- Family Lauraceae
- Laurus nobilis
- Bay, Bay Laurel, Laurel, Sweet Bay, True Laurel, Roman Laurel, Noble Laurel, Daphne, Bay Tree, Grecian Laurel, Sweet Laurel
Never take the essential oil internally.
An allergic reaction may result from external use. Therefore, the oil should be applied only in very dilute concentrations (2%).
The edible bay should not be confused with the Garden Cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus), which is poisonous.
Indigenous to Mediterranean countries, bay laurel is an aromatic evergreen shrub or tree, growing to about six feet producing leathery, dark green, aromatic leaves, small yellow male and female flowers, and shiny, black berries. The bark is smooth and olive green to black. It prefers damp, shady sites and is a popular garden herb, cultivated mainly for its culinary use.
In ancient Greece, the herb was used in divination by the Delphic Oracle.
Ancient Romans believed that the sudden withering of the tree spelled disaster for the household. However, that didn’t stop them from using the leaves as a medicine, a spice, and a decoration during the Saturnalia festivals held each winter.
It was held as a sacred plant of the gods Apollo and Aesculapius, who, together, oversaw healing and medicine.
Dioscorides, the 1st century Greek physician, wrote that the bark dissolved kidney stones and treated liver problems.
- digestive aid
- rubefacient (skin stimulant)
- volatile oil (up to 3% including 30-50% cineole, linalool, alpha-pinene, and alpha-terpineol acetate)
- Leaves, essential oil
It is used mainly to treat upper digestive tract disorders. It is settling to the stomach and has a tonic effect, stimulating the appetite and the secretion of digestive juices. When used in cooking, the leaves aid in the absorption of food and have the same positive effects as rosemary and spearmint when it comes to breaking down heavy food items, especially meat.
It is also used to promote the onset of menstruation.
The essential oil is diluted with a carrier oil and massaged into aching limbs to ease arthritic and rheumatic pains. A decoction of the leaves may also be added to the bath to ease the aches of rheumatism or used as an insect repellent.
Bay leaves are one of the most popular culinary herbs in North America found as dried leaves or in powdered form. Because they are so pungent, only small amounts are needed.
As an infusion, the leaves are used as a warming tonic or made into a plaster to relieve wasp and bee stings.