Bay Leaf/Tej Patta: Nutrition, Health Benefits, Uses
One of the most infamous ingredients of everyone’s favourite dish – Biryani – Bay leaf is the heart of Indian cuisine. Most of the dishes do in some form make use of this ingredient. Bay leaf or tej patta, is the leaf of the Bay Laurel tree and is an aromatic herb that is used in cooking. It is native to Asia and is one of the oldest spices out there. They are a little pungent and bitter to taste if eaten as it is. This is a must-have in your spice box.
We are aware of how much you enjoy adding bay leaves to Indian meals like biryani, pulao, soup, and curry. They are also an essential component of many recipes because they give food fragrance. Although native to the Asia Minor region, this plant spread towards the Mediterranean is known as the laurel plant. Laurels as we know them from the ancient Greek and Roman times were associated as the symbols of honour and glory; just as we see today as being given to those people who have accomplished and achieved.
In today’s time, bay leaves are more frequently associated with the culinary world and found in a variety of dishes like soups, salads, gravies, sauces etc. There are predominantly two main types of bay leaves – the Turkish bay leaves and the California bay leaves. The Turkish Bay leaves have a lighter flavour compared to their counterparts and are more commonly found in dishes. It is fairly easy to differentiate between the two types – the Turkish leaves are short and fat whereas the California bay leaves are thin and long. Typically they are dried before using and sometimes even come in a powdered form. Fresh bay leaves are used too as the recipe calls for their use but since they have a more potent flavour, they are not used very frequently. Some other types are Greek bay leaf, Indonesian bay leaf, Indian bay leaf.
But did you also know the medicinal uses of bay leaves that existed for ages?Apart from serving as an ingredient, it also has other uses such as medicinal uses, to repel pests and they are even used to freshen the air. Burning bay leaves also provide a range of health benefits. Let’s read out all the deets on the benefits of burning bay leaves at home and the medicinal use of the bay leaf.
What are bay leaves? Spice or Seasoning?
This aromatic leaf is a common companion of other basic ingredients and can be used as a whole or dried, as well as a powder. So, the question is whether it is a spice or a seasoning? Generally, bay leaves are not eaten as it is because of their bitter flavour and are rather used in slow-cooked dishes that require a good simmer for the flavour to be more elaborate. So, they work as a herb. Grounded bay leaves are also used as a means of spice. Most commonly used in Middle Eastern and Indian dishes, it is a well-rounded ingredient that gives these dishes a seasoning.
If used as a herb, they are generally added into the braising liquid to simmer and then strained out before serving because otherwise, they are prone to cause injuries or discomfort as a result of their sharp edges. Ground bay leaf generally imparts more flavour in the dish and does not need to be extracted before serving. It is used in a variety of dishes like meats, stews, dishes with tomatoes as the main ingredients and so on. Cooking with bay leaves in a powdered form generally overpowers the other flavours of the dish and so most recipes call for using them as a whole. However, to use them as whole or as powdered is still pretty much up for debate.
Cooking and health benefits of bay leaves
Bay leaf herb or spice has several health benefits too. Using them in everyday meals can help boost one’s health. They contain very few calories per serving which aren’t exactly consumed since they are removed right before the dish is served. They are rich in Vitamins both A and C, iron, potassium, magnesium and calcium. It also has many anti-inflammatories as well as anti-bacterial properties that can help promote health. They help improve our digestion and possess properties that can help with an irritable bowel syndrome or an upset stomach.it has certain enzymes that help in breaking down our food faster and digesting them better. The Vitamin C content in bay leaves along with antifungal properties help those who have an issue of fungal infections. Bay leaves are a good source to maintain diabetes as they help regulate blood sugar levels especially in those patients who have type diabetes. Research has also shown that they inhibit the growth of certain cancer cells. It helps regulate your heart’s health by balancing out the cholesterol levels by increasing the good cholesterol levels and reducing the bad cholesterol levels. You can also read Spices that you can find in every Indian Household's masala box.
Chefs frequently add bay leaves to a meal as it cooks and then take the leaves out just before serving. While the flavour of the bay leaf may initially be sharp with notes of menthol, it will gradually soften as it cooks. A delicate flavour that is reminiscent of black tea, oregano, thyme, and other flavours emerges as the end product.
So, how should you incorporate bay leaves into your recipes? Bay leaf uses in cooking are immense. You can try incorporating them into any meal that is prepared slowly, such as dried beans, pasta sauce, stews, soups, and braises. Both soups made with meat and those made with vegetables can use them.
Health Benefits Of Bay Leaves
Helps in Managing Diabetes
Bay leaf uses are immense, however, consuming bay leaves in one or the other way is a great idea if you have diabetes or are at risk of getting it. It can help you control type 2 diabetes and reduce your blood sugar levels. Additionally, it can lower your harmful cholesterol levels. (1)
Aids in Improving Metabolism
By avoiding gastric damage and encouraging urination, bay leaves benefit the digestive system. Additionally, the organic compounds in bay leaves are very helpful in easing irritable bowel syndrome, soothing upset stomachs, and even facilitating simple digestion of food.
Stops Fungus Breakouts
Preventing fungus outbreaks is one of the well-known health benefits of bay leaves. It has been demonstrated that bay leaf has antifungal qualities that can help treat fungus-related conditions. These qualities, along with the vitamin C content, can shield the epidermis from irritants and infections of any kind.
Reduces anxiety and tension
Always anxious? If so, you should be aware that linalool, a substance found in bay leaves, can reduce tension and anxiety levels in the body. Additionally, calming natural properties of bay leaf benefits aid in relaxation and lower the risk of melancholy.
Maintains Heart Health
Rutin and caffeic acid, both present in bay leaves, have been shown to improve the function of the heart. These qualities can strengthen the capillary walls of the heart and aid in reducing levels of bad cholesterol. (3) It is one of the nicest tej patta benefits
Why burn a bay leaf in your house?
Apart from being used in cooking, bay leaves uses are extended to medicinal uses too. Just like burning incense, bay leaves were also burned in places of worship. Greeks and Romans associated bay leaves with the symbolism of protection, peace as well as wisdom and held a lot of value towards them.
There are several chemicals present in bay leaves that help in relieving stress as well as anxiety. When the smoke that comes from burning bay leaves is inhaled, it helps in calming the mind and the body and has been used for centuries as a way to relieve stress. It also helps in improving the immune system.
One other major benefit of burning bay leaves is that it helps in reducing one’s anxiety. One particular chemical present, linalool, seems to have a calming effect. Inhaling the scent of burning bay leaves triggers the receptors on the olfactory sites to signal your brain to regulate emotions.
The antioxidants present in bay leaves when inhaled also work to better your immune system and can help alleviate respiratory issues or colds while maintaining your body in an order of high-function. Just like ajwain which is infused in water that is used to steam, you can add a few bay leaves to your steamer or in hot water and inhale the vapours.
Benefits Of Burning Bay Leaves At Home
Linalool, a chemical that soothes the mind when inhaled, is one of several substances released into the smoke while burning bay leaves. The smoke from the burning of bay leaves induces a "psychedelic state," it doesn't make you fatigued. It is said to make you feel more at ease while also making you feel upbeat. Burning bay leaves benefits by eliminating anxiety-inducing emotions.
2. Boosts Immune System
It is believed that bay leaves' eugenol content gives them anti-oxidant qualities. Additionally, burnt bay leaves are a great supply of vitamins and minerals that are essential for a healthy body. Bay leaf burning benefits in strengthening your immune system, thus preventing you from catching a cold.
3. Good For the Respiratory Tract
The smoke produced from bay leaf burning, benefits in clearing out the clogged nose and and respiratory tracts. To get clear of mucus and phlegm, try using the tej patta smoke. You can also boil bay leaves after giving them a clean water bath to marinate in. The bay leaf water benefits as a humidifier or steriliser.
Fresh Bay Leaves vs. Dried Bay Leaves
Fresh bay leaves are commonly used in the kitchen. They act as a crucial spice in flavouring meat dishes, such as slow-cooked stews of mutton necks or shanks, and they impart a strong clove-like flavour. However, if used excessively, fresh leaves can overpower a meal and may need to be taken out of the recipe before cooking is complete.
Whereas in the case of dried bay leaves, a large portion of this vibrancy is gone once dried. Dried bay leaves add a more delicate flavour and are typically kept in a dish while it cooks before being removed just before serving. Since dried bay leaves lose their aroma over time, there is no alternative to fresh ones.
So, given these several benefits of bay leaves, you should definitely consider including them as a part of your daily diet and help boost not just your culinary flavours but also your health and well-being.
FAQS About Bay Leaf:
How long do bay leaves need to cook?
Bay leaves need to be simmered for atleast an hour to extract the best flavours.
Should bay leaves be washed before cooking?
It is good to wash bay leaves in running tap water to remove all dirt. Later on, place them on a dry cloth and wipe off water if any.
What are bay leaves and what do they taste like?
Bay leaves come from the Laurel tree and can be used in dry, whole or finely grind form. Regardless of how long they have been prepared, bay leaves have a strong flavour and are very stiff.
What is a fact about bay leaves?
Bay leaves are a common spice that is used in most Indian households and are delicately scented but have a bitter flavour. These leaves have 2 per cent essential oil content, with cineole serving as its main constituent.
What precautions should be taken with bay leaves?
Medicinal use of bay leaves does not cause any harm to your health. However, one must not consume bay leave as a whole as they are not easily digested by the digestive system.
Who should not eat bay leaves?
Tej patta medicinal uses are known to almost all, however, people with diabetes must avoid consuming it as it might alter their blood sugar levels.
How many times can you use a bay leaf?
One must not consume more than 2 bay leaves per day.