If you are new to the area and ready to settle in, I hope and pray your new home has a Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis). If not “get you one” even a small sapling will produce all the bay leaves that you need year-round (it’s evergreen) for your new southern recipes.
This magnificent bush or tree, depending on how you prune it, probably originated from Asia Minor, but has long been assimilated to the southern states. Although areas that have hard freezes are discouraged about growing the bay, my bay has seen 10-degree temperatures and keeps on kicking. The Bay Laurel is also very adaptable as a potted plant that can be withdrawn indoors in the cool season. Remember even a small plant can have a huge harvest.
The most obvious use of bay leaves isThe in cooking. The awesome flavor imparted into stews, gumbos, meat, pickles, fish, and many other dishes make the bay a must for any chef. However, the bay leaf is not very digestible so please make sure to remove it from your recipes before serving. Many cooks form a ‘bouquet garni’, the French name for a packet of herbs tied together, which makes them easy to remove from a recipe after cooking.
The second most popular use of bay leaves is Bay Tea. A simple recipe calls for 3 or 4 bay leaves (preferably fresh) crushed into small pieces and added to boiling water, steep overnight, strain, and drink. This tea contains Vitamin A, Calcium, Vitamin C, Iron, Vitamin B-6, and Magnesium.
The Almighty Bay Laurel is given credit for many medicinal benefits.
Can’t sleep, try the Bay Leaf Tea recipe above. Used as a sleep aid and consumed near bedtime, the tea has a mildly sedative effect on the central nervous system, reducing anxiety, and promoting relaxation.
Looking to improve heart health? – Due to rutin and caffeic acid found in bay leaves they tend to keep cardiovascular problems away by strengthening the heart’s capillary walls and helping to lower bad cholesterol. They are also good to decrease heartburn problems.
Got Diabetes? Bay is known to improve insulin receptor function. Insulin receptors are located on the outer part of a cell. They allow blood to join or bind with the cell. When the cell and insulin bind together the cell takes in glucose and uses it for energy.
Improve digestion, many studies show bay leaf stimulates the healthy secretion of stomach acids that break down food.
They also have a reputation for improving the liver and kidney functions, as the linalool in bay leaves helps to boost immunity and blood sugar levels.
Have Asthma or other breathing issues? Try making a poultice of bay leaves and put it on your chest, inhaling the vapors will help clear breathing passages.
Dandruff or thinning hair? Steam some leaves in water and use them as a conditioner. This improves hair health, stimulates follicles, and eliminates dandruff.
The many antioxidants and organic compounds found in bay leaves such as phytonutrients called parthenolide, catechin, linalool help to protect the body from free radicals which cause healthy cells to mutate into cancerous cells.
Got joint pain or arthritis? Bay has anti-inflammatory properties, see what happens when you put this in your stew, yum and healthy.
Anxiety and stress from daily life, burn a few dried leaves in an incense bowl, great aromatherapy.
Too many insects in your garden? Bay leaves contain lauric acid which will help keep the bugs away. Just make a skin conditioner from crushed leaves and a little oil.
And if that isn’t enough, the tree makes gorgeous tiny white blooms in the spring! Easy to grow and not very demanding, the Bay laurel makes the perfect addition to any yard or garden.
As always, be safe and consult your physician before starting any bay leaf treatment for your ailments.