Monday, January 5, 2015

Keeping winter at Bay


"The Bay leaves are of as necessary use as any other in the garden or orchard, for they serve both for pleasure and profit, both for ornament and for use, both for honest civil uses and for physic, yea, both for the sick and the sound, both for the living and the dead; . . . so that from the cradle to the grave we still have use of it, we still have need of it."

Parkinson, ‘Garden of Flowers’ (1629)


Happy New Year all! I hope that the first week of this brand new year has been good to you. It has been good to me and I am feeling the promise of more good days to come. 

Today is the first day back to school and work for our family, I have plenty of to-doing to put the house back together after all the holiday mayhem. The house seems so still and quiet. 

Yesterday, as I looked out at the sparse winter garden I saw that the Bay laurel was still flush with vibrant green leaves. So out I went to harvest some before we get another cold snap. Now as I walk through the kitchen I can smell the scent of Bay from the bunches I hung up for drying and preserving.


Bay Leaves have a long and noble history. The ancient Romans and Greeks used to make crowns out of true Bay Leaves (Laurus Nobilis, Lauraceae) to crown great and accomplished people. These great people usually included kings, war heroes and Olympians. The term ‘baccalaureate’ originates from this giving of bay leaf crowns to signify success, as does the term "poet laureate".

Medicinally, the leaves of the Laurus Nobilis tree, also known as Sweet Laurel, have been used since the ancient times to treat problems associated with the liver, stomach and kidney. They were also used for treating bee and wasp stings. Now, herbalists use bay leaves for treating various health complaints. Some of the reported uses by herbalists and Naturopaths are as follows:
Coughs & Colds: Placing a cloth soaked in water in which bay leaves have been boiled provides relief from cough, cold, bronchitis and chest infections.
Aches & Pains:Essential Oil of bay leaf is massaged on sprained areas and for relieving headaches. The oil also provides relief from swellings, rheumatic and arthritic pain.
Fever:Bay leaves infusion promotes sweating, breaking fever, and flu symptoms.
Digestion:Bay leaves are used for treatment of digestive disorders. 
*Always ask the advice of your doctor before using any remedies.
I will admit that I mostly use mine for cooking, but I have used it medicinally from time to time. I do love the look and scent of herbs hanging to dry. With the garden's herbs mostly died back, I am comforted by my harvest, brightening my kitchen with a bounty of Bay!

4 comments:

Frances said...

This is a fabulous post. I wish that i could find fresh bay leaves for picking withing a short walk from my kitchen door. Truly...I wish that I had a kitchen door! Or a kitchen window. New York apartments are not so equipped.

And yet, I bet that my farmers market might have some bay leaves available. Failing that, I have added the getting of some new bay leaves (even if dried) this week. This is the season for making soups and stews, and bay leaves really add to that mix.

Thank you for the inspiration and lovely photographs. Happy 2015! xo

sustainablemum said...

It is too cold in the Winter where I live for a bay to survive we have lost two now. I am lucky that I always get a stem each year from a friends mother who lives twenty miles away where bay dies thrive! My stem is drying nicely in my pantry. Great post!

Daisy Jones said...

A, so fascinating we have two mini bay trees and i love the smell when I prune them we too use them in stews and casseroles but I have often wondered about their medicinal qualities...bestest d x

mel @ loved handmade said...

I've always loved our bay tree and its beautiful strong leaves, but I had no idea of these medicinal qualities! Fabulous to know x