Bay Laurel

Laurus nobilis
Image by equipaje via Flickr

Botanical Name:Laurus nobilis   
Family: Lauraceae
Genus: Laurus
Species: L. nobilis
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Laurales
Common Name :bay laurel, sweet bay, bay tree (esp. United Kingdom), true laurel, Grecian laurel,laurel tree or simply laurel.

Habitat
:The bay laurel is a native plant of the Mediterranean region. The plant grows best in damp and shady sites in gardens. As it is extensively used in many Mediterranean cuisines, the bay laurel is a very popular garden herb especially in Europe. Leaves from the bay laurel are picked all year round and used in many culinary preparations.

Description:
Bay Laurel is an aromatic evergreen tree or large shrub reaching 10–18 m tall, native to the Mediterranean region.

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The leaves are 6–12 cm long and 2–4 cm broad, with a characteristic finely serrated and wrinkled margin. It is dioecious, with male and female flowers on separate plants; each flower is pale yellow-green, about 1 cm diameter, borne in pairs together beside a leaf. The fruit is a small black berry about 1 cm long.

Sweet Bay can withstand the heat of summer and will grow best when allowed to spend as much time outdoors as possible. Delay bringing your Bay Laurel inside until late fall but don’t subject the plants to any freezing weather conditions.

Once the plants are moved indoors stop applying fertilizer and cut back on the amount of water that you provide over the winter, but don’t let the container completely dry out. Place the Bay Laurel in a relatively cool, well lit area, or use a grow light bulb to supplement the amount of light that the herb plant receives.

In early spring gradually allow the Bay Laurel plants to acclimate to the outdoors in the same manner that you would harden off vegetable transplants. The hardening off process can be completed in a shorter timeframe than for vegetable seedlings, but the Bay plants will need sufficient time to adjust to the harsher outdoor growing conditions before they resume their life outdoors.

Cultivation:
The bay laurel can succeed in any kind of soil that is moderately fertile and well watered, though it tends to grow best in soils that retain moisture and are well drained. The bay laurel can also grow without problems in all types of dry soils. The bay laurel prefers exposure to full sunlight but can also grow well in sites with light shade. Bay laurel plants are fairly resistant to high winds; however, the plants suffer if exposed to extreme maritime contact or cold dry winds for long periods of time. Growing bay laurel plants may need protection from the cold during severe winters and the plant is not fully hardy in all areas of temperate countries such as Britain. In a dormant state, bay laurel plants are reliably hardy to temperatures of about -5°c, and can withstand occasional lows of up to -15°c – such low temperatures may lead to the defoliation of the tree but the tree usually recovers and brings forth new leaves late in the spring or by the summer. The plant botanists call the Laurus nobilis angustifolia – Syn ‘Salicifolia’ – a little hardier and possesses similar aromatic qualities. Many people also cultivate the bay laurel tree as an ornamental plant in gardens; the added bonus is such cultivated yields leaves that can be used to flavor food. The leaves of the bay laurel give off a sweet and aromatic scent when bruised. Bay laurel trees are also strongly resistant to all insect pests and plant diseases – this plant is notably resistant to the honey fungus. The beneficial properties of this plant species has been known since ancient times and many ancient peoples held the tree in high esteem. The ancient Greeks dedicated this plant to Apollo, the god of light, the plant also served as a symbol of peace and victory for the Greeks. The bay laurel was also utilized in making wreaths for ancient emperors, generals and poets. The bay laurel is a dioecious plant and individual plants have a specific sex. If seeds are required, it is necessary to grow both the male and female plants in the garden.

The bay laurel can be propagated in three basic methods – by layering, sowing seeds or by taking cuttings from individual plants.

The ideal time to sow the seeds of the bay laurel is in the spring. Seeds are ideally sown in moist, but definitely not water saturated compost seed beds. When seeds are sown, the seeds must be placed on the surface of the soil and lightly covered using some dry compost. The container of the seed bed must be placed in the dark, the site must ideally be at a temperature of about 65°F (21°C) for germination to occur.

It is difficult to predict a successful germination, which is a rather erratic event and bay laurel seeds can take as long as three months to sprout out. However, the normal time for germination is about three to four weeks from the date on which the seeds are sown. The greatest hindrance to successfully growing the bay laurel from seeds lies in the fact that the seeds can rot before they germinate in the seed bed.

The stem cuttings can be done late in the summer and even early in the fall. Propagating this plant from cuttings is rather hard and successful growth using cuttings is not easy to achieve. To get the best cuttings, one must cut ripe shoots in lengths of 9 to 15cm – 4 to 6 inches, using a knife, the cutting must also include part of the main stem – the heel. Once the shoots have been cut to the desired length, they must be trimmed so only three or four leaves stay on the shoot, this cutting can then be planted in a small pot filled with potting compost. Each individual cutting that has been planted must be labeled and placed in a site without direct sunlight – ideally, a cold frame is the best solution. A heated propagating frame may also give a good chance of success, as high humidity in the ambient air is essential for the proper growth of the plant. Once they are planted in a site, cuttings give out roots within the span of a year or a little longer.

The process of layering of the germinating plants is carried out as normal for all the seedlings. To correctly layer the growing plant, bend each stem down to the ground then use a penknife and make a small cut in the stem in the spot touching the soil. The cut region of the bent stem can then be covered with some soil and secured in the soil using stones or it can be held in place with wires. The cut region of the stem will give off shoots in six to twelve months if the process has been correctly carried out. Bay laurel plants are ideally layered during the spring season.

Religious importance:
It is believed that this herb is used in the rituals and spells for money and success.It is believed that if this leaf is burned it will enhance psychic powers and produce visions. Moreover if worn in an amulet will provide protection from evil and negativity. People say that any wish written on bay leaf comes true..

Uses:
Bay Laurel is the source of the bay leaves which are used for their flavour in cooking. It was also the source of the laurel wreath of ancient Greece, and therefore the expression of “resting on one’s laurels”. 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 ever since his unsuccessful pursuit of Daphne. In the Bible, the sweet-bay is often an emblem of prosperity and fame. In Christianity it is said to symbolize the Resurrection of Christ and the triumph of Humanity thereby.
It is also widely cultivated as an ornamental plant in regions with mediterranean or oceanic climates, and as an indoor plant in colder regions.

Bay leaves are eaten by the caterpillars of some Lepidoptera, for example the Eastern tiger swallowtail (Papilio glaucus).

Harvesting and Cooking with Bay Leaves:
To harvest leaves from your Sweet Bay plant cut the older leaves from the stem with a pair of scissors, or if you’re careful you can simply pull the leaves off of the stem by hand. The large, older Bay leaves are preferred for cooking because they will contain more of the plant’s essential oil and impart more flavor to your favorite recipes.

A single Bay Laurel plant can supply the family chef with more than enough fresh leaves to season meals for the entire year. Harvest the Bay leaves from the plant as they are needed in the kitchen or remove and dry the leaves for future uses.

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The soap making industry also utilizes an essential oil obtained from the fruit of the bay laurel in the manufacture of some types of soaps. Bay laurel is a very hardy and strong plant; it is very resistant to all sorts of plant pests and common plant diseases. A bay laurel plant is said to protect even the other plants growing near it from all insect and pest related problems. Bay laurel leaves are strongly aromatic and are used as natural insect repellents, dried bay laurel leaves are often used in silos to protect stored beans, grains from weevils and other grain eating insects. As it possesses both anti-septic properties as well as an aromatic scent, the bay laurel is often used as a strewing herb. The plant is very tolerant to clipping and pruning activities, it can also be grown as a screen or hedge plant in regions with suitable weather for its cultivation outdoors. The wood of the bay laurel is also very sweetly scented and the smell does not wear off quickly even after a long period of time. The wood is employed in marqueterie work, it is also used to make walking sticks and as friction sticks to start fires.

Fresh Bay leaves will be stronger than the dried herb and if you keep a live Bay plant around there’s really no need to preserve the leaves or purchase the spice from your grocer. Bay Laurel leaves are commonly used to season and add flavor to soups, stews, pot roasts, and other slow cooking kitchen recipes. Remove the leaves before serving because the leaves are tough and may have sharp edges.

Chemical constituents:
In the fruit there are essential oils and fatty oils present. 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 leaves contain about 1.3% essential oils (Ol. Lauri folii), consisting of 45% eucalyptol, 12% terpenes, 3-4% sesquiterpenes, 3% methyleugenol and other a- und ß-pinenes, phellandrene, linalool, geraniol and terpineol.

Medicinal value:-
This herb also known as Oswego tea and Bee Balm is good for the treatment of nausea, vomiting, cold and flu. If used in oil form is an effective treatment for acne, coughs, fevers, tension, stress, and depression.

It is also the source of the word baccalaureate (laurel berry), and of poet laureate. Some evidence from the medical literature supports Bay Laurel having these uses:

*Antioxidative: Fitoterapia. 2003 Sep;74(6):613-6.

*Analgesic and anti-inflammatory: Phytother Res. 2003 Aug;17(7):733-6.

*Anticonvulsant (antiepileptic): Phytomedicine. 2002 Apr;9(3):212-6.

In Chinese folklore there is a great laurel tree on the moon, and the Chinese name for the laurel, (traditional Chinese: ), 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 (simplified Chinese) (“Wu Gang felling the tree”) is sometimes used to refer to endless toil, analogous to Sisyphus in Greek mythology.

The herb known as the bay laurel or the sweet bay is native to Asia Minor and the Mediterranean region in general – it is a small evergreen shrub or tree. The early Greeks and Romans admired the bay laurel for its beauty and used the aromatic leaves in many different ways. Bay laurel possesses leathery leaves that are lanceolate and pointed in shape. The leaves also have the maximum oil content during early and mid-summer and this oil content tends to decreases in other seasons. The name “bay” is used to refer to several botanicals – for example the West Indian bay – botanical name Pimenta racemosa, and the California bay – botanical name Umbellularia californica. Therefore, any of these plants can be called by the name “bay” in the existing herb literature; what is more, some other plants are also called ‘Bay’.

The solution made from the bay laurel is a very potent anti-dandruff rinse and can help a person suffering from excess dandruff in the hair. To prepare this herbal rinse, bring a quart of water to boil, to the boiled water add about three level teaspoons of crumpled bay leaves and let the leaves steep in the covered pot for about twenty five minutes. The herbal tea can be strained and then refrigerated for later use. This herbal tea can be used to wash the hair, when doing this, it is necessary to first rinse all the soap out of the hair using plain water. Once hair has been washed with water and soap, some of the liquid bay laurel tea can be poured on to the head and can be used to massage the scalp thoroughly. This initial massage with the herbal tea can be followed with similar rinses using few more ounces of the herbal tea; the tea must be worked well on to the scalp using the fingertips. The hair so treated can be left as such for about an hour; it must then be rinse thoroughly using plain water. This treatment will be sufficient to keep dandruff from recurring if it is used faithfully every day on a long term basis.

Disorders such as bronchitis and a hacking cough or other related chest complaints can be relieved by applications of a poultice made from the boiled bay leaves; the poultice must be rubbed into the chest and covered with a cloth.

To gain relief from swellings in the tendons, as well as to soothe arthritic aches and pains or muscle sprains – use the oil of the bay laurel as a daily rub. This oil can be prepared by heating some bay leaves in a little olive oil using very low heat on a stove, the leaves must be heated for about twenty minutes – the low heat is to ensure that the oil is not cooked or brought to burn and smoke in the pan. Once they are heated, the leaves can be set aside and allowed to simmer for some more time in the pan. The oil obtained from the leaves must be strained once and cooled, and this oil is to be used as rubbing oil for any of these conditions or for other problems such as lower backache, prominent and painful varicose veins and many other disorders.

Remedies made from the bay laurel are mainly used in the treatment of the disorders affecting the upper digestive tract and to ease all kinds of arthritic aches and pains affecting a person. The remedies made from the bay laurel also has a tonic effect and is good to have a settling effect on the stomach, the bay laurel remedy also stimulates general appetite and aids in the hastening the secretion of digestive juices in people with digestive disorders. The bay laurel leaves are also used as an ingredient in cooking, where they aid in the process of digestion and absorption of food in the stomach. Bay laurel leaves possess many of the same positive effects as seen in the spearmint – botanical name Mentha spicata, and the rosemary – Rosmarinus officinalis – especially in assisting in the breakdown of heavy foods, such as protein rich meat. The onset of menstruation is also promoted by remedies made from the bay laurel. In addition, the essential oil obtained from the bay laurel is mainly employed as a friction rub for topical problems, this rubbing oil is prepared by first diluting the raw oil in carrier oil and it is then massaged on aching muscles and joints for a soothing effect. Bath water can also be infused with a decoction made from the bay laurel leaves to help ease aching limbs and muscles.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
Resources:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bay_Laurel
http://www.ayurveda-herbal-remedy.com/herbal-encyclopedia/ayurveda-encyclopedia-b.html

Bay Laurel Plants


http://www.herbs2000.com/herbs/herbs_bay_laurel.htm

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