Bay Leaf (generic name)
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CategoryHerbs & Supplements
Alpha-methylene-gamma-butyrolactone moiety, bay laurel, bay tree, costunolide, daphne, dehydrocostus lactone, Grecian laurel, guaianolides, Lauraceae (family), laurel, laurel oil, Laurus, Laurus nobilis L., Mediterranean bay, Mediterranean laurel, noble laurel, p-menthane hydroperoxide, reynosin, Roman laurel, santamarine, sesquiterpenes, sweet bay, sweet laurel, true bay, trypanocidal terpenoids, zaluzanin D.
Note: Bay leaf (Laurus nobilis) may be confused with California bay leaf (Umbellularia californica), also known as "California laurel" or "Oregon myrtle," or Indian bay leaf (Cinnamoma tamala). This monograph only covers bay leaf (Laurus nobilis).
Bay leaf is primarily used to flavor foods, and it is used by chefs of ethnic cuisines, from Italian to Thai. It is also frequently used in salt-free seasonings.
Bay leaf is thought to be useful for gastric ulcers, high blood sugar, migraines, and infections. Bay leaves and berries have been used for their astringent, diaphoretic (promotes sweating), carminative (promotes digestion), digestive, and stomachic (tones and strengthens the stomach) properties. In the Middle Ages bay leaf was believed to induce abortions. Traditionally, the berries of the bay tree were used to treat furuncles. The leaf essential oil of Laurus nobilis has been used as an antiepileptic remedy in Iranian traditional medicine.
Currently, there is not enough scientific evidence to draw any firm conclusions about the medicinal safety, effectiveness or dosing of bay leaf.
EvidenceDISCLAIMER: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
TraditionWARNING: DISCLAIMER: The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below.
Abortifacient (inducing abortion), amenorrhea (absence of menstruation), analgesic (pain-reliever), antibacterial, anticonvulsant, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiseptic, appetite stimulant, arthritis, astringent, bile flow stimulant, bronchitis, cancer, carminative (promotes digestion), colic, dandruff, diabetes, diaphoretic (promotes sweating), digestive, diuretic, ear pain, emetic (induces vomiting), emmenagogue (promotes menstruation), food uses, furuncles (skin boil), hysteria, influenza, insecticide, leukemia, migraine headaches, narcotic, nightmares, rheumatism, sprains, stimulant, stomach ulcers, wound healing.
Adults (18 years and older)
There is not enough scientific evidence to safely recommend bay leaf for use in adults.
Children (younger than 18 years)
There is not enough scientific evidence to safely recommend bay leaf for use in children.
SafetyDISCLAIMER: Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.
Individuals with a known allergy to bay leaf (Laurus nobilis), its constituents, and related plants in the Lauraceae family as well as the Compositae/Asteraceae family should not use bay leaf. Contact dermatitis and occupational asthma have been reported.
Side Effects and Warnings
Overall, bay leaf has very few adverse effects, and is likely safe when consumed in amounts used in foods. However, it may cause contact dermatitis and occupational asthma. Bay leaves may become lodged in the gastrointestinal tract, causing tears or blockages. These impacted leaves may also obstruct breathing.
Other reported side effects include hand and face eczema and airborne contact dermatitis.