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Laurus nobilis Linn.

Family : Lauraceae

Other names: Sweet laurel; bay laurel; Appolo's bay leaf; wreath laurel


Bay leaf, leaf of the sweet bay tree (Laurus nobilis). Is an evergreen plant, indigenous to Asia Minor bordering the Mediterranean. Bay is a tree of the sun under the celestial sign of Leo and has been cultivated from ancient times; its leaves constituted the wreaths of laurel that crowned emperors, heroes and victorious athletes in ancient Greece and Rome. In Biblical times and also in the Middle Ages people associated bay leaves with goodness and saw it as a protection against evil and lightning. Today, the Grand Prix winner is decked with a laurel wreath and the poet of the British Royal Household is given the title of poet laureate. During the European Middle Ages bay leaves were used medicinally.


Bay tree is a large dense evergreen shrub or ornamental tree up to 15 m height. The leaves are large, glossy dark green, elliptical and pointed (about 8 cm long and 3-4 cm wide). Small creamy - yellow flowers appear in early summer, followed by dark-purple, black one-seeded berries on mature plants.


These trees grow in rich, well-drained soil in full sun. Young plants are sheltered from cold winds and frost. They are planted in early autumn or spring and trimmed to shape in summer. Propagation is by layering shoots or from cuttings of side roots. The leaves are harvested by hand, dried in shallow layers in shade and lightly pressed flat. Ripe berries are pressed for oil.

Bay leaves contain approximately 1.5 - 2.5 % essential oil, the principal component of which is cineole. Bay oleoresin contains about 4 - 8 % volatile oil. Essential oil of bay is also available.

Aroma and Flavour

Bay leaves are a popular culinary flavouring in classic and contemporary cuisines which stimulates the appetite. A popular spice used in pickling and marinating and to flavour stews, stuffings, and fish, bay leaves are delicately fragrant but have a bitter taste. It is an essential ingredient in many classic sauces.

Culinary use

The smooth and lustrous dried bay leaves are usually used whole and then removed from the dish after cooking; they are sometimes marketed in powdered form. The crushed form is a major component in pickling spices in processed meats and pickle industry. Ground bay is utilized in many seasoning blends and products. Oil of bay and bay oleoresin are used in soluble pickling spices.

Medicinal and other use

Bay leaf has legendary medicinal properties. It has astringent, diuretic and digestive qualities and is a good appetite stimulant. When pulped these leaves can be applied as an astringent to burns and bruises. Oil from ripe berries is used in liqueurs, perfume and in veterinary field. The acid from the leaves discourages moths.


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