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Bay leaf (Laurus nobilis)

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Also listed as: Laurus nobilis, Laurel
Related terms
Background
Evidencetable
Tradition
Dosing
Safety
Interactions
Attribution
Bibliography

Related Terms
  • 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).

Background
  • 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.

Evidence Table

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. GRADE *
* Key to grades

A: Strong scientific evidence for this use
B: Good scientific evidence for this use
C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use
D: Fair scientific evidence for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)


Tradition / Theory

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.

Dosing

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.

Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

  • 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.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • Bay leaf is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women due to lack of available scientific evidence.

Interactions

Interactions with Drugs

  • Alcohol extracts of bay leaf may interact with ACE inhibitor drugs. Caution is advised.
  • Bay leaf essential oil may have anticonvulsant effects. Individuals using bay leaf with other medications with anticonvulsant effects should consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist.
  • Bay leaf essential oil may cause sedation and motor impairment. Caution is advised when using in combination with other medications that have sedative effects, such as chamomile.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Bay leaf essential oil may have anticonvulsant effects. Individuals using bay leaf with other herbs and supplements with anticonvulsant effects should consult with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist.
  • Bay leaf essential oil may cause sedation and motor impairment. Caution is advised when using in combination with other herbs and supplements that have sedative effects, such as chamomile.

Attribution
  • This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Bibliography
  1. Ferreira A, Proenca C, Serralheiro ML, et al. The in vitro screening for acetylcholinesterase inhibition and antioxidant activity of medicinal plants from Portugal. J Ethnopharmacol. 4-28-2006.
  2. Hibasami H, Yamada Y, Moteki H, et al. Sesquiterpenes (costunolide and zaluzanin D) isolated from laurel (Laurus nobilis L.) induce cell death and morphological change indicative of apoptotic chromatin condensation in leukemia HL-60 cells. Int J Mol.Med 2003;12(2):147-151.
  3. Komiya T, Yamada Y, Moteki H, et al. Hot water soluble sesquiterpenes [anhydroperoxy-costunolide and 3-oxoeudesma-1,4(15),11(13)triene-12,6alpha-olide] isolated from laurel (Laurus nobilis L.) induce cell death and morphological change indicative of apoptotic chromatin condensation in leukemia cells. Oncol.Rep. 2004;11(1):85-88.
  4. Matsuda H, Shimoda H, Uemura T, et al. Preventive effect of sesquiterpenes from bay leaf on blood ethanol elevation in ethanol-loaded rat: structure requirement and suppression of gastric emptying. Bioorg.Med Chem.Lett. 9-20-1999;9(18):2647-2652.
  5. Moteki H, Hibasami H, Yamada Y, et al. Specific induction of apoptosis by 1,8-cineole in two human leukemia cell lines, but not a in human stomach cancer cell line. Oncol.Rep. 2002;9(4):757-760.
  6. Nayak S, Nalabothu P, Sandiford S, et al. Evaluation of wound healing activity of Allamanda cathartica. L. and Laurus nobilis. L. extracts on rats. BMC.Complement Altern Med 2006;6:12.
  7. Sayyah M, Saroukhani G, Peirovi A, et al. Analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity of the leaf essential oil of Laurus nobilis Linn. Phytother Res 2003;17(7):733-736.
  8. Sayyah M, Valizadeh J, Kamalinejad M. Anticonvulsant activity of the leaf essential oil of Laurus nobilis against pentylenetetrazole- and maximal electroshock-induced seizures. Phytomedicine. 2002;9(3):212-216.
  9. Simic A, Sokovic MD, Ristic M, et al. The chemical composition of some Lauraceae essential oils and their antifungal activities. Phytother Res 2004;18(9):713-717.
  10. Simic M, Kundakovic T, Kovacevic N. Preliminary assay on the antioxidative activity of Laurus nobilis extracts. Fitoterapia 2003;74(6):613-616.
  11. Skok P. Dried bay leaf: an unusual cause of upper gastrointestinal tract hemorrhage. Endoscopy 1998;30(3):S40-S41.
  12. Soylu EM, Soylu S, Kurt S. Antimicrobial activities of the essential oils of various plants against tomato late blight disease agent Phytophthora infestans. Mycopathologia 2006;161(2):119-128.
  13. Tsang TK, Flais MJ, et al. Duodenal obstruction secondary to bay leaf impaction. Ann Intern Med 4-20-1999;130(8):701-702.
  14. Uchiyama N, Matsunaga K, Kiuchi F, et al. Trypanocidal terpenoids from Laurus nobilis L. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo) 2002;50(11):1514-1516.
  15. Van der Veen JE, De Graaf C, Van Dis SJ, et al. Determinants of salt use in cooked meals in The Netherlands: attitudes and practices of food preparers. Eur J Clin Nutr 1999;53(5):388-394.

Copyright 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)


The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.