Plants have always been a part of my life. Since I could remember, my father would bring my little sister and I into his small garden. It only took up a small square of land in our backyard but to us it felt like another world. He would spend all day out there, and then come in to teach us about the different vegetables, fruits and herbs he was growing. He knew so much and made sure to share it with his girls. The plants followed us inside, growing from clay pots and glass vases. My mother believed in the holistic elements to certain plants and was always quick to look there first. My parents worked hard to create something to pass on to us, which is why I decided to start the Herb Shop! I want to share where I’m from, where a lot of our medicinal fixes originated from, as well as, shine a light on the multifaceted uses of common plant life that we look past every day.
Laurus nobilis I.e. Bay
The classical legend of bay’s origin was Daphne’s transformation into the laurel tree during her pursuit by Apollo. Versions vary; one infers that the nymph Daphne was a fiercely independent, rather wild creature and rather than give herself to Apollo, she pleaded with her father, the river god Ladonas, to
transform her. Bay laurel was the symbol of wisdom, both acquired and intuitive. Laurus nobilis is believed to derive from the Celtic word laur meaning green and the Latin nobilis signifying noble.
The medicinal uses of the herb were always important. The leaves of the Laurus nobilis tree, also known as Sweet Laurel, have been used since ancient times to treat problems associated with the liver, stomach and kidneys. Considered an anti-rheumatic, it was drunk as a tea and used in baths. The Romans used bay leaves and berries for the treatment of liver disorders, stomach aches and kidney issues. They were also used for treating bee and wasp stings.
Here is a brief list of some health benefits observed with the use of bay:
- Coughs & Colds
- Aches & Pains
- Stress Management
Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking bay leaf if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.
Surgery: Bay leaf might slow down the central nervous system (CNS). There is a concern that it might slow down the CNS too much when combined with anesthesia and other medications used during and after surgery. Stop using bay leaf as a medicine at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Bay leaf can be used for so many things. It can be used to smooth/clean hair, kill bacteria and fungal infection over the scalp, treat dandruff and itchy scalp, helps get rid of lice, and tones the skin. Many of the dandruff-fighting scalp washes and creams contain harsh chemicals that may work, but have various side effects. Bay leaves are quite effective for treating dandruff as they contain compounds that have antifungal properties. See the recipe for a Bay Leaf Dandruff Rinse below.
- Bay Leaves
- 1 liter of water
- Add a handful of crushed bay leaves to one liter of very hot (just boiled) water.
- Cover and let steep for 20 minutes.
- Strain, allow to cool, and apply. You might want to leave it in your hair for an hour or so before rinsing.
Recipe of the Day
The bittersweet, spicy leaves impart their pungent flavour to a variety of dishes and ingredients, making bay a versatile store cupboard ingredient. It’s also one of the few herbs that doesn’t lose its flavour when dried. The recipe for this month is Good New Orleans Creole Gumbo:
Ingredients Needed (serves 8 – 10):
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup bacon drippings
- 1 cup coarsely chopped celery
- 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 large green bell pepper, coarsely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pound andouille sausage, sliced
- 3 quarts water
- 6 cubes beef bouillon
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- C&H Pure Cane Granulated Sugar 4 Lb.
- Salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons hot pepper sauce (such as Tabasco®), or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning blend (such as Tony Chachere’s®)
- 4 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can stewed tomatoes
- 1 (6 ounce) can tomato sauce
- 2 teaspoons gumbo file powder
- 2 tablespoons bacon drippings
- 2 (10 ounce) packages frozen cut okra, thawed
- 2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
- 1 pound lump crabmeat
- 3 pounds uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons gumbo file powder
- Make a roux by whisking the flour and 3/4 cup bacon drippings together in a large, heavy saucepan over medium-low heat to form a smooth mixture. Cook the roux, whisking constantly, until it turns a rich mahogany brown color. This can take 20 to 30 minutes; watch heat carefully and whisk constantly or roux will burn. Remove from heat; continue whisking until mixture stops cooking.
- Place the celery, onion, green bell pepper, and garlic into the work bowl of a food processor, and pulse until the vegetables are very finely chopped. Stir the vegetables into the roux, and mix in the sausage. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat, and cook until vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove from heat, and set aside.
- Bring the water and beef bouillon cubes to a boil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot. Stir until the bouillon cubes dissolve, and whisk the roux mixture into the boiling water. Reduce heat to a simmer, and mix in the sugar, salt, hot pepper sauce, Cajun seasoning, bay leaves, thyme, stewed tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Simmer the soup over low heat for 1 hour; mix in 2 teaspoons of file gumbo powder at the 45-minute mark.
- Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings in a skillet, and cook the okra with vinegar over medium heat for 15 minutes; remove okra with slotted spoon, and stir into the simmering gumbo. Mix in crabmeat, shrimp, and Worcestershire sauce, and simmer until flavors have blended, 45 more minutes. Just before serving, stir in 2 more teaspoons of file gumbo powder.