Bay leaves that grow on the laurel tree or sweet bay, are commonly used as a seasoning agent in soups and stews to enhance their aroma and taste.
During childhood, we were told that bay leaves can be poisoning. That is why; most of us have come to believe that that it is absolutely essential to fish out these leaves from your bowl of stew and soup before serving or eating. However, are these beliefs based on facts? Let’s find out…
Are bay leaves poisonous?
Contrary to popular belief, dried or fresh bay leaves are safe to consume and not poisonous, although they may produce unpleasant side effects.
It is a common myth that has its roots in the confusion caused by the similarities in the appearance of bay leaves and some other leaves found in mountainous regions that are known to cause serious adverse effects.
So, you can say that it is safe to eat bay leaves, though with a word of caution. You still have to fish out bay leaves from your stew or soup before eating. The purpose of adding bay leaves to soups and stew is to let them simmer in order to release its flavors and aroma.
So, by the time your dish is cooked, the bay leaves have already served this purpose.
Yet, they would still be stiff and rigid making it difficult for you to chew or swallow them. Swallowing a piece of a bay leaf could cause scratches in your throat and digestive tract. In rare cases, it may pose a choking hazard. This is the reason why it is best to remove bay leaves from the dish before serving or eating.
What are the benefits of bay leaves?
Here are some reasons why you should include bay leaves in your foods.
Including bay leaves in your regular diet could be beneficial for controlling blood sugar levels and preventing the complications of diabetes. It can promote carbohydrate metabolism thus maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. 
Protects Heart Health
Bay leaves have the potential to improve the health and functions of your heart. It is believed to work by reducing cholesterol levels thereby preventing plaque formation in the blood vessel. This can ensure uninterrupted blood supply to the heart muscles thus reducing the risk of hypertension and heart attacks. 
Research studies have indicated that bay leaves possess anti-cancer properties. It would reduce the risk of cancer by acting as an antioxidant and reducing damage to healthy cells and tissues by free radicals. 
The unique combination of antioxidants and medicinal compounds in bay leaves such as phytonutrients, Linalool, catechins, and parthenolide could also protect the healthy organs against cancerous changes.
So, the next time you plan to prepare a healthy and refreshing soup or stew, do add a few bay leaves to make your dish healthier and more flavorful.
- Khan, Alam, Goher Zaman, and Richard A Anderson. “Bay Leaves Improve Glucose and Lipid Profile of People with Type 2 Diabetes.” Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition. the Society for Free Radical Research Japan, January 2009. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19177188.
- Khan A, Zaman G, Anderson RA. Bay leaves improve glucose and lipid profile of people with type 2 diabetes. J Clin Biochem Nutr. 2009;44(1):52–56. doi:10.3164/jcbn.08-188
- Hartanti, Lanny, Stefania Maureen Kasih Yonas, Josianne Jacqlyn Mustamu, Sumi Wijaya, Henry Kurnia Setiawan, and Lisa Soegianto. “Influence of Extraction Methods of Bay Leaves (Syzygium Polyanthum) on Antioxidant and HMG-CoA Reductase Inhibitory Activity.” Heliyon. Elsevier, April 9, 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31008409/.