Bay Laurel

Thursday, November 5, 2020


Bay Leaf

Common name: Bay, bay leaf, sweet laurel, noble laurel, roman laurel, indian bay

Botanical name: Laurus nobilis

Family name: Lauraceae

Overview: Bay laurel is native to the Mediterranean countries and prefers damp shady areas. It is an aromatic evergreen shrub or tree that can grow up to 65 ft. It's leaves are leathery and dark green. It has small yellow male and female flowers and shiny black berries. Bay is largely cultivated for culinary uses and the leaves are harvested year round. The parts used are the leaves, bark, wood, berries and essential oils. 


History and Folklore: From ancient Rome comes the tradition that a sudden withering of a bay laurel tree bodes disaster for the household. The Romans used bay extensively to make laurel wreaths as crowns for generals, and as garlands and sacred offerings. They were grown to purify the air with their aromatic fragrance. 

Bay laurel was introduced to Britain in the 16th century where in ornate gardens, the trees were clipped into very elegant shapes to fit into formal design. 

Bay laurel also has a history of being used in divination, especially in ancient Greece. Even today, if I do a video search for bay leaf it returns with multiple examples of rituals using burning leaves to manifest money, love, dreams and more. 

Caution: Please do not play or participate in such rituals. They are akin to witchcraft and can open doors to the demonic realm. See here for further guidance


Primary therapeutic constituents: Bay laurel contains up to 3% volatile oil (including 30-50% cineole, linalool, alpha-pinene, alpha-terpineol acetate, mucilage, tannin and resin). Vitamins. 


Medicinal actions: Antimicrobial and digestive-stimulating properties, carminative, digestive tonic, astringent, aromatic. 


Common uses: Most commonly used as a culinary herb; widely as a food flavoring for meat-based or vegetable stews, Bolognese sauce, fish dishes, soups and sometimes as a flavoring in milk puddings. Also used therapeutically for upper digestive tract disorders. It has a tonifying effect on the stomach; stimulating the appetite and digestive juices. A standard infusion of dried or fresh leaves is helpful for wind and indigestion, or for influenza as an antimicrobial. Often used to promote onset of the menstrual cycle. The diluted essential oil is chiefly employed as a friction rub for aching muscles and joints. A decoction of the leaves may be added to a bath to ease aching limbs. Useful in dropsical conditions (swelling of soft tissues), obesity, diabetes, and kidney ailments. A strong tea made from the berries, taken both internally and applied externally, is very effective for all poisonous insect bites, snake bites, and stings of wasps. 


Technique: Cooking, essential oils, standard infusion (1-3 tsp per cup or a couple whole leaves), balm, leaves softened by holding over hot water and eaten. Poultice - leaves applied to chest with a warm cloth covering to relieve bronchitis and coughs. The wood can be used to give an aromatic tang to smoked foods. 


Cautions and contraindications: Never take bay laurel essential oil internally. An allergic reaction can result from external use as well, therefore any oil should only be applied in a very dilute (2%) concentration.  


Taste: Bland  Energy: Bitter


Educational video: After combing through what seemed like miles of video demonstrations of rituals and superstitions, I finally find one about the health benefits of bay laurel! This video is useful and mentions benefits that I was not able to locate in my numerous books or on-line herbarium. 

Personal experience: Like most folks, I've used bay leaves in my flour to ward off insects. I've added it to beans, soups and stews. I know I made a tea blend that included bay once but can't locate the recipe!  



Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine by Andrew Chevallier, FNIMH. p. 226-227

The Herb Bible - A Complete Guide To Growing And Using Herbs by Jennie Harding. p.186

Common Herbs for Natural Health by Juliette de Bairacli Levy. p. 93-94

Back to Eden by Jethro Kloss. p. 218-219

The Way of Herbs by Michael Tierra, L.Ac., O.M.D. p. 73-74

Herbs - The Visual Guide to More Than 700 Herb Species Around the World by Lesley Bremness. p.61