The Bay Leaf and Jollof Rice

October 28, 2015 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Articles of the Day

The aroma of Kemi’s jollof rice can be perceived several metres away in the hostel. All her room mates suddenly become nice to her when she is about to cook her “wonder jollof rice”. What is her secret ingredient?

I’m sure you might have seen a certain leaf in your plate of jollof rice when you are served at a party, and wondered what it was doing there. Well, that leaf is called bay leaf and it has many other benefits apart from the rich aroma it brings to your cooking.

What is Bay Leaf?

Bay leaves are produced by the bay plant, a tall conical evergreen growing more than 30 feet tall. Bay leaves usually give off a sweet aroma when broken and added to dishes especially when slightly wilted and dry.

What Are The Types Of Bay Leaves?

Several leaves are referred to as bay leaf and can be consumed. These include the Bay Laurel often called the true bay leaf which possesses medicinal benefits, California bay leaf, Indian bay leaf, Indonesian bay leaf and West Indian bay leaf. It should be noted that the mountain laurel and cherry laurel leaves which look like any regular bay leaf are poisonous to man and can cause severe disease. (So be careful not to pick just any leaf that look like bay leaf).

What Are The Medicinal Benefits Of Bay Leaves?

In the olden days, bay leaves were eaten fresh or dried and infused into warm water to be taken internally for a variety of ailments. The resulting infusion was a diuretic, increasing urination to remove excess water from the body, and an emetic, to induce vomiting. Bay leaf also has astringent properties, which could help stop secretions due to infection and help reduce excessive sweating brought on by illness. None of these traditional uses have been backed up by modern science, as research is still being carried out on them. The many benefits of bay leaf include:

Rich source of Vitamin A
Rich source of Vitamin C
Rich source of folic acid
Good source of vitamin B complex
Rich source of minerals such as copper, manganese, calcium, potassium, iron, zinc
Antioxidant property: this reduces the damage to body organs and slows down aging. Can also help prevent cancers.
Antiseptic property: can be used to clean wounds to prevent infections.
Can stimulate appetite.
Reduce cholesterol level

How Can Bay Leaves Be Consumed?

For culinary use, bay leaves are best used dry. The leaves are used to cook but removed before eating. However to derive medicinal benefits, fresh bay leaves are better. Food can be prepared with the fresh leaves. The leaves can also be soaked with warm water and the resulting solution drunk. This solution can also be applied to open wounds.

Are There Any Dangers Associated with the Bay Leaf?

The bay laurel is not known to cause any problems. However, care should be taken not to eat the leaves whole or in large pieces as they still remain stiff even after thorough cooking. Ignoring this could lead to choking and possible irritation of the digestive system. People with known allergy to bay leaf should not use it.


For centuries, the bay leaf has been believed to possess health benefits but most have not been proven by modern science. For this purpose, they are best consumed fresh. Care must be taken to avoid the similar but poisonous leaves of unrelated plants.

About the Writer; Motunrayo Loye is a health content analyst of Health Strategies Consulting Limited. You can find them on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @MyMobileDoct