two bay laurel 2

Latin Name: Bay Laurel Laurus Nobilis or Lauraceae is one of about 3000 different species in the Laurel family.

Other Common Names: Grecian laurel, Daphene, Poet’s Laurel or Sweet Bay

laurel crown

Interesting Historical Trivia: The latin word Laurus means praise. Hence the term “to rest on one’s laurels” refers to reflecting on your past achievements. The greek word for the laurel tree is Daphene, named for the daughter of river god Peneus, who turned his daughter into a Bay Laurel tree to solve a very convoluted lovers spat between Cupid, Apollo and Daphene. When the Olympic games were established in 776 BC victors as well as Roman Emperors of the era were adorned with crowns of laurel leaves. Common in the gardens of ancient Egypt, it continues to be an aromatherapy plant, which is said to help medicine men see into the future.

Proven Scientific Uses: Used topically for wounds, a 2006 study in the BMC Journal for Alternative Medicine, showed that rats with open cuts which were treated externally with 200mg of bay leaf extract daily, accelerated the wound closure and healing process to just 10 days. In 2009 in the Journal of Clinical Biochemistry and Nutrition discovered that humans with type-2 diabetes experienced a drop in blood glucose, cholesterol and triglycerides when taking 1 to 3 grams of ground bay leaf per day for 30 days. Bay leaves are rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, manganese, calcium, potassium and magnesium.

Folk Remedies: Bay leaves have been in medicine for hundreds of years. Consumed by infusion into warm water and drank for a variety of aliments. It is diuretic and astringent being used to reduce excessive sweating brought on by illness. As a caution, Bay Laurel leaves can be easily confused with California laurel (or any other variety of laurel tree) which are toxic. Never use any leave that you haven’t confirmed to be Bay Laurel leaves, and always consult a doctor before trying any herbal remedies.

Can I grow it? Bay Laurel is fantastic as a houseplant. It requires well-drained soil. A blend of cactus mix and potting soil works really well. Water regularly, but only when the surface of the soil is dry. The light must be bright but not direct. In the summer months, Bay Laurel will thrive on a shaded porch. In zones 8 to 11 Bay Laurel grows well outdoors. Bay Laurel is a very slow growing plant, and after 10 to 30 years of age, the tree will flower and provide small fruits that birds love.

Common Culinary Uses: Bay leaf is excellent for seasoning stews and soups. The oils and flavor of the leaves are infused during cooking, and should be removed before eating.

Unusual Culinary Uses: Bay leaves can be used in potpourri, wreaths and other decorations.

Bay Leaf Tea is a wonderful Mediterranean treat. It’s a comforting aromatic drink that’s spicy yet light, and may take you to a place that reminds you of the islands of Greece. Recipe below:

tea with leaf


What you need:

3 large fresh bay laurel leaves

2 cups water

Sugar, cinnamon and milk (optional)

Rub the leaves between your fingers, which helps break the leaf veins by bruising the herb. Add the bay leaves and water to a pot, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Let boil for 10 minutes then remove pot from the heat. Let tea steep for 4 additional minutes.

Strain, and add a dash of cinnamon. Sweeten to suit your taste. If desired add a small splash of milk or cream, as too much will dilute the flavor.


final photo



by Amy Smith Wexler

Reader Comments

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Bay leaves, fresh or dry, are wonderful for keeping weevils out of your flour or pantry. I put a few leaves whole in my flour canister and never get weevils. They don’t change the flavor of flour, at least the dry ones don’t. Scatter a few on the shelves of your pantry to keep the weevils away from your other dry goods. Change them out once a year or so.


I have ground my bay leaves to a fine powder, I just add a little at time until I get the flavor I want.


i love bay have a tree in my yard, my husband bought it for me because i put them in almost everything! but have never heard of bay tea so will try.

Betty Benesi

We have so many Bay trees on our property in the Santa Cruz mountains that we have to cut them back annually. They are like weeds here. I keep threatening to dry them and sell them in bottles because they are so prevalent!

Donna Shaw

I grew a bay laurel tree in OK. That thing got over 10 feet tall and was huge. I left it out in full sun spring and summer and wintered it in the greenhouse. One summer, it up and died on me; suddenly I might add. Can’t imagine what happened to it.

Linda & Eloise

My Grandmother taught me to use bay leaves to relieve an upset stomach and it always works. Remove any stems, break 3 – 4 larger leaves in half and steep in a cup of hot water for 5 – 10 minutes. Add a pinch of sugar and drink it while it’s still hot/warm.


Go to a local nursery store. Make sure you are getting the bay laurel! Enjoy! It stays nicely in my kitchen window, growing slowly. Does decide to dry up and die at times for NO reason! That way, I get to go out and get a new plant!

Jennifer Vizzo

I bought a small “start” of a bay tree about ten years ago. I planted it in what had once been a small (barrel size) water feature. That bay must love the location because it has grown like crazy, and now I have to prune it back to keep it manageable size. But the wonderful thing is that I have fresh bay leaves for my stews, soups, sauces and purees. I will never buy that nasty dried stuff again.


yes the dry do not hold a candle to the fresh. you sound like a bay lover like me!