Botanical name: Cinnamomum tamala
Also known as Indian bay leaf, also known as tejpat, tejapatta, Malabar leaf, Indian bark, it is a tree within the Lauraceae family which is native to India. It can grow up to 20 m tall. It has aromatic leaves which are used for culinary and medicinal purposes. It is thought to have been one of the major sources of the medicinal plant leaves known in classic and medieval times as malabathrum (or malobathrum).
Pleasantly aromatic bay leaf or bay-laurel is one of the well-recognized culinary leaf-spices in use since the earliest times.
Bay leaf was prized highly by the Greeks and the Romans, who believed that the herb symbolizes wisdom, peace, and protection. The spice contains many important plant-derived chemical compounds, minerals, and vitamins that are essential for optimum health.
This spice has many volatile active components such as a-pinene, ß-pinene, myrcene, limonene, linalool, methyl chavicol, neral, a-terpineol, geranyl acetate, eugenol, and chavicol. These compounds are known to have been antiseptic, antioxidant, digestive, and thought to have anti-cancer properties.
Fresh leaves are a very rich source of vitamin-C; provide 46.5 mg or 77.5% of RDA per 100 g. Furthermore, its fresh leaves and herb parts are superb in folic acid; contain about 180 mg or 45% of daily-recommended values per 100 g. Folates are important in DNA synthesis, and when given during the peri-conception period, they can help prevent neural tube defects in the newborn baby.
Bay leaves are an excellent source of vitamin-A; contain 6185 IU or 206% of recommended daily levels per 100 g. Vitamin-A is a natural antioxidant and is essential for normal eyesight. It is also required for maintaining mucosa and skin health. Consumption of natural foods rich in vitamin A has been found to help to protect from lung and oral cavity cancers.
The spice is indeed an excellent source of many vitamins such as niacin, pyridoxine, pantothenic acid, and riboflavin. These B-complex groups of vitamins help in enzyme synthesis, nervous system function, and regulating body metabolism.
This leafy spice is an excellent source of minerals like copper, potassium, calcium, manganese, iron, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Potassium is an important component of cell and body fluids that helps control heart rate and blood pressure. Manganese and copper are used by the body as co-factors for the antioxidant enzyme, superoxide dismutase. Iron is essential for red blood cell production and as a co-factor for cytochrome oxidase enzymes.
Medicinally, the benefits of the bay leaf and its berries are plentiful. It has astringent, diuretic, and appetite stimulant properties.
Essential oil from the bay leaves contains mostly cineol (50%); furthermore, eugenol, chavicol, acetyl eugenol, methyl eugenol, a- and ß-pinene, phellandrene, linalool, geraniol, and terpineol are also found.
Infusions of herb parts are reputed to soothe stomach ulcers and help relieve flatulence and colic pain.