Laurus nobilis

Last updated

Laurus nobilis
Starr-071024-0195-Laurus nobilis-leaves-Enchanting Floral Gardens of Kula-Maui (24867859296).jpg
Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) leaves and branches
Scientific classification Red Pencil Icon.png
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Tracheophytes
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Magnoliids
Order: Laurales
Family: Lauraceae
Genus: Laurus
Species:
L. nobilis
Binomial name
Laurus nobilis
L.

Laurus nobilis is an aromatic evergreen tree or large shrub with green, glabrous smooth leaves, in the flowering plant family Lauraceae. It is native to the Mediterranean region and is used as bay leaf for seasoning in cooking. Its common names include bay tree (esp. United Kingdom), [2] :84bay laurel, sweet bay, true laurel, Grecian laurel, [3] or simply laurel. Laurus nobilis figures prominently in classical Greco-Roman culture.

Contents

Worldwide, many other kinds of plants in diverse families are also called "bay" or "laurel", generally due to similarity of foliage or aroma to Laurus nobilis.

Description

A laurel shrub Laurus nobilis g1.jpg
A laurel shrub
Laurus nobilis in pot Laurus nobilis 111.JPG
Laurus nobilis in pot
Laurus nobilis in bloom Daphne tou Apollonos anthismene.jpg
Laurus nobilis in bloom

The laurel is an evergreen shrub or small tree, variable in size and sometimes reaching 7–18 m (23–59 ft) tall. [2] The genus Laurus includes four accepted species, [4] whose diagnostic key characters often overlap. [5]

The bay laurel is dioecious (unisexual), with male and female flowers on separate plants. [6] Each flower is pale yellow-green, about 1 cm (38 in) diameter, and they are borne in pairs beside a leaf. The leaves are glabrous, 6–12 cm (2–5 in) long and 2–4 cm (341+58 in) broad, with an entire (untoothed) margin. On some leaves the margin undulates. [6] The fruit is a small, shiny black berry-like drupe about 1 cm (38 in) long [6] that contains one seed. [7] [2]

Ecology

Laurus nobilis is a widespread relic of the laurel forests that originally covered much of the Mediterranean Basin when the climate of the region was more humid. With the drying of the Mediterranean during the Pliocene era, the laurel forests gradually retreated, and were replaced by the more drought-tolerant sclerophyll plant communities familiar today. Most of the last remaining laurel forests around the Mediterranean are believed to have disappeared approximately ten thousand years ago, although some remnants still persist in the mountains of southern Turkey, northern Syria, southern Spain, north-central Portugal, northern Morocco, the Canary Islands and in Madeira.

Human uses

Food

The plant is the source of several popular herbs and one spice used in a wide variety of recipes, particularly among Mediterranean cuisines. [6] Most commonly, the aromatic leaves are added whole to Italian pasta sauces. They are typically removed from dishes before serving, unless used as a simple garnish. [8] Whole bay leaves have a long shelf life of about one year, under normal temperature and humidity. [8] Whole bay leaves are used almost exclusively as flavor agents during the food preparation stage.

Ground bay leaves, however, can be ingested safely and are often used in soups and stocks, as well as being a common addition to a Bloody Mary. [8] Dried laurel berries and pressed leaf oil can both be used as robust spices, and the wood can be burnt for strong smoke flavoring. [8]

Ornamental

Laurus nobilis is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant in regions with Mediterranean or oceanic climates, and as a house plant or greenhouse plant in colder regions. It is used in topiary to create single erect stems with ball-shaped, box-shaped or twisted crowns; also for low hedges. However it is slow-growing and may take several years to reach the desired height. [9] Together with a gold form, L. nobilis 'Aurea' [10] and a willow-leaved form L. nobilis f. angustifolia, [11] it has gained the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit. [12]

Alternative medicine

Laurus nobilis essential oil in clear glass vial LaurusNobilisEssOil.png
Laurus nobilis essential oil in clear glass vial

In herbal medicine, aqueous extracts of bay laurel have been used as an astringent and salve for open wounds. [13] It is also used in massage therapy and aromatherapy. [14] A folk remedy for rashes caused by poison ivy, poison oak, and stinging nettle is a poultice soaked in boiled bay leaves. [15] The Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder listed a variety of conditions which laurel oil was supposed to treat: paralysis, spasms, sciatica, bruises, headaches, catarrhs, ear infections, and rheumatism. [16]

Other uses

Laurel oil is a secondary ingredient, and the distinguishing fragrant characteristic of Aleppo soap.

Symbolism

Ancient Greece

In ancient Greece, the plant was called daphne, after the mythic mountain nymph of the same name. In the myth of Apollo and Daphne, the god Apollo fell in love with Daphne, a priestess of Gaia (Mother Earth), and when he tried to seduce her she pled for help to Gaia, who transported her to Crete. In Daphne's place Gaia left a laurel tree, from which Apollo fashioned wreaths to console himself. [17] Other versions of the myth, including that of the Roman poet Ovid, state that Daphne was transformed directly into a laurel tree. [18]

Bay laurel was used to fashion the laurel wreath of ancient Greece, a symbol of highest status. 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. According to the poet Lucian, the priestess of Apollo known as the Pythia reputedly chewed laurel leaves from a sacred tree growing inside the temple to induce the enthusiasmos (trance) from which she uttered the oracular prophecies for which she was famous. [19] Some accounts starting in the fourth century BC describe her as shaking a laurel branch while delivering her prophecies. Those who received promising omens from the Pythia were crowned with laurel wreaths as a symbol of Apollo's favor. [20]

Rome

Petrarch, laurated poet, father of humanism Francesco Petrarca00.jpg
Petrarch, laurated poet, father of humanism

The symbolism carried over to Roman culture, which held the laurel as a symbol of victory. [21] It was also associated with immortality, [22] with ritual purification, prosperity and health. [23] [24] It is also the source of the words baccalaureate and poet laureate , as well as the expressions "assume the laurel" and "resting on one's laurels".

Pliny the Elder stated that the Laurel was not permitted for "profane" uses – lighting it on fire at altars "for the propitiation of divinities" was strictly forbidden, because "...it is very evident that the laurel protests against such usage by crackling as it does in the fire, thus, in a manner, giving expression to its abhorrence of such treatment." [25]

Laurel was closely associated with the Roman Emperors, beginning with Augustus. Two Laurel trees flanked the entrance to Augustus' house on the Palatine Hill in Rome, which itself was connected to the Temple of Apollo Palatinus which Augustus had built. Thus the laurels had the dual purpose of advertising Augustus' victory in the Civil Wars and his close association with Apollo. [23] Suetonius relates the story of Augustus' wife, and Rome's first Empress, Livia, who planted a sprig of laurel on the grounds of her villa at Prima Porta after an eagle dropped a hen with the sprig clutched in its beak onto her lap. [26] The sprig grew into a full-size tree which fostered an entire grove of laurel trees, which were in turn added to by subsequent Emperors when they celebrated a triumph. The Emperors in the Julio-Claudian dynasty all sourced their Laurel wreaths from the original tree planted by Livia. It was taken as an omen of the impending end of the Julio-Claudian dynasty that in the reign of Nero the entire grove died, shortly before he was assassinated. [26] Rome's second Emperor Tiberius wore wreaths of laurel whenever there was stormy weather because it was widely believed that Laurel trees were immune to lightning strikes, affording protection to those who brandished it. [27] [28] [24] One reason for this belief is because laurel does not burn easily and crackles loudly when on fire. It led ancient Romans to believe the plant was inhabited by a "heavenly fire demon", and was therefore "immune" from outer threats like fire or lightning. [27]

Senators of the Roman Empire chewed on them as Commodus slaughtered animals in the Coliseum to stop laughing. [29]

In modern Italy laurel wreaths are worn as a crown by graduating school students. [30]

East Asia

An early Chinese etiological myth for the phases of the moon involved a great forest or tree which quickly grew and lost its leaves and flowers every month. After the Sui and Tang dynasties, this was sometimes connected to a woodsman named Wu Gang, sentenced to cut at a self-repairing tree as a punishment for varying offenses. The tree was originally identified as a (guì) and described in the terms of the osmanthus (Osmanthus fragrans, now known in Chinese as the 桂花 or "gui flower"), whose blossoms are still used to flavor wine and confections for the Mid-Autumn Festival. However, in English, it is often associated with the more well-known cassia (Cinnamomum cassia, now known in Chinese as the 肉桂 or "meat gui") while, in modern Chinese, it has instead become associated with the Mediterranean laurel. By the Qing dynasty, the chengyu "pluck osmanthus in the Toad Palace" ( 蟾宫折桂 , Chángōng zhé guì) meant passing the imperial examinations, [31] [32] [33] which were held around the time of the lunar festival. The similar association in Europe of laurels with victory and success led to its translation into Chinese as the 月桂 or "Moon gui".

Finland

The laurel leaves in the right side of the coat of arms of Kaskinen Kaskinen.vaakuna.svg
The laurel leaves in the right side of the coat of arms of Kaskinen

The laurel leaves in the coat of arms of Kaskinen, Finland (Swedish : Kaskö) may have been meant to refer to local flowering, but its origin may also be in the name of the family Bladh (Swedish : blad; ‘leaf’); two members of the family - a father and a son - acquired both town rights and the status of staple town for the village at the time. [34] [35]

Chemical constituents

The most abundant component found in laurel essential oil is 1,8-cineole, also called eucalyptol. The leaves contain about 1.3% essential oils (ol. lauri folii), consisting of 45% eucalyptol, 12% other terpenes, 8–12% terpinyl acetate, 3–4% sesquiterpenes, 3% methyleugenol, and other α- and β-pinenes, phellandrene, linalool, geraniol, and terpineol. [36] It contains lauric acid also.[ citation needed ]

Both essential and fatty oils are present in the fruit. 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 chemical compound lauroside B has been isolated from Laurus nobilis. [37]

See also

Related Research Articles

Bay leaf Aromatic leaf

The bay leaf is an aromatic leaf commonly used in cooking. It can be used whole or in a dried or ground form.

Laurel may refer to:

Daphne Minor figure in Greek mythology

Daphne, a minor figure in Greek mythology, is a naiad, a variety of female nymph associated with fountains, wells, springs, streams, brooks and other bodies of freshwater. She is said by ancient sources variously to have been a daughter of the river god Peneus and the nymph Creusa in Thessaly or of Ladon or Pineios, and to Ge.

Lauraceae Family of flowering plants

The flowering plant family Lauraceae, the laurels, includes the true laurel and its closest relatives. This family comprises about 2850 known species in about 45 genera worldwide. They are dicotyledons, and occur mainly in warm temperate and tropical regions, especially Southeast Asia and South America. Many are aromatic evergreen trees or shrubs, but some, such as Sassafras, are deciduous, or include both deciduous and evergreen trees and shrubs, especially in tropical and temperate climates. The genus Cassytha is unique in the Lauraceae in that its members are parasitic vines.

Bay rum Type of cologne and aftershave lotion

Bay rum is a type of cologne and aftershave lotion. Other uses include as under-arm deodorant and as a fragrance for shaving soap, as well as a general astringent.

<i>Umbellularia</i> Genus of trees

Umbellularia californica is a large hardwood tree native to coastal forests and the Sierra foothills of California, and to coastal forests extending into Oregon. It is endemic to the California Floristic Province. It is the sole species in the genus Umbellularia.

<i>Prunus laurocerasus</i> Species of plant

Prunus laurocerasus, also known as cherry laurel, common laurel and sometimes English laurel in North America, is an evergreen species of cherry (Prunus), native to regions bordering the Black Sea in southwestern Asia and southeastern Europe, from Albania and Bulgaria east through Turkey to the Caucasus Mountains and northern Iran.

<i>Myrtus</i> Genus of flowering plants in the family Myrtaceae

Myrtus, with the common name myrtle, is a genus of flowering plants in the family Myrtaceae, described by Swedish botanist Linnaeus in 1753.

Laurel forest Type of subtropical forest

Laurel forest, also called laurisilva or laurissilva, is a type of subtropical forest found in areas with high humidity and relatively stable, mild temperatures. The forest is characterized by broadleaf tree species with evergreen, glossy and elongated leaves, known as "laurophyll" or "lauroid". Plants from the laurel family (Lauraceae) may or may not be present, depending on the location.

<i>Laurus</i> Genus of flowering plants in the laurel family Lauraceae

Laurus is a genus of evergreen trees or shrubs belonging to the laurel family, Lauraceae. The genus contains three or more species, including the bay laurel or sweet bay, L. nobilis, widely cultivated as an ornamental plant and a culinary herb.

<i>Osmanthus fragrans</i> Species of plant

Osmanthus fragrans, variously known as sweet osmanthus, sweet olive, tea olive, and fragrant olive, is a species native to Asia from the Himalayas through South China to Taiwan, southern Japan and Southeast Asia as far south as Cambodia and Thailand.

<i>Aucuba</i> Genus of flowering plants

Aucuba is a genus of three to ten species of flowering plants, now placed in the family Garryaceae, although formerly classified in the Aucubaceae or Cornaceae.

Tea blending and additives

Tea blending is the blending of different teas together to produce a final product. This occurs chiefly with black tea that is blended to make most tea bags but can also occur with such teas as Pu-erh, where leaves are blended from different regions before being compressed. The aim of blending is to create a well-balanced flavour using different origins and characters. This also allows for variations in tea leaf quality and differences from season to season to be smoothed out. The one golden rule of blending is this: Every blend must taste the same as the previous one, so a consumer will not be able to detect a difference in flavour from one purchase to the next.

Laurel wreath Wreath made of branches and leaves of the bay laurel

A laurel wreath is a round wreath made of connected branches and leaves of the bay laurel, an aromatic broadleaf evergreen, or later from spineless butcher's broom or cherry laurel. It is a symbol of triumph and is worn as a chaplet around the head, or as a garland around the neck.

Laurentum An ancient Roman city of Latium on the west coast of the Italian Peninsula southwest of Rome

Laurentum was an ancient Roman city of Latium situated between Ostia and Lavinium, on the west coast of the Italian Peninsula southwest of Rome. Roman writers regarded it as the original capital of Italy, before Lavinium assumed that role after the death of King Latinus. In historical times, Laurentum was united with Lavinium, and the name Lauro-Lavinium is sometimes used to refer to both.

Wreath (attire)

A wreath worn for purpose of attire, is a headdress made of leaves, grasses, flowers or branches. It is typically worn in festive occasions and on holy days and has a long history and association with ancient pageants and ceremonies. Outside occasional use, the wreath can also be used as a crown, or a mark of honour. The wreath most often has an annular geometric construction.

Aleppo soap

Aleppo soap is a handmade, hard bar soap associated with the city of Aleppo, Syria. Aleppo soap is classified as a Castile soap as it is a hard soap made from olive oil and lye, from which it is distinguished by the inclusion of laurel oil.

Wu Gang

Wu Gang, formerly romanized as Wu Kang and also known as Wu Zhi in some sources, is a figure in traditional Chinese folklore and religion. He is known for endlessly cutting down a self-healing osmanthus tree on the Moon, a divine punishment which has led to his description as the Chinese Sisyphus. In modern Chinese, the chengyu "Wu Gang chopping the tree" is used to describe any endless toil. The specific reason for his situation has varied in the sources, but Wu Gang's story dates back to at least the Tang dynasty.

Huangjin Gui

Huangjin Gui is a premium variety of Chinese oolong tea traditionally from Anxi in Fujian province. Named after the yellow golden color of its budding leaves and its unique flowery aroma, it is said to be reminiscent of Osmanthus.

References

  1. Khela, S.; Wilson, B. (2018). "Laurus nobilis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species . 2018: e.T203351A119996864. doi: 10.2305/IUCN.UK.2018-1.RLTS.T203351A119996864.en . Retrieved 19 November 2021.
  2. 1 2 3 Stace, C. A. (2010). New Flora of the British Isles (Third ed.). Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press. ISBN   9780521707725.
  3. Brown, R.W. (1956). Composition of scientific words: A manual of methods and a lexicon of materials for the practice of logotechnics. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press.
  4. "The Plant List:Laurus". Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Missouri Botanic Garden. Retrieved 20 March 2017.
  5. Mabberley, The Plant-Book: A Portable Dictionary of the Vascular Plants, Cambridge University Press, 19 Jun 1997
  6. 1 2 3 4 Vaughan, John Griffith; Geissler, Catherine (2009). The New Oxford Book of Food Plants. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 150. ISBN   978-0-19-954946-7 . Retrieved 2010-12-31.
  7. Konstantinidou, E.; Takos, I.; Merou, T. (2008). "Desiccation and storage behavior of bay laurel (Laurus nobilis L.) seeds". European Journal of Forest Research. 127 (2): 125–131. doi:10.1007/s10342-007-0189-z. S2CID   28898196.
  8. 1 2 3 4 Green, Aliza (2006). Field Guide to Herbs & Spices. Philadelphia: Quirk Books. ISBN   978-1-59474-082-4 . Retrieved 2010-12-31.
  9. Brickell, Christopher, ed. (2008). The Royal Horticultural Society A-Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants. United Kingdom: Dorling Kindersley. p. 614. ISBN   9781405332965.
  10. "Laurus nobilis 'Aurea'". RHS. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  11. "RHS Plantfinder – Laurus nobilis f. angustifolia" . Retrieved 19 March 2018.
  12. "Laurus nobilis". RHS. Retrieved 1 October 2020.
  13. Nayak, S; Nalabothu, P; Sandiford, S; Bhogadi, V; Adogwa, A (2006). "Evaluation of wound healing activity of Allamanda cathartica. L. and Laurus nobilis. L. extracts on rats". BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 6: 12. doi:10.1186/1472-6882-6-12. PMC   1456996 . PMID   16597335..
  14. Encyclopedia of Herbs. "Bay Laurel: Laurus nobilis". AllNatural.net. Archived from the original on 19 November 2010. Retrieved 2010-12-31.
  15. Wood, Jamie; Steinke, Lisa (2010). The Faerie's Guide to Green Magick from the Garden. New York: Random House. p. 43. ISBN   978-1-58761-354-8 . Retrieved 2010-12-31.
  16. Pliny the Elder. Natural History. p. XXIII.43.
  17. Robert Graves (1955). The Greek Myths: Part 1. Penguin Books. p. 21.k-21.L.
  18. "The Metamorphoses". Archived from the original on April 19, 2005. Retrieved 2017-11-17.CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link) Translation by A. S. Kline, 2000.
  19. Scott, Michael (2014). Delphi. Princeton University Press. p. 20.
  20. J.O. Swahn (1991). The Lore of Spices. Random House. p. 40.
  21. De Cleene, Marcel; Lejeune, Marie Claire (2003). Compendium of symbolic and ritual plants in Europe, Volume 1. Man & Culture. p. 129. OCLC   482791069.
  22. Pliny the Elder. Natural History Book XV.39.
  23. 1 2 Annette Giesecke (2014). The Mythology of Plants: Botanical Lore from Ancient Greece and Rome. J. Paul Getty Museum. pp. 35–36.
  24. 1 2 Pliny the Elder. Natural History Book XV, 35.
  25. Pliny the Elder. Natural History Book XV.135.
  26. 1 2 Suetonius. Galba Book 7, 1.
  27. 1 2 Eugene S. McCartney (1929). "Why Did Tiberius Wear Laurel in the Form of a Crown During Thunder Storms". Classical Philology. Classical Philology Vol. 24 No. 2. 24 (2): 201–203. doi:10.1086/361124. S2CID   162098134.
  28. Suetonius. Tiberius, 69.
  29. "Commodus", Wikipedia, 2020-12-31, retrieved 2021-01-10
  30. "Corona d’alloro fai da te" by Gabriella Massara, https://giftsitter.com/it/blog/laurea-perche-si-incorona-il-laureato-con-lalloro, retrieved April 2018
  31. Brendon, Juliet & al. The Moon Year: A Record of Chinese Customs and Festivals, p. 410. Kelly & Walsh, 1927. Reprinted Routledge (Abingdon), 2011. Accessed 13 November 2013.
  32. Zdic. " 蟾宫折桂 ". 2013. Accessed 13 November 2013. (in Chinese)
  33. 杜近芳 [Du Jinfang]. 《红楼梦汉英习语词典》 ["A Dictionary of Chinese Idioms in the Dream of the Red Chamber "]. 2003. Accessed 13 November 2013. (in English) & (in Chinese)
  34. Suomen kunnallisvaakunat (in Finnish). Suomen Kunnallisliitto. 1982. p. 117. ISBN   951-773-085-3.
  35. Бойко Дм. А. Геральдика Великого Княжества Финляндского. – Запорожье, 2013. (in Russia)
  36. Kilic, Ayben; Hafizoglu, Harzemsah; Kollmannsberger, Hubert; Nitz, Siegfried (2004). "Volatile Constituents and Key Odorants in Leaves, Buds, Flowers, and Fruits of Laurus nobilisL". Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 52 (6): 1601–6. doi:10.1021/jf0306237. PMID   15030218.
  37. Panza, E; Tersigni, M; Iorizzi, M; Zollo, F; De Marino, S; Festa, C; Napolitano, M; Castello, G; et al. (2011). "Lauroside B, a megastigmane glycoside from Laurus nobilis (bay laurel) leaves, induces apoptosis in human melanoma cell lines by inhibiting NF-κB activation". Journal of Natural Products. 74 (2): 228–33. doi:10.1021/np100688g. PMID   21188975.