Bay leaves are a common aromatic added to dishes in almost every cuisine throughout the world. The bay leaf comes in many varieties around the world including the California bay leaf, Indian bay leaf, Indonesian bay leaf or Indonesian laurel, West Indian bay leaf, Mexican bay leaf and bay laurel. The dried bay leaves you find in your supermarket are usually from the Laurus nobilis found in Turkey and countries located in the Mediterranean region. I personally burn dried bay leaves at home once a month as the smells relaxes my muscles and eases tensions.
When purchasing, look for dried bay leaves that are free of cracks, tears and blemishes. For fresh leaves, look for bright green and waxy leaves that allow twisting without tearing.
California bay leaves are much stronger in flavour so use about half the amount that a recipe calls for.
Bay leaves were used by ancient Greek's where wreaths of laurel were made to crown victorious athletes, which inspired the famous crown for the winners of the Olympics.
Bay leaves have been traditionally added to meat dishes for their ability to convert triglycerides to monounsaturated fats, making for easier and healthier digestion.
In TICM, bay leaves benefit the Lungs and Stomach with a pungent and bitter flavour. Bay leaves work by soothing the Stomach and Lung, disperse and dissolving dampness and calming Spirit. More benefits of these leaves include helping digestion, bloating or that full feeling, cooling sore throat and coughs, dissolving mucous in the nasal passages and helping with asthma and congested chest. They can also help in the relief of heartburn, constipation and even anxiety. For anxiety, burn dried leaves.
The reason bay leaves are very useful in treating colds, flu and severe cough is due to the fact of the leaves are a rich source of vitamin C. To enjoy these benefits, simply boil the leaves and inhale the steam to get rid of phlegm and reduce the severity of cough.