|Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) flower buds and leaves|
The bay laurel, with the botanical name Laurus nobilis, of the plant family Lauraceae), is also known as sweet bay, bay tree (esp. United Kingdom), true laurel, Grecian laurel, laurel tree, or simply laurel.
It is an aromatic evergreen tree or large shrub with green, glossy leaves, native to the Mediterranean region. It is one of the plants used for bay leaf seasoning in cooking. Under the simpler name "laurel," Laurus nobilis figures prominently in classical Greek, Roman, and Biblical culture.
Worldwide, many other kinds of plants in diverse families are also called "bay" or "laurel," generally due to similarity of foliage or aroma to Laurus nobilis, and the full name is used for the California bay laurel (Umbellularia), also in the family Lauraceae.
The laurel can vary greatly in size and height, sometimes reaching 10–18 metres (33–59 ft) tall. Laurus is a genus of evergreen trees belonging to the Laurel family, Lauraceae. The genus includes three species, whose diagnostic key characters often overlap (Mabberley 1997).
The laurel is dioecious (unisexual), with male and female flowers on separate plants. Each flower is pale yellow-green, about 1 cm diameter, and they are borne in pairs beside a leaf. The leaves are 6–12 cm long and 2–4 cm broad, with an entire (untoothed) margin. On some leaves the margin undulates. The fruit is a small, shiny black berry about 1 cm long.
Laurus nobilis is a widespread relic of the laurel forests that originally covered much of the Mediterranean Basin when the climate of the region was more humid. With the drying of the Mediterranean during the Pliocene era, the laurel forests gradually retreated, and were replaced by the more drought-tolerant sclerophyll plant communities familiar today. Most of the last remaining laurel forests around the Mediterranean are believed to have disappeared approximately ten thousand years ago, although some remnants still persist in the mountains of southern Turkey, northern Syria, southern Spain, north-central Portugal and northern Morocco, and in Madeira.
Chemical constituents 
The most abundant essential oil found in laurel is cineole, also called eucalyptol. The leaves contain about 1.3% essential oils (ol. lauri folii), consisting of 45% eucalyptol, 12% other terpenes, 3-4% sesquiterpenes, 3% methyleugenol, and other α- and β-pinenes, phellandrene, linalool, geraniol, and terpineol.
Both essential and fatty oils are present in the fruit. The fruit is pressed and water-extracted to obtain these products. The fruit contains up to 30% fatty oils and about 1% essential oils (terpenes, sesquiterpenes, alcohols, and ketones).
The plant is the source of several popular spices used in a wide variety of recipes, particularly among Mediterranean cuisines. Most commonly, the aromatic leaves are added whole to Italian pasta sauces. However, even when cooked, whole bay leaves can be sharp and abrasive enough to damage internal organs, so they are typically removed from dishes before serving, unless used as a simple garnish. Whole bay leaves have a long shelf life of about one year, under normal temperature and humidity. Bay leaves are used almost exclusively as flavor agents during the food preparation stage;
Ground bay leaves, however, can be ingested safely and are often used in soups and stocks, as well as being a common addition to a Bloody Mary. Dried laurel berries and pressed leaf oil can both be used as robust spices, and even the wood can be burnt for strong smoke flavoring.
Traditional medicine 
In massage therapy, the essential oil of bay laurel is reputed to alleviate arthritis and rheumatism, while in aromatherapy, it is used to treat earaches and high blood pressure.[unreliable source?] A traditional folk remedy for rashes caused by poison ivy, poison oak, and stinging nettle is a poultice soaked in boiled bay leaves.
Other uses 
Bay is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant in regions with Mediterranean or oceanic climates, and as a house plant or greenhouse plant in colder regions. It is used in topiary to create single erect stems with ball-shaped, box-shaped or twisted crowns; also for low hedges. Together with a gold form, L. nobilis 'Aurea', it has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit.
Laurel oil is a main ingredient, and the distinguishing characteristic of Aleppo soap.
Bay laurel was used to fashion the laurel wreath of ancient Greece, a symbol of highest status. A wreath of bay laurels was given as the prize at the Pythian Games because the games were in honor of Apollo, and the laurel was one of his symbols.
Ovid tells the story in the Metamorphoses that laurel tree was first formed when the nymph Daphne was changed into a laurel tree because of Apollo's pursuit of her. Daphne is the Greek name for the tree.
The symbolism carried over to Roman culture, which held the laurel as a symbol of victory. It is also the source of the words baccalaureate and poet laureate, as well as the expressions "assume the laurel" and "resting on one's laurels".
In Chinese folklore, there is a great laurel tree on the moon, and the Chinese name for the laurel, (Chinese: 月桂), literally translates to "moon-laurel". This is the subject of a story of Wu Gang, a man who aspired to immortality and neglected his work. When the deities discovered this, they sentenced Wu Gang to fell the laurel tree, whereupon he could join the ranks of the deities; however, since the laurel regenerated immediately when cut, it could never be felled. The phrase (Chinese: 吴刚伐木) ("Wu Gang chops the tree") is sometimes used to refer to endless toil, analogous to the legend of Sisyphus in Greek mythology.
See also 
- Brown, R.W. (1956). Composition of scientific words: A manual of methods and a lexicon of materials for the practice of logotechnics. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.
- Vaughan, p.150.
- Arroyo–García, R., Martínez–Zapater, J. M.., Fernández Prieto, J. A., & Álvarez–Arbesú, R. (2001). "AFLP evaluation of genetic similarity among laurel populations (Laurus L.)". Euphytica 122: 155–164.
- Green, p.19.
- Nayak, et al. (2006).
- Encyclopedia of Herbs. "Bay Laurel: Laurus nobilis". AllNatural.net. Archived from the original on 19 November 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-31.
- Wood, p.43.
- Panza, E; Tersigni, M; Iorizzi, M; Zollo, F; De Marino, S; Festa, C; Napolitano, M; Castello, G et al. (2011). "Lauroside B, a megastigmane glycoside from Laurus nobilis (bay laurel) leaves, induces apoptosis in human melanoma cell lines by inhibiting NF-κB activation". Journal of Natural Products 74 (2): 228–33. doi:10.1021/np100688g. PMID 21188975.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Laurus nobilis 'Aurea'". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 21 May 2013.
- "RHS Plant Selector - Laurus nobilis". Royal Horticultural Society. Retrieved 20 May 2013.
- Edith Hamilton, Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes (1942)
- De Cleene, p.129.
- De Cleene, Marcel; Lejeune, Marie Claire (2003). Compendium of symbolic and ritual plants in Europe, Volume 1. Man & Culture. OCLC 482791069.
- Green, Aliza (2006). Field Guide to Herbs & Spices. Philadelphia: Quirk Books. ISBN 1-59474-082-8. Retrieved 2010-12-31.
- Nayak, S; Nalabothu, P; Sandiford, S; Bhogadi, V; Adogwa, A (2006). "Evaluation of wound healing activity of Allamanda cathartica. L. and Laurus nobilis. L. extracts on rats". BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 6: 12. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-6-12. PMC 1456996. PMID 16597335.
- Wood, Jamie; Steinke, Lisa (2010). The Faerie's Guide to Green Magick from the Garden. New York: Random House. ISBN 1-58761-354-9. Retrieved 2010-12-31.
- Vaughan, John Griffith; Geissler, Catherine (2009). The New Oxford Book of Food Plants. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-954946-X. Retrieved 2010-12-31.
Examples of biological activity of bay laurel 
- Simic, M; Kundaković, T; Kovacević, N (September 2003). "Preliminary assay on the antioxidative activity of Laurus nobilis extracts". Fitoterapia 74 (6): 613–6. doi:10.1016/S0367-326X(03)00143-6. PMID 12946729.
- Sayyah, M.; Saroukhani, G.; Peirovi, A.; Kamalinejad, M. (August 2003). "Analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity of the leaf essential oil of Laurus nobilis Linn". Phytother Res 17 (7): 733–6. doi:10.1002/ptr.1197. PMID 12916069.
- Sayyah, M; Valizadeh, J; Kamalinejad, M (April 2002). "Anticonvulsant activity of the leaf essential oil of Laurus nobilis against pentylenetetrazole- and maximal electroshock-induced seizures". Phytomedicine 9 (3): 212–6. doi:10.1078/0944-7113-00113. PMID 12046861.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Laurus nobilis|
- Hogan, C.Michael (2010). "Laurus Nobilis L.". Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved 2010-12-30.
- MeSH: Laurus - Laurus nobilis (Bay Laurel)
- MeSH: 3-oxo-eudesma-1,4(15),11(13)triene-12,6alpha-olide [Substance Name]
- MeSH: anhydroperoxycostunolide [Substance Name]
- MeSH: magnolialide [Substance Name]
- PubMed search: "Laurus"[MAJR]
- PubMed search: "anhydroperoxycostunolide" OR "magnolialide" OR "3-oxo-eudesma-1,4(15),11(13)triene-12,6alpha-olide"
- Panza E, Tersigni M, Iorizzi M, Zollo F, De Marino S, Festa C, Napolitano M, Castello G, Ialenti A, Ianaro A (2011). "Lauroside B, a megastigmane glycoside from Laurus nobilis (bay laurel) leaves, induces apoptosis in human melanoma cell lines by inhibiting NF-κB activation". J Nat Prod 74 (2): 228–233.
- Laurus nobilis Israel Wildflowers and native plants