Keep diseases at bay with bay leaf

Health and Indian Bay leaf
Not to be confused with the more popular Mediterranean bay leaf, the Indian bay leaf originated in the south slopes of Himalayas and is mostly used as a spice in North India, especially in the famous Moghul cuisine. The Indian bay leaf belongs to the cinnamon family and is an important ingredient of the ‘garam masala’. Apart from its culinary benefits, the herb is used in Ayurvedic remedies for its hypoglycemic activities and other therapeutic properties.

Botanical name: Cinnamomum tamala
Family: Lauraceae
English name: Indian bay leaf
Hindi name: Tejpatta

Cinnamomum tamala is a moderate sized evergreen tree with dark brown or blackish rough bark.
Leaves: simple, opposite, sub opposite or alternate, ovate-lanceolate or ovate oblong, acuminate, glabrous.
Flowers: pale yellowish in axillary terminal, lax puberulous panicles.
Fruits: ovoid, fleshy, black drupe, supported by enlarged perianth tube.

Parts used as medicine: Leaves.

Ayurvedic recommendations

Indian bay leaf is bitter sweet in taste and is aromatic, thermogenic, diuretic, stimulant, carminative and tonic in nature. It is used in cardiac diseases, inflammations, helminthiasis, dyspepsia, strangury, colic, hypertension, diarrhea, ophthalmia, spleen and liver diseases, and vitiated conditions of Vata.

In India, the oil extracted from bay leaves is used in flavoring sweets and confectionery.

Therapeutic uses

1. In folk medicine, the powder made from leaves is recommended for cough, flatulence, and dyspepsia.
2. In Ayurveda, the leaf powder mixed with milk is used for fever, dyspepsia, and urinary diseases.
3. Indian traditional medicine uses the leaves and bark of bay leaf for treating rheumatism, colic, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
4. The herb is useful in regularizing blood circulation.
5. It is known to enhance fat metabolism and reduces ‘bad’ cholesterol and is, therefore, used in treating obesity.

Side effects

Bay leaf has relatively very few adverse effects. People with a known allergy to Laurel family plants or Aster family plants should avoid bay leaf. It may also cause contact dermatitis and asthma in some individuals. Pregnant and breast feeding women should avoid bay leaf due to lack of available scientific evidence.

Source: Dr K Gowthaman, Medical Director, rVita (rVita Ayurveda Centers)

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Image: miriam kato

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