Drugs A - Z
Bay leaf (Laurus nobilis)
Generic Name: Bay Leaf
CategoryHerbs & Supplements
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).
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.
EvidenceDISCLAIMER: 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.
TraditionWARNING: DISCLAIMER: 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.
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.
SafetyDISCLAIMER: Many complementary techniques are practiced by healthcare professionals with formal training, in accordance with the standards of national organizations. However, this is not universally the case, and adverse effects are possible. Due to limited research, in some cases only limited safety information is available.
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
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.
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.
This patient 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): J. Kathryn Bryan, BA (University of Virginia); Antoinette Edmondson, PharmD (Massachusetts College of Pharmacy); Nicole Giese, MS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Darrick Glidden, PharmD (Massachusetts College of Pharmacy); Steven Ottariano, RPh (VA Medical Center); Shaina Tanguay-Colucci, BS (Natural Standard Research Collaboration); Wendy Weissner, BA (Natural Standard Research Collaboration).
BibliographyDISCLAIMER: Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Simic M, Kundakovic T, Kovacevic N. Preliminary assay on the antioxidative activity of Laurus nobilis extracts. Fitoterapia 2003;74(6):613-616.
Skok P. Dried bay leaf: an unusual cause of upper gastrointestinal tract hemorrhage. Endoscopy 1998;30(3):S40-S41.
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.
Tsang TK, Flais MJ, et al. Duodenal obstruction secondary to bay leaf impaction. Ann Intern Med 4-20-1999;130(8):701-702.
Uchiyama N, Matsunaga K, Kiuchi F, et al. Trypanocidal terpenoids from Laurus nobilis L. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo) 2002;50(11):1514-1516.
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.
Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.