8 Reasons Why Burning Bay Leaves May Be Good For Your Health
Bay leaves are the main ingredient in many stews, sauces, and soups. But, in addition to flavoring many dishes, bay leaves have been used in traditional healthcare practices for centuries.
Bay leaves have various health benefits, from treating wounds and reducing bloating to helping relieve symptoms of anxiety and treating arthritis. Although not all of its health benefits are backed by science, adding a bay leaf to your diet can benefit your health.
So, in this article, we’re going to explain what bay leaf is, the possible health benefits of burning bay leaf, how you can safely burn the leaf, what superstitions this practice is riddled with, and what side effects bay leaf may cause. So, without further ado, let’s dive right into it.
What Are Bay Leaves?
Bay leaves are aromatic leaves that grow on several plants belonging to the Lauraceae family. Due to its characteristic and robust aroma, bay leaf is commonly used to flavor meat and rice dishes, stews, and soups. However, since the leaf is hard to digest, it is taken out from plates before they’re served.
Bay leaves can be bought fresh, powdered, or dried.
There are several varieties of bay leaf. The most commonly used type in cooking is the Turkish bay leaf, which comes from the Laurus nobilis tree. Other types of bay leaves include:
- Indian bay leaf comes from the Cinnamomum Tamala tree
- Mexican bay leaf, grows on the Litsea glaucescens tree
- Indonesian bay leaf comes from the Syzygium polyanthum tree
- California bay leaf, grows on the Umbellularia californica tree
- West Indian bay leaf comes from the Pimenta Racemosa tree
In traditional healthcare practices, bay leaves have had various uses, such as bay leaf essential oil, bay leaf tea, poultices of bay leaves, dried bay leaves, crumbled bay leaves, and last but not least, burned bay leaves.
Since there is no specific research related to burning bay leaves, in this article, we will discuss the potential health benefits of burning bay leaves based on studies that have researched bay leaf extract or bay leaf essential oil.
8 Potential Health Benefits Of Burning Bay Leaves
1. It Relieves Symptoms of Anxiety
Burning bay leaves is believed to help ease anxiety symptoms, and this effect can probably be attributed to its compound linalool. Linalool is monoterpene alcohol which is also present in lavender and mint.
According to the natural healing treatment aromatherapy, inhaling aroma essential oil or certain fragrances causes smell receptors in the nose to interact with the areas of the brain responsible for regulating emotions.
Inhaling the smoke of burning bay leaves for around ten minutes can help calm your mind and body.
Research shows that inhaling linalool from essential oils appears to have an anxiolytic and relaxing effect.
One animal study examined how inhaled linalool affects anxiety, aggressive behavior, and social interaction in mice. In addition to finding that inhaling this compound reduced aggressiveness and improved social interaction, the study also found that inhaled linalool had anxiolytic effects, which means that inhaling linalool from essential oils that are high in it can help reduce symptoms of anxiety and promote relaxation (1).
Then, another animal study carried out in 2016 investigated antidepressant, anxiolytic, and anti-stress properties of bay leave that grow on the Cinnamomum Tamala tree in rats. The study found that Cinnamomum Tamala bay leaves at 400 mg/kg dose had an antidepressant effect similar to the antidepressant imipramine. They also had anxiolytic activity comparable to the medicine lorazepam, which treats anxiety disorders. And they had anti-stress properties equivalent to the medicinal plant Withania somnifera (2).
An important note:
The two studies mentioned above didn’t practice burning bay leaves for their research purposes. Inhaling linalool from bay leaves can have a different effect from inhaling this compound from essential oils. Additionally, linalool found in essential oils is generally in a highly concentrated form. It may have a higher effectiveness than when the same compound is found in other states.
It is also worth mentioning that lavender contains more linalool than bay leaves. And although it has a considerable amount of linalool, lavender does not always reduce anxiety symptoms. For example, research performed in 2009 has found that lavender can alleviate anxiety symptoms in people with low anxiety. Still, it may not affect people who have severe anxiety disorders. (3).
2. It May Improve Digestion
Bay leaf has been used to treat stomach problems and gastric diseases in traditional medicine in various countries.
One animal study has indicated that bay leaf can help improve the gastrointestinal system by reducing and protecting against gastric damage (4).
Specific bioactive compounds in bay leaf also contain enzymes that may effectively prevent kidney stones, calm an upset stomach, and reduce bloating.
Additionally, one study showed that bay laurel extract had inhibitory effects against Jack bean urease. Plants’ compounds that have an inhibitory effect against urease could help treat gastritis and ulcer caused by Helicobacter pylori infection (5).
3. It Can Have Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Properties
Bay leaves, and bay leaf essential oil, contain antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties. These properties are attributed to the antioxidants, polyphenols, tannins, alkaloids, flavonoids, and other compounds, such as linalool, eucalyptol, sabinene, and cineole, which are all present in the bay leaf.
One study carried out in 2016 tested antioxidant and antibacterial effects of essential oils from Laurus nobilis (bay laurel), rose-scented geranium, and white wormwood against E. coli and Salmonella typhimurium.
The results indicated that the essential oil from bay laurel had the most antioxidant activities (6).
4. It May Inhibit Candida
One study found that bay laurel essential oil showed antifungal effects against Candida. The essential oil obstructed Candida albicans adhesion and interfered with biofilm formation (7).
5. It May Be Helpful in Fighting Cancer
One 2013 study has found bay laurel to be a potential natural, effective, and safe alternative to conventional breast cancer treatment (8).
Then, another in vitro study found that processed bay leaf products showed the potential to inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells, indicating that it might play an essential role in protecting against colorectal cancer in the early phases of detection (9).
6. It May Help Reduce Blood Sugar Levels
One study aimed to identify whether bay leaves can play a role in preventing or treating type 2 diabetes. For this purpose, 40 people with this condition were included in the study, and they were asked to consume ground bay leaves a day for 30 days.
The results showed that bay leaves decreased serum glucose, LDL and total cholesterol, and triglycerides, raising HDL cholesterol levels in people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
However, the study suggested that more research is needed to back these results (10).
7. It May Help Heal Wounds
One animal study investigated the healing effect of bay leaf extract on wounds in rats. The results showed that this extract had the potential to treat wounds (11).
However, more research is needed to determine whether bay leaf extract has the same effect in humans.
8. It May Help Improve the Immune System
Bay leaves contain a significant amount of vitamin C, vitamin B6, and vitamin A, which are all known to strengthen the immune system.
In addition, in folk medicine, bay leaf has been used for:
- Gastrointestinal conditions
*Bay leaves are high in antioxidants, polyphenols, and vitamins. A tablespoon of crumbled bay leaves have approximately:
- 1 gram protein
- 5 gram fiber
- 3 grams carbohydrates
- 1 gram fat
- 108 international units vitamin A
- 8 milligram iron
- 1 milligram manganese
- 5 calories
How To Burn Bay Leaves At Home
First things first, for safety reasons, before you begin burning dry bay leaves at home, put a glass of water close to you.
Step 1: Gather dry bay leaves as burning fresh leaves requires more time. You can also buy bay leaves in your local grocery store.
Step 2: Put the leaves in a fireproof bowl. It is best to use a glass, jar, ashtray, or ceramic dish. To make sure your dish stays clean and to collect ash more quickly, put aluminum foil inside the dish.
Step 3: Light one leaf only. Use a lighter or match to light one bay leaf and when the flame sparks, put it out. The goal is to let the leaves smolder, not burn them completely.
Step 4: Put the leaves in the dish. Ensure that you stay close to the burning leaf and that children or pets don’t come anywhere near it.
Step 5: Open a window to prevent your smoke alarm from activating. However, do not put the dish of burning bay leaves close to the window.
Step 6: Let the leaves smoke for around 15 minutes and breathe deeply and slowly as the smoke spreads in the room.
Step 7: Let the dish cool and carefully throw it away.
Note: Burning bay leaves is excellent for relieving symptoms of anxiety and stress.
What Happens When You Burn Bay Leaves?
1. Burning bay leaves relieves stress and anxiety.
People have burnt bay leaves to reduce symptoms of anxiety and stress for a long time. Inhaling the smoke of burning bay leaves calms your mind and body, relieves tension, and relaxes you.
2. Burning bay leaves during mediation helps you stay more focused.
People who practice meditation often report that burning bay leaves while meditating improves their mindfulness and helps them focus on their breathing more easily.
3. Burning bay leaves help loosen mucus and phlegm in the respiratory tract.
The smoke of burning bay leaves helps loosen thick mucus, thereby helping you cough it out easily. In addition to burning the leaves, you can soak them in water and boil them to form a vapor you can inhale.
You can also apply bay leaf essential oil to your chest to get rid of mucus more efficiently and ease symptoms of asthma and allergies.
4. Burning bay leaves keeps you alert.
As we already said, burning bay leaves helps reduce stress and anxiety, but it also increases alertness by making your mind clearer and making you feel energized, relaxed, and fresh.
Is Burning Bay Leaves Riddled With Superstition?
In addition to deriving health benefits from burning bay leaves, some people believe that this practice has magical properties.
Burning bay leaves for money is an old ritual in which one has to know the amount of money which they want this ritual to manifest and write that number on a bay leaf and then burn it.
For example, if you want the bay leaves to manifest the amount of money that you want to have in your bank account or that you need to pay a bill or buy something, you need to write that particular number on your bay leaf. And while the leaf is burning, you’re supposed to focus on the amount you wrote and imagine what joy it’ll bring you when it manifests into your life.
You can also write words, such as wealth, prosperity, luxury, success, or abundance, on the bay leaves and while they’re burning, you should visualize what these things mean to you and how your life will change as soon as the leaves manifest them.
Burning bay leaves for love is another ritual that brings love into one’s life. To perform this ritual, you need to write your name and the name of the person you love on a bay leaf and burn it. While the leaf is burning, you should think about your intention.
Or, if you’re single, you can sprinkle powdered bay leaves around your bed to attract love.
This ritual is also thought to have the power to strengthen and protect the love inside of your home. To achieve this, all you need to do is sprinkle a small number of powdered bay leaves over a red candle and light it.
And one more ritual associated with bay leaves is keeping a bay leaf under your pillow. This ritual is thought to have many magical properties. For example, you should write your name and your partner’s name on a bay leaf and put it under your pillow to protect your relationship.
Or, you can write a thought that’s bothering you or a question on a bay leaf and after you put it under your pillow, you’ll dream about the possible ways you can handle whatever is bothering you or about your question being answered.
This ritual is also thought to attract positive energy and protect you from nightmares while you’re sleeping.
Keeping a bay leaf under your pillow is also thought to bring wisdom, luck, success, and victory.
Burning Bay Leaves For Spiritual Benefits
Yes, you read that right. In ancient times, people burned bay leaves to break evil curses, remove negative energy from their homes, ward off evil spirits, and communicate their prayers and wishes to the gods.
There are no studies that confirm that burning bay leaves offers spiritual benefits. However, today many people burn the leaves to cleanse their homes of negative energy.
Risks And Side Effects Of Bay Leaves
Bay leaves don’t usually cause side effects. However, you should be careful about using bay leaves if you can relate to the scenarios presented below:
- You are allergic to bay leaves. If you have ever experienced a swollen tongue or rash while eating foods containing bay leaves, do not use bay leaf essential oil and do not burn bay leaves.
- You have respiratory problems. Breathing in the smoke of burning bay leaves may irritate your lungs. If you want to use bay leaves for medicinal purposes, you might want to try using bay leaf essential oil.
- You have diabetes. These leaves can have an impact on your blood sugar levels. So, before using bay leaves, please consult your doctor to ensure they won’t cause you additional health problems.
- You are breastfeeding, or you are pregnant. Because the health benefits of burning bay leaves have not been proven by science yet, it is best to avoid this practice to be on the safe side.
- You are going to have surgery soon. Do not consume and burn bay leaves and don’t use bay leaf essential oil two weeks prior to having surgery as they may interfere with the function of your brain, particularly when used in combination with the anesthesia given during surgery.
- Bay leaves and bay leaf essential oil have various health benefits.
- The potential health benefits of burning bay leaves include: it may reduce anxiety, improve digestion, prevent candida, lower blood sugar levels, have antioxidant and antimicrobial effects, and help fight cancer, heal wounds, and improve the immune system.
- Burning bay leaves is an easy process. All you need for this is a fireproof bowl, match or lighter, and dry bay leaves.
- Burning bay leaves alleviates symptoms of stress and anxiety, helps you stay focused while meditating, helps loosen mucus in your respiratory tract, and keeps you alert.
- Burning bay leaves is riddled with superstition. The most common rituals include Burning bay leaves for money, love, and spiritual benefits and keeping a bay leaf under your pillow.
- Using and burning bay leaves are generally safe for most people. However, in some people with specific health conditions, bay leaves may cause side effects.