Bay leaf is a very strong and aromatic spice and is from the tree of the bay laurel. It is also used as a culinary herb because it can be classified as either a herb or a spice. It is said to be a native to the Mediterranean where it has adapted so well to the climate, even though it is originally indigenous to Asia. It is scientifically known as "lauraceae/laurus nobilis".
A little history about this spice:
It was very important in Greek and Roman cultures. It was used as a symbol of glory and wisdom in Rome where it was used to make a wreath to be worn as a crown for heroes and Emperors. Apollo, a Greek god, is said to have used bay leaves to cover the roof of his temple for the protection against witchcraft, diseases and lightning.
The leaves were also used to make laurel garlands to honour successful athletes, scientists and artists. Even today it is still used to honour athletes that are successful at the Olympic games.
Often described as the bitter-sweet spice, the dried leaves of the bay laurel keep its flavour for very long, say up to two years. It is an important ingredient in bouquet garnis (a bundle of spices and herbs tied together and is mainly used in soups, stews and stocks), and is suppose to be removed from the dish before serving.
When this spice is cooked for long the more flavour is extracted. You will notice that braised, stewed, soups and risottos will get more flavour when bay leaf is added during cooking these dishes because of their long cooking process.
Some Health Benefits and Other Uses of the Bay Leaf
- It is a uterine stimulant and helps with amenorrhea (an absence of menstruation).
- It has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal and antioxidant properties which is good in treating sore throat, bladder problems, infections and rheumatism.
- Bay leaves contain parthenolides (a natural medicine that comes from some plants
and is used in tablets and tinctures for the relief of migraine), thus making it beneficial for the relief of migraine.
- Rubbing the oil made from bay leaves on joints which are affected by arthritis is
also beneficial in reducing pain.
- Drinking a cup of bay leaves tea improve digestion, helps expel gas, helps with
stomach pains, relieves gastric ulcers and also boost your appetite.
- It is used to make bay rum.
- It was used in the Middle Ages to induce abortions.
- Also commonly used as a pickling spice.
It is not recommended that pregnant or nursing mothers intake bay leaf, one of the main reason is that it is a uterine stimulant and can be classified as an abortifacient (a substance that induces abortion or interferes with pregnancy). Also, check our list of spices page for many other great spices.