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DISCLAIMER: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.

a.k.a. Bay Laurel, Daphne, Indian Bay, Larbeer, Laurier d'Apollon, Laurier Sauce, Noble Laurel, Roman Laurel, Sweet Bay, Tree Laurel, True Laurel
(Laurus nobilis)
Also see: West Indian Bay

CAUTION! Dried leaves should not be eaten as even small pieces can cause internal cuts and tears. Especially dangerous for HEMOPHILIACS and those on coumadin or blood-thinning therapies. Use leaves fresh or dried in whole state and remove before serving.
CAUTION! The essential oil, when used as an external ointment can cause dermatitis in sensitive individuals.

CONTAINS: The leaves contain 1 to 3 percent of a greenish-yellow volatile oil produced by distillation, and which contains a high percentage of oxygenated compounds.
Berries contain fixed and volatile oils. The fixed oil known as Oil of Bays contains laurostearene (ether of lauric acid). Laurin can be extracted with alcohol. The volatile oil contains pinene, geraniol, eugenol, cineole, terpenes, glyceryl laurate. Berries also contain stearic and other acids.
Contains parthenolides. The plant also contains tannic acid and bitters.
Bay oil contains methyl eugenol (4% of bay oil) and is narcotic and sedative in mice.
One teaspoon of leaves contains 5 mg calcium, 0.26 mg iron, 1 mg magnesium, 1 mg phosphorus, 3 mg potassium, trace of soidum, 0.02 mg zinc, 0.28 mg ascorbic acid, trace of thiamine, 0.003 mg riboflavin, 0.012 mg niacin.

A slow growing, pyramidal, perennial evergreen tree native to the Mediterranean region and Asia Minor, which can reach a height of 40 to 60 feet. Commonly cultivated in Turkey, Algeria, Belgium, France, Greece, Mexico, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Canary Islands, Central American and the southern United States. Bark is smooth and olive green to a reddish hue. The evergreen leaves are smooth, shiny, dark, aromatic, and alternate with short stalks and lanceolate (3 to 4 inches long), the margin being smooth and wavy. The flowers are inconspicuous, small, creamy yellow, having no petals, unisexual, composed of 4-lobed calyxes which are greenish-yellow in small umbels from the leaf axils. One-seeded fruit is purple to black, but when dried the berries (1/2" diameter) are black and aromatic. The wood is sweet scented and used for marqueterie work. Oil is pressed from the berries and distilled from the leaves.
The name is derived from the Latin 'laurus' (to praise) and 'nobilis' (the famous).

California bay (Umbellularia californica) is often substituted for true bay. Another related plant is Oregon myrtle which was used by Native Americans and settlers for headaches, stomach problems and rheumatism. Bay has been cultivated in Great Britain and Europe since the 16th century. It is well known historically as the source of crowns and wreaths for heroes, poets and athletes. Bay wreaths are still placed on winners of the Boston marathon. The term 'bachelor of', which is given for degrees, probably stems form 'bacca-laureus' (laurel berry) through the French 'bachelier'. An old product once much used was called 'Onguet de Laurier' (Laurel ointment or unguent) and was prepared from the oil and axonge(?) and combined the coloring and fragrance of the leaves and fruit.
In 1526, a recipe in the Grete Herbal by Peter Treveris, reported a paste of bay and honey should be applied to blemishes. Culpeper (17th century) declared it to be helpful for skin problems. Today's Bay Rum aftershave and soaps come from the West Indian Bay Rum Tree (Pimenta racemosa) which is a relative of allspice (Pimenta dioica). The priestesses of Delphi were said to sit over fumes of what was believed to be buring bay leaves for their prophetic visions. Other sources say they chewed the leaves. The Emperor Tiberius (42 BC to AD 37) had a phobia which induced him to wear a bay wreath during thunder storms because lightening was believed never to strike bay trees. Culpeper stated that a man standing near a bay tree would be immune from witches, devils, lightening and thunder. He also recommended it for snakebit, wasp and bee stings, colds, rheumatism, urinary problems, ear pain, bruises and scrapes. Conversely, it was also considered an evil omen if the tree sickened and died. The pestilence which broke out in Padua in 1629 was ascribed to the death of the city's bay trees. Nero (AD 37-68) fled to Laurentium to escape an outbreak of plague, believing the air was purified there by the bay trees. In other lore attached to this tree, Daphne, a nymph of Greek myth, was struck by Cupid's arrow to make her hate Apollo, who was so smitten with her, her father changed her into a laurel tree. Apollo declared the tree sacred for all time and forever after wore a wreath of laurel leaves on his head in remembrance of his lost love. Dedicated to Apollo and Aesculapius (god of medicine).
A popular fragrance for men's colognes and aftershaves.
Astrologically ruled by the Sun and assigned to Leo.

Notable Quotes
Culpeper: The oil takes away the marks of the skin and flesh by bruises, falls, etc, and dissolveth the congealed blood in them.

Gerard: It is reported that common drunkards were accustomed to eat in the morning, fasting, two leaves thereof against drunkeness.

PROPAGATION: By seed (takes 3 to 6 months); seed tends to mold. Also by cuttings (can take 6 to 9 months to root) from fresh green shoots (semi-ripe) or suckers in summer, or by layering in autumn. Cuttings should be dipped in rooting hormone powder and inserted into sandy compost. Keep moist by misting. Cuttings with a heel will root faster (still a slow process). Best bet is a purchased plant from a reliable dealer. Check suppliers.
NEEDS: Full sun or part shade and well-drained rich soil in zone 8 conditions with a pH of 6.2. Tender shrub. Requires shelter in cold areas - grown as a potted plant in the north and is a good container plant. Allow soil in pot to dry between watering. Likes to be misted occasionally in dry weather. Slow grower. Pot up one size larger in spring. Keep its shape by trimming in summer and remove suckers from standards and topiaries. Once established in a large tub, repot only when soil is depleted. Susceptible to scale. Two cultivated varieties are L.n. 'Angustifolia' and L.n. 'Aurea'
HARVEST: Leaves throughout year. These are dried for infusions, powders, also oil distillation. Used as a culinary seasoning. Dried leaves should be replaced yearly as they lose their flavor after one year.
FLOWERS: June to July, but only on older trees grown in the subtropics.
PART USED: Leaves, oil, fruit, bark (used in some cultures).


Astringent, bitter, carminative, diuretic, emetic, emmenogogue, narcotic, nervine, aromatic, stimulant, digestive aid, locally antiseptic, antiparasitic, expectorant (use as steam inhalation therapy).
Leaves, berries and oil have excitant and narcotic properties Lesser doses are diaphoretic while large doses are emetic.
Believed to assist the body in utilizing insulin more efficiently. In experiments, the leaves have lowered blood sugar levels in animals.
Contains parthenolides which help prevent migraines.
Tea was once used for its gentle tonic effect and to ease headache, stomach upset or flatulence, colic, indigestion (taken with meals), poor appetite, to remove obstructions, to promote menses and colic. Is considered alkalizing for overacidity. The leaves and fruit are rarely used internally now except in veterinary medicine. They were also used at one time for hysteria. A powder was also made of the berries and used for the same purposes as well as for ague.
Has been used externally as a poultice on the chest for bronchitis and coughs.
Warm tea has been taken for coma (3 to 4 cups), cramps, as a hair rinse for dandruff, high blood pressure (1 cup, or two 00 capsules of powder), to promote perspiration, as a sexual stimulant (said by Sanskrit writers to increase semen in men), and whooping cough. Has also been used to soothe sore throat and general coughs. Tea (both internally and as a gargle) has also been taken during times of epidemics such as smallpox, thypoid fever, measles and diptheria. Has also been used in cases of tonsillitis and lung trouble.
COOL tea was used to counteract poison (strychnine and others) and prevent convulsions and death (3 to 5 cups). Unknown if it was helpful.
The bark is slightly astringent and has been used for stones in kidney and bladder. Has also been used for trouble in pancreas, spleen and liver.
In the past a strong tea of the berries was used internally and externally for colds, flu, fever, poisonous insect bites, snake bite and wasp sting. Berries have also been considered useful in the past for suppressed menstruation and womb problems, as well as taken during childbirth when the delivery is imminent to help expel afterbirth. It is also said to clear the brain, eyes and lungs. In some herbal disciplines it is considered a cleanser and remedy for chronic coughs, consumption and asthma, as well as a vermifuge.
Hands and feet were soaked in a strong decoction to cure fungus. Decoction also used as a douche for vaginitis and uterine infections.
A tea of the leaves, bark, or berries has been added to a sitz bath for problems of the bladder, the uterus and for pain in the bowel.
A tea of the berries, leaves, or bark has been used to shrink a swollen palate. A strong tea of the berries has been applied to arthritic or rheumatic joints and for nerve troubles and pain in the bowels or womb. Has also been used for pain or cramps in the chest or numbness in any part of the body. Berries have been used to make a cough syrup and were once used in several French carminative formulas.
In the Middle Ages berries were used to promote the onset of menses (amenorrhea) and as an abortifacient.
Oil of bay is bactericidal (contains 1,8-cineole) and fungicidal and has been used externally for itch, eczema, sunburn, dandruff, rheumatism (tincture was also used together with heat packs), sprains, bruises, atonic ulcers, scabies, aching joints, skin rashes and bruises as well as being used in some toothpastes (more likely those sold at health food outlets). Was also applied to cotton then placed in cavity for toothache. It was once used as an antiseptic by the French, but is rarely used so today, except possibly in Lebanon where it is steeped in brandy in the sun for a few days, then drunk for queasy stomachs. Its primary use remains external for bruises and sore muscles (where skin is NOT broken), and earache.
Ancient Greeks and Romans rolled a bay leaf, then stuck in in the nose or on the forehead for headache.
Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for amenorrhea, colic, and hysteria. They consider the berry to be aromatic, narcotic, and stimulant and apply it for the same uses. In China it has a history in folk medicine as an anti-cancer herb. They also utilize it for condylomata (warty growth around anus or vulva), indurations of liver and spleen, sclerosis of the liver, liver tumors, parotids, spleen, stomach, testicles and uterus, tuberosities of the face
Bay has also been used for epilepsy, leucorrhea and deficient sex drive.
OIL of BAY has been used externally applied to rheumatic and arthritic aches and pains, as well as sprains and swellings. Has been combined with rosemary to make a liniment for sore muscles. Also, the leaves are used in the bath for aching limbs.

!All others buy commercial preparations and follow directions carefully!
!In large doses, bay will increase blood pressure, pulse and produce possible vomiting. Berries are potentially dangerous and abortifacient!
INFUSION = A heaping teaspoon of granulated bark from the roots steeped 30 minutes in 1 cup of boiling water. 1 to 3 cups taken per day.
BERRIES = 30 grains (large doses abortifacient).
LEAVES = 30 to 60 grains.
OIL of BAY = Heat leaves in a little olive oil.

In Russia some nursing home residents are encouraged to smell bay leaves as an aid to memory.

Use whole leaves to flavor foods, then DISCARD. See CAUTION above.
Used as a flavoring in many dishes.
An ingredient in 'bouquet garni' and is added to stuffings, sauces, soups, stews, game dishes, boiled shellfish, roasts, and desserts.
BOUQUET GARNI #1= 3 springs fresh chervil, 3 springs fresh parsley, 1/2 bay leaf, 2 springs fresh thyme. Tie together in a bundle with thin white string and use to flavor cooking. Discard when done.
BOUQUET GARNI #2= 1 part bay leaves, 12 parts parsley, 4 parts garden thyme. Another way to do this is: 1 bay leave 1 Tbsp parsley, 1 tsp thyme An ingredient in most pickling spices, marinades, and some preserves.
Add a leaf to water when poaching fish. Also use leaves in marinades. Store a leaf or two in a jar of rice, or add to rice pudding.
Place a fresh leaf in milk one hour before drinking to flavor.

Oil soothing to skin. An infusion of leaves used in bath or as lotion.

Roots are fragrant and can be dried and used in potpourri.
Use in herb wreaths, sprigs, potpourri, tussie mussies, sweet jars. Press leaves while drying to flatten.
Used historically to decorate homes at Christmas and for weddings.
ROOM FRAGRANCE = 3 tsp powdered bay (or rosemary), plus 1 tsp castor sugar. Place in pan over hot embers to fragrance room (Mary Eales, Confectioner to Queen Anne 1862).
MOIST POTPOURRI = Place a thick layer of rose petals in a glass or earthenware container, add 1 teacup of lavender buds, one orange blossom, and 1 clove-scented pink. Add 1 dozen fresh bay leaves finely chopped. Cover with 1/2 lb of bay salt and 4 oz. common salt. Allow to stand for 24 hours, then stir once a day for a week. Add 1/2 oz whole or crushed cloves, 4 oz orris root (fixative), 1/2 oz cinnamon, pinch of nutmeg. Mix all thoroughly, then cover securely. Open for an hour or two to release the fragrance. Welcome in a sickroom.

Use leaves in flour, cereals, etc. to keep bugs out. Also used to repel fleas and lice.

Oil is pressed from berries or distilled from leaves.
Leaves used in Italy and Turkey for packing dried figs and licorice to deter weevils. Used the same way in China for packing rice.
Leaf oil and extract used commercially as a flavoring for condiments, meat products, baked goods, sausage, canned soups and liqueurs. Fruits used in the manufacture of soft drinks.
Essential oil used in perfumery.
A substitue for the expressed oil was once prepared from a lard-colored oil to which chlorophyll or indigo was added along with turmeric and scented with the berries. The fraud was exposed by boiling alchol which dissolves the true oil.
The oil of Pimenta acris from which bay rum is distilled (West Indies) is sometimes mistaken for oil of bay.
The leaves of the Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) which is poisonous, are sometimes mistaken for those of sweet bay.
The wood is used in cabinetry and for making bowls.

a.k.a Bay-Rum Tree, Wild Cinnamon, Wild Clove
(Pimenta racemosa syn Pimenta acris)
image 1 image 2

A tree up to 40 feet which grows wild in the West Indies and northern South America. Has a cylindrical crown, flaking bark, leathery evergreen leaves up to 6 inches long, and fragrant flowers. Fruits are black or coated with fine gray hairs.

Bay-rum was made by distilling the leaves and was popular for a long time in hair dressings and aftershave lotions. Today the oil is obtained by steam or water distillation and is used in perfumes and toiletries. It was also used to make Florida Water. Commercially the leaf oil, oleoresin, and extract are used to flavor soups, meats and condiments. On plantations, the trees are topped during the harvest to keep them low.
The oil is used in aromatherapy for sprains, colds, flu, and rheumatism.
In its simplest form, Bay-rum is the essential oil of Pimenta acris diluted with alcohol to which oil of allspice and oil of orange have been added.

Leaves of Sweet Bay (Laurel nobilis) can also be used in these recipes

BAY RUM COLOGNE = Crush 2 oz. bay leaves in a blender or coffee mill and add to 1/4 oz. ground cardamom, 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, 1/2 tsp ground cloves, and 1 pint of Jamaican rum. Shake well and allow to stand for 7 days. Strain out leaves and bottle. Will keep indefinitely.
BAY RUM AFTERSHAVE = Mix together 1 pint bay rum, 2 oz. glycerine, 2 oz rose water, 2 oz violet flower tincture (optional). Mix ingredients well.

©2000 & 2006 by Ernestina Parziale, CH