda Nayak, Poorna Nalabothu, Steve Sandiford, Vidyasagar Bhogadi and Andrew Adogwa. (2006, Ap. 5). Evaluation of Wound Healing Activity of Allamanda Cathartica. L. and Laurus Nobilis L. Extracts on Rats. Retrieved from https://bmccomplementalternmed.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1472-6882-6-12
(12) Alam Khan, Goher Zaman, Richard A. Anderson. (2008, Dec. 27). Bay Leaves Improve Glucose and Lipid Profile of People with Type 2 Diabetes. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2613499/
(13) Peixoto LR, Rosalen PL, Ferreira GL, Freires IA, de Carvalho FG, Castellano LR, de Castro RD. (2017, Jan.). Antifungal Activity, Mode of Action and Anti-biofilm Effects of Laurus Nobilis Linnaeus Essential Oil Against Candida spp. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27771586
(14) Bennet L, Abeywardena M, Burnard S, Forsyth S, Head R, King K, Patten G, Watkins P, Williams R, Zabaras D, Lockett T. (2013). Molecular Size Fraction s of Bay Leaves (Laurus Nobilis) Exhibit Differentiated Regulation of Colorectal Cancer Cell Growth in Vitro. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23859043
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