Important Botanical family in warmer regions, the Lauraceae are often aromatic, they are trees or evergreen shrubs.
We eat the fruit of Persea americana (see avocado) or the bark of Cinnamomum (see cinnamon).
The noble laurel (bay tree) is native to Asia Minor, it is generally a small dioecious tree (with separated sex,) with branches directed upwards, with rather bushy and always green foliage; the leaves are alternate, fairly firm and have a wavy edge; the fruit is a small black berry.
If the laurel is best known now as a fairly common spice, there was a time when it was revered, consecrated to the solar Apollo, emblem of victory in Greece as in Rome; like the olive tree, it could not be used for any profane use, it was not even burned on the altars.
For many it was a magical plant, because it burns while crackling even when green.
The leaves, fruits or berries, essential oil of leaves and fruit oil are used in herbal medicine and aromatherapy.
CHEMICAL COMPOSITION AND PROPERTIES
LAUREL LEAVES LAUREL FRUIT (BERRY) OIL
The leaves, when crumpled, give off a strong aromatic odor, a mixture of eucalyt and cinnamon; the leaves contain an essential oil (3% of the dry weight).
Average composition :
- 30 to 70% of cineole (eucalytol),
- but also terpenoids (linalool, geraniol, eugenol, pinene, terpinene and phellandrene).
The composition of the essential oil explains its properties:
- promoting expectoration and "calming" inflammation of the respiratory tract (eucalyptol),
- antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal, slightly analgesic (eugenol),
- antiseptic, soothing and with a pleasant odor (linalool, geraniol, pinene, terpinene)
The leaves contain aporphinoid alkaloids and sesquiterpene lactones which possess a bitter flavor and astringent and anti-inflammatory tannins.
Laurel lactones can induce allergic dermatitis like those of arnica, chysanthemums, chamomile and many other asteraceae.
The fruit (berry) of the laurel is rich in oil (17 to 25%), solid at ordinary temperature,
Average composition (for the main triglycerides):
Unsaturated fatty acids: linoleic (20%), oleic (30%),
Saturated fatty acids: lauric (15 to 20%), palmitic (15 to 20%).
Laurel oil is a thick balsamic oil that contains an essential oil different from the leaves (but with 15-20% eucalyptol).
The bay leaf, which dries very well, is the flavor of many dishes and sauces; it is used in moderation otherwise it communicates bitterness to food (this is due to the presence of lactones and possibly alkaloids).
It can be considered as a digestive stimulant, but on the contrary, its pronounced taste and the persistence in the mouth of the smell of eucalyptol can suppress the appetite and it thus enters into the composition of phytomedicines for slimming purposes.
Apart from this question of saturation of the taste buds, it is a spice that facilitates digestion (by stimulating digestive secretions), which fights flatulence and epigastric bloating.
For internal use, we recommend the infusion of leaves:
- 10 to 20 g of leaves for a liter of water, to improve digestion or to suppress appetite.
For external use, the decoction:
- 50 g of leaves for a liter of boiling water. When cooled, it is useful for cleaning wounds and burns, as an insect repellent liquid or for destroying external parasites in animals.
LAUREL LAURUS NOBILIS ESSENTIAL OIL
The essential oil of laurel leaves is a little "versatile", it does not have a property of its own.
It is an essential oil "without danger" except the risk of allergy or intolerance.
It is used externally:
- in pure application on areas infected with bacteria or fungi: small wounds, boils, acne ....
- in massage on painful joint or muscle areas pure or diluted in vegetable oil .
- as a gargle or mouthwash: mouth ulcers, dental infection, tonsillitis, a few drops in a glass of lukewarm water, shake to diffuse the essential oil insoluble in water.
- Internally: in the event of a viral infection of the respiratory tract (bronchitis, cold, flu) to facilitate expectoration and prevent bacterial superinfection: a few drops (4 to 8) on bread, in honey or condensed milk two to three times a day.
Stop in case of digestive intolerance (heartburn).
FRUIT OR LAUREL BERRY
The bay of the laurel has the same culinary use as the leaf, it is dried, it is grated, like nutmeg.
Harvested in the fall, it is rich in fatty substances and the oil can be extracted after crushing the berries and prolonged boiling followed by sieving the mixture which is still warm.
The oil floats and freezes, it is dried in a water bath.
After mixing with the same weight of tallow, you get real "laurel butter", an old popular ointment formerly used on sprains, sore joints and knotted muscles, boils and whitlow.
The pure oil would repel mosquitoes, it is applied directly to the skin, the crushed leaves would calm insect bites.
Laurel berry oil can be found in some drugstores and on the Internet.
10 to 30% of laurel oil is added in the aleppo soap process at the end of the chemical reaction of saponification. Il improves the medicinal quality of aleppo soap and provide a rich balsamic smell.
Laurus nobilis is a tree from the Mediterranean region.
We meet true laurel hedges in all the countries around the Mediterranean.
However, the laurel grows very well in the regions of the west of France, (oceanic climate), it is a robust species which adapts easily but which does not support low winter temperatures when they are prolonged.
It is propagated by berries or better by cutting a twig in the fall.
You can plant it in the ground or in a container (you have to think about watering it during the summer).
In the ground it grows quickly, can be pruned, and one must remove the root shoots which can become invasive.
LAUREL a culinary aromatic with little-known medicinal properties
Before being laurel-sauce, it was called noble laurel, a tree revered by the Romans and blessed by the Christians.
Its leaves and seeds contain essential oil, which facilitates digestion but can also suppress appetite (which is not contradictory).
The leaf decoction is antiseptic and repels insects.
The essential oil of the leaves is a skin and respiratory antiseptic, analgesic and soothing.
The oil that is extracted from the seeds is used to make an ointment useful for massaging painful joints and ripening abscesses and is added in the aleppo soap.
Copyright 2020 : Dr Jean-Michel Hurtel