Bay leaf is a fragrant herb commonly used in Mediterranean dishes to add taste and a floral flavor. However, the bay leaf has many surprising uses other than adding flavor. Several health benefits have been scientifically investigated such as its role in lowering blood glucose and LDL cholesterol, increasing HDL cholesterol levels, and improved insulin sensitivity.
Scientifically known as Laurus nobilis and bay laurel and originating from the Laurel tree, bay leaves have exhibited positive effects on insulin function. It was first identified that bay leaves play a role in glucose metabolism in 1990 at the US Department of Agriculture in Maryland. It was found that bay leaves, along with other spices, significantly increased insulin activity, demonstrating a possible role in glucose metabolism.
It has been suggested that spices, such as bay leaf, may be beneficial for those suffering from diabetes or cardiovascular disease. More recent studies have identified a key role for the bay leaf plant in the prevention and alleviation of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Although the causes for these conditions are multifactorial, it is certain that diet has an effect on the incidence and severity of them.
A study conducted in 2009 at the Agricultural University Peshawar in Pakistan was designed to evaluate the effect of bay leaves on various clinical conditions associated with type 2 diabetes and heart disease in patients who had type 2 diabetes. After 30 days of 1-3 grams of bay leaves per day, participants showed a 21-26% decrease in blood glucose, a 21-24% decrease in total cholesterol, a 32-40% decrease in LDL (bad) cholesterol, and a 19-29% increase in HDL (good) cholesterol levels. These results were significant in identifying the role bay leaf has in improving blood cholesterol to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and improving blood glucose levels to prevent and/or improve current diabetic conditions.
When consumed in larger amounts, eating bay leaves can provide necessary nutrients that offer positive health benefits. They are a good source of folic acid, iron, and vitamin B6, nutrients that play an important role in the production of red blood cells and in metabolism. Bay leaves also contain vitamin A, a nutrient necessary for maintenance of normal vision, a healthy immune system, and cell growth.
Something as simple as adding a tasty herb to your everyday cooking will allow you to take small measures to improve your health and prevent harmful conditions, such as cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes. There are many bay leaf uses, including its addition to foods such as beef, poultry, soup, salads, or sauces.
Talking to an expert could be beneficial in determining if a larger bay leaf supplement or bay oil is right for you. Taking a gram or two of bay leaves per day is a simplistic way that you can lower your cholesterol and blood glucose levels. As there has been no proven harm in doing so, there should be nothing stopping you from improving such an important part of your health.
Khan A, Bryden NA, Polansky MM, Anderson RA. Insulin potentiating factor and chromium content of selected foods and spices. Biol Trace Elem Res. 1990;24(3):183-8.
Khan A, Zaman G, Anderson RA. Bay Leaves Improve Glucose and Lipid Profile of People with Type 2 Diabetes. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2009;44(1):52-56.
Neifeld R. Nutritious & Delicious Bay Leaf. New York- Presbyterian [cited 2015 Jan 16]. Available from: http://nyp.org/nutrition/resources/herb-bayleaf.html
Helpful Peer-Reviewed Medical Articles:
Díaz-Maroto, M. C., Pérez-Coello, M. S., & Cabezudo, M. D. (2002). Effect of drying method on the volatiles in bay leaf (Laurus nobilis L.). Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 50(16), 4520-4524.
Dadalioglu, I., & Evrendilek, G. A. (2004). Chemical compositions and antibacterial effects of essential oils of Turkish oregano (Origanum minutiflorum), bay laurel (Laurus nobilis), Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas L.), and fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) on common foodborne pathogens. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 52(26), 8255-8260.
Sellami, I. H., Wannes, W. A., Bettaieb, I., Berrima, S., Chahed, T., Marzouk, B., & Limam, F. (2011). Qualitative and quantitative changes in the essential oil of Laurus nobilis L. leaves as affected by different drying methods. Food Chemistry, 126(2), 691-697.
Lu, M., Yuan, B., Zeng, M., & Chen, J. (2011). Antioxidant capacity and major phenolic compounds of spices commonly consumed in China. Food Research International, 44(2), 530-536.