Laurus nobilis is an aromatic evergreen tree or large shrub with green, glabrous smooth leaves, in the flowering plant family Lauraceae. It is native to the Mediterranean region and is used as bay leaf for seasoning in cooking. Its common names include bay tree (esp. United Kingdom), bay laurel, sweet bay, true laurel, Grecian laurel, or simply laurel. Laurus nobilis figures prominently in classical Greco-Roman 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 is an evergreen shrub or small tree, variable in size and sometimes reaching 7–18 m (23–59 ft) tall. The genus Laurus includes four accepted species, whose diagnostic key characters often overlap.The bay laurel is dioecious (unisexual), with male and female flowers on separate plants. Each flower is pale yellow-green, about 1 cm (0.39 in) diameter, and they are borne in pairs beside a leaf. The leaves are glabrous, 6–12 cm (2.4–4.7 in) long and 2–4 cm (0.79–1.57 in) broad, with an entire (untoothed) margin. On some leaves the margin undulates.The fruit is a small, shiny black berry-like drupe about 1 cm (0.39 in) long that contains one seed. A recent study found considerable genetic diversity within L. nobilis, and that L. azorica is not genetically or morphologically distinct. 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.
Human uses Food
The plant is the source of several popular herbs and one spice used in a wide variety of recipes, particularly among Mediterranean cuisines. Most commonly, the aromatic leaves are added whole to Italian pasta sauces. 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. Whole 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 the wood can be burnt for strong smoke flavoring.
Laurus nobilis 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. However it is slow-growing and may take several years to reach the desired height. Together with a gold form, L. nobilis’Aurea’ and a willow-leaved form L. nobilis f. angustifolia it has gained the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.
Laurus nobilis essential oil in clear glass vial
In herbal medicine, aqueous extracts of bay laurel have been used as an astringent and salve for open wounds. It is also used in massage therapy and aromatherapy. A traditional folk remedy for rashes caused by poison ivy, poison oak, and stinging nettleis a poultice soaked in boiled bay leaves. The Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder listed a variety of conditions which laurel oil was supposed to treat: paralysis, spasms, sciatica, bruises, headaches, catarrhs, ear infections, and rheumatism.
Other uses:Laurel oil is a main ingredient, and the distinguishing characteristic of Aleppo soap.
Petrarch, laurated poet, father of humanism
Ancient Greece In ancient Greece, the plant was called daphne, after the mythic mountain nymph of the same name. In the myth of Apollo and Daphne, the god Apollo fell in love with Daphne, a priestess of Gaia (Mother Earth), and when he tried to seduce her she pled for help to Gaia, who transported her to Crete. In Daphne’s place Gaia left a laurel tree, which Apollo fashioned wreaths out of to console himself. Other versions of the myth, including that of the Roman poet Ovid, state that Daphne was transformed directly into a laurel tree.
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 symbol
The most abundant component found in laurel essential oil is 1,8-cineole, also called eucalypto