Laurus nobilis (Lauraceae)

  • The plant

Laurus nobilis is an aromatic evergreen tree or large shrub reaching 10–18 m tall, native to the Mediterranean region and known also as true laurel, sweet bay, laurel tree, Grecian laurel, daphne, laurel, or bay tree. The smell of the essential oil is warm and quite pungent.

  • The myth

Daphne was the holly plant of Apollo that was used for the laurel wreaths in ancient Greece, and therefore the origin of the expression "resting on one's laurels".

  • Ethnopharmacology and traditional medical applications

In the 1st century BC, Dioscorides named this plant ‘‘Daphne” in his book ‘‘Materia Medica”, and recorded that its leaves and fruits soothe the stomach.
According to folk medicine bay leaves are antiseptic, anti-parasitic, digestive, emmenagogue, diaphoretic, carminative, diuretic and emetic in large doses. The oil from the leaves is used to relieve aches and pains of rheumatism, sprains, bruises, and skin rashes. When pulped, bay leaves can be applied as an astringent to burns and bruises.

  • Active constituents and pharmacological properties

The essential oil from the leaves has narcotic, stimulant, antibacterial and fungicidal properties. The main constituents of the essential oil are myrcene, phellandrene, methyl chavicol, citral, methyl eugenol, chavicol, and eugenol.
The major constituents in the leaves of bay are flavonoids and sesquiterpene lactones. The anti-convulsive and antiepileptic activities of L. nobilis extracts have also been confirmed by scientific research. Recent studies on this plant have shown that the leaves increase the secretion of gastric fluids and treat digestive disorders such as flatulent colic. Costunolide, the major sesquiterpene lactone of the plant, was reported to be essential for this activity. The antioxidant activity of the leaves has also been investigated and isoquercitrin was found to be the compound responsible for its alkyl radical scavenging activity.


Costunolide                       Quercitrin