Bay Laurel (Laurus Nobilis) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Bay Laurel (Laurus Nobilis) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects

Bay Laurel (Laurus Nobilis) Overview

Bay Laurel (Laurus Nobilis) other names: Bay, Bay Laurel, Bay Tree, Daphne, Grecian Laurel, Laurel, Laurel ComĂșn, Laurier d’Apollon, Laurier Noble, Laurier-Sauce, Laurier Vrai, Laurus nobilis, Mediterranean Bay, Noble Laurel, Roman Laurel, True Bay.

Bay laurel is an herb. The Greeks made it famous by crowning their heroes with wreathes made out of bay laurel leaves. In addition to decorative use, the leaves and oil are used to make medicine.

Bay Laurel (Laurus Nobilis) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Bay Laurel (Laurus Nobilis) image

The herb known as the bay laurel or the sweet bay is native to Asia Minor and the Mediterranean region in general - it is a small evergreen shrub or tree. The early Greeks and Romans admired the bay laurel for its beauty and used the aromatic leaves in many different ways. Bay laurel possesses leathery leaves that are lanceolate and pointed in shape. The leaves also have the maximum oil content during early and mid-summer and this oil content tends to decreases in other seasons. The name “bay” is used to refer to several botanicals - for example the West Indian bay - botanical name Pimenta racemosa, and the California bay - botanical name Umbellularia californica. Therefore, any of these plants can be called by the name “bay” in the existing herb literature; what is more, some other plants are also called ‘Bay'.

The bay laurel was utilized in the performance of divination rites by the Delphic Oracle of Ancient Greece. The bay laurel has also been associated with other legends of the ancient world, the ancient Romans for example, believed that the sudden withering of a bay laurel tree would bodes disaster for the household in whose garden the tree grew. The ancient Romans also made extensive use of the bay laurel leaves in medicine, they also used it as a spice and even a decorative garland was made from it for use in the festivities associated with the Saturnalia festival that was celebrated each December. The Greco-Roman gods Apollo and Aesculapius, who were gods responsible for healing and medicine, were also associated with the bay laurel and devotees made use of the plant in worship of these two gods. 

The medications made from the bay laurel were believed to have extremely potent protective and healing effects. Ancient peoples typically drank an infusion made from the leaves for the warming and tonic effect it had on the stomach and bladder. In addition, a plaster made from the bay laurel leaves was used to bring relief from wasp and bee stings and other insect bites. 

The bay laurel is a native plant of the Mediterranean region. The plant grows best in damp and shady sites in gardens. As it is extensively used in many Mediterranean cuisines, the bay laurel is a very popular garden herb especially in Europe. Leaves from the bay laurel are picked all year round and used in many culinary preparations.

The bay laurel can succeed in any kind of soil that is moderately fertile and well watered, though bay laurel tends to grow best in soils that retain moisture and are well drained. The bay laurel can also grow without problems in all types of dry soils. The bay laurel prefers exposure to full sunlight but can also grow well in sites with light shade. Bay laurel plants are fairly resistant to high winds; however, the plants suffer if exposed to extreme maritime contact or cold dry winds for long periods of time. Growing bay laurel plants may need protection from the cold during severe winters and the plant is not fully hardy in all areas of temperate countries such as Britain.

Many people also cultivate the bay laurel tree as an ornamental plant in gardens; the added bonus is such cultivated yields leaves that can be used to flavor food. The leaves of the bay laurel give off a sweet and aromatic scent when bruised. Bay laurel trees are also strongly resistant to all insect pests and plant diseases - this plant is notably resistant to the honey fungus. The bay laurel is a dioecious plant and individual plants have a specific sex. If seeds are required, it is necessary to grow both the male and female plants in the garden.

Bay Laurel (Laurus Nobilis) Health Benefits

Bay laurel is used to treat cancer and gas; stimulate bile flow; and cause sweating. Some people apply bay laurel to the scalp for dandruff. Bay laurel is also put on the skin for pain, especially muscle and joint pain (rheumatism).

In food, bay laurel is used as a seasoning in cooking and in processed foods.

In manufacturing, the oil is used in cosmetics, soaps, and detergents.

Remedies made from the bay laurel are mainly used in the treatment of the disorders affecting the upper digestive tract and to ease all kinds of arthritic aches and pains affecting a person. The remedies made from the bay laurel also has a tonic effect and is good to have a settling effect on the stomach, the bay laurel remedy also stimulates general appetite and aids in the hastening the secretion of digestive juices in people with digestive disorders. 

The bay laurel leaves are also used as an ingredient in cooking, where they aid in the process of digestion and absorption of food in the stomach. Bay laurel leaves possess many of the same positive effects as seen in the spearmint - botanical name Mentha spicata, and the rosemary - Rosmarinus officinalis - especially in assisting in the breakdown of heavy foods, such as protein rich meat. The onset of menstruation is also promoted by remedies made from the bay laurel. In addition, the essential oil obtained from the bay laurel is mainly employed as a friction rub for topical problems, this rubbing oil is prepared by first diluting the raw oil in carrier oil and it is then massaged on aching muscles and joints for a soothing effect. Bath water can also be infused with a decoction made from the bay laurel leaves to help ease aching limbs and muscles.

Bay Laurel (Laurus Nobilis) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Bay Laurel (Laurus Nobilis) flower

The fruit and fatty oils of bay laurel are used on the skin to treat boils (furuncles) caused by infected hair follicles.

Veterinarians use bay laurel as an udder ointment.

The soap making industry also utilizes an essential oil obtained from the fruit of the bay laurel in the manufacture of some types of soaps. Bay laurel is a very hardy and strong plant; bay laurel is very resistant to all sorts of plant pests and common plant diseases. A bay laurel plant is said to protect even the other plants growing near it from all insect and pest related problems. Bay laurel leaves are strongly aromatic and are used as natural insect repellents, dried bay laurel leaves are often used in silos to protect stored beans, grains from weevils and other grain eating insects. As it possesses both anti-septic properties as well as an aromatic scent, the bay laurel is often used as a strewing herb. 

The plant is very tolerant to clipping and pruning activities, it can also be grown as a screen or hedge plant in regions with suitable weather for its cultivation outdoors. The wood of the bay laurel is also very sweetly scented and the smell does not wear off quickly even after a long period of time. The wood is employed in marqueterie work, it is also used to make walking sticks and as friction sticks to start fires.

Bay Laurel (Laurus Nobilis) Side effects

Bay Laurel (Laurus Nobilis) Overview, Health Benefits, Side effects
Bay Laurel (Laurus Nobilis) plant

Bay laurel leaf and bay laurel leaf oil is likely safe for most people in food amounts. Bay laurel leaf is possibly safe when taken by mouth in medicinal amounts, short-term. But, if you cook with whole bay laurel leaf, be sure to remove it before eating the food. Taking the whole, intact leaf by mouth is likely unsafe. The leaf can’t be digested, so it remains intact while passing through the digestive system. This means bay laurel leaf can become lodged in the throat or pierce the lining of the intestines.

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking bay laurel leaf if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Diabetes: Bay laurel leaf might interfere with blood sugar control. Monitor blood sugar closely if you have diabetes and use bay laurel leaf as a medicine.

Surgery: Bay laurel 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 laurel leaf as a medicine at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.