Smelling herbal essential oils or incense can relax and de-stress you, but burning bay leaves can also reduce feelings of anxiety. Bay leaves owe their health benefits to have three compounds: pinene, cineol, and linalool. These compounds have anti-anxiety properties that can help you relax when you burn and inhale their aroma.
How Bay Leaves Relieve Anxiety
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 in 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 Safely
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 it.
More Bay Leaves Uses
Instead of burning leaves, you could boil them and make tea. Here is a simple recipe for 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Burning bay leaves can help you relax after a stressful day. You can also reap the benefits of this versatile herb by putting it in your food and drink or boiling it for respiratory relief, and using it to get rid of pests.
(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.