Chamomile, black, and green are the starter pack of teas: easy to find, chock full of benefits, and mild in taste enough to appeal to a wide range of palates. The trio certainly serves their own purposes, but if you're looking to build out your tea stash with something a little more unexpected, bay leaf tea is a great addition.
Sourced from the Mediterranean region as well as North America and Central America, bay leaves come from bay laurel trees and have long been used in soups, stews, and sauces because of their strong, slightly bitter taste. If you've never tried bay leaves before, they have a similar flavor profile to oregano or thyme. And, like most herbs, in addition to being used to give food more flavor, bay leaves have also long been used to brew and enjoy as a tea. If you're more into savory flavors than sweet ones, bay leaf tea is likely right up your ally.
Like all teas, bay leaf tea benefits the body in its own unique ways. Here, registered dietitian and chef Jessica Swift, RD, explains the health benefits as well as any side effects or risks to be aware of. Plus, tips on brewing the perfect cup.
What are the benefits of bay leaf tea?
1. it's good for your heart
The major benefit of regularly consuming bay leaf tea is that it's good for your heart. This is because of its powerful combination of potassium, antioxidants, and iron. "Potassium is vital for heart health, helping with cardiac rhythm as well as lowering blood pressure," Swift says. Antioxidants help lower inflammation by protecting against free radicals in the body and have been linked to lowering the risk of heart disease. As for iron, it's important for heart health because it protects against both heart disease and strokes.
While more research specifically focusing on bay leaf tea needs to be done, one study published in the journal Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition found that one to three grams of bay leaves consumed daily was associated with 26 percent lower cholesterol levels. Of course it's important to note that adding bay leaf tea to your wellness routine with these benefits in mind is not powerful enough to work against food and lifestyle habits that harm heart health; it's meant to be done in conjunction with other healthy habits.
2. it could lower the risk of type 2 diabetes
In the same Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition study, bay leaf consumption was also linked to lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes. Swift says this is because, in addition to supporting cardiovascular health, bay leaf consumption can also help regulate and lower blood pressure.
3. It's good for your immune system
Because bay leaf tea has small amounts of vitamin C, it's also a great one to have on hand when your immune system needs a boost. Swift also points out that besides vitamin C, it also contains vitamin A, which is also good for the immune system. Bay leaf tea also has antibacterial properties, which can help prevent sickness as well.
4. it's good for digestion
Swift says bay leaf tea is a great to sip on before you eat because it stimulates and supports the digestive system. "For aiding in digestion, steep one tablespoon into eight ounces of water and consume 30 minutes prior to eating. This will give it a chance to get working in the body prior to food consumption," she says. It's been linked to helping with gas and bloating in particular, so if these are symptoms you suffer from on a regular basis, it could be worth trying as a natural remedy.
Tips for buying and making it
When buying any tea, Swift says it's important to know where the leaves are sourced from. "Granada is known for having high quality bay leaf tea," she says. So if you want the crème de la crème, that's a good indicator that what you're eying is likely high-quality. Also, buying organic lowers the risk for being exposed to chemical pesticides—another buying tip to keep in mind. Some good options include Tea Haven Organic Bay Leaf Tea ($16 for two ounces) and Terra Vita Bay Leaf Tea ($21 for 50 sachets).
Bay leaf tea can be prepared just like all your other faves, putting the dried leaves in a tea sachet or the tea bag in a mug of hot water and letting it steep for a few minutes. (The flavor is potent, so just a few minutes of steeping should suffice.) "I love pairing this tea with bold dishes like curries, rich in ginger and turmeric that add flavor and health benefits," Swift says.
In terms of any risks or side effects, Swift says that if you have chronically low blood sugar, this likely isn't the best choice tea for you, because of its link to lowering blood sugar. And, like most things in life, she says it's best to enjoy in moderation, as getting too much of any nutrient can do more harm than good.
If you're an adventurous tea drinker and are looking for a new flavor with potential health perks, bay leaf tea is a good one to add to your rotation. While more research specifically focused on bay leaf tea needs to be done, the science surrounding bay leaf consumption shows that you'll be doing your cardiovascular system some big favors by doing so. And that's definitely some advice to take to...heart.
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