Bay Laurel; Laurus nobilis. Synonyms: Sweet Bay. True Laurel. Bay. Laurier d'Apollon. Roman Laurel. Noble Laurel. Lorbeer. Laurier Sauce. Daphne. Parts Used: Leaves, fruit, oil. Habitat: Shores of the Mediterranean.
The Sweet Bay is a small tree, growing in Britain to a height of about 25 feet, but in warmer climates reaching as much as 60 feet. The smooth bark may be olive-green or of a reddish hue. The luxurious, evergreen leaves are thick, smooth, and of a shining, dark green colour. The flowers are small, yellow and unisexual, and grow in small clusters. The shrub has been cultivated in Britain since the sixteenth century. It is the source of the ancients' crowns and wreaths for heroes and poets, and the modern term of 'bachelor,' given for degrees, is probably derived from bacca-laureus, or laurel-berry, through the French bachelier.
The Delphic priestesses are said to have made use of the leaves. The leaves are much used in cookery for flavouring. The volatile oil is sometimes used in perfumery. The dried, black, aromatic berries come from Provence, Spain, Italy and Morocco. The wood is sweet-scented, and is used for marqueterie work. The leaves and fruit are very rarely used internally. They were formerly employed in hysteria, amenorrhoea, flatulent colic, etc. The berries have been used to promote abortion.