Monday, September 7, 2009

Bay Laurel

Other names

* Bay
* Bay Laurel
* Bay Tree
* Daphne
* Grecian Bay
* Grecian Laurel
* Greek Bay
* Laurel
* Laurel Tree
* Laurier d'Apollon
* Laurier Sauce
* Laurus nobilis (botanical name)
* Lorbeer
* Noble Laurel
* Roman Bay
* Roman Laurel
* Sweet Bay
* True Laurel

Habitat and Physical Description

Bay laurel is an evergreen native to Asia Minor and the Mediterranean region and can grow to a height of 10 to 18 metres but can be successfully grown in a pot to reduce the size. It grows well in shady and damp areas of the garden in most soil types though preference is to soil that retains moisture and are well drained.

The leaves of the bay laurel are usually anywhere from 6 to 12 cm long and 2 to 4 cm wide with a finely serrated and wrinkled margin. Bay laurel is dioecious, so each plant will be either male (androecious - flowers produce pollen but no seeds) or female (gynoecious - flowers produce seeds but no pollen). The flowers on the bay laurel are about 1cm in diameter and are typically produced in pairs beside a leaf. Bay laurel bear fruit in the form of a small black berry, approximately 1cm long.

Culinary Uses

Bay is a popular herb for cooking with due to the aromatic nature of the dried leaves, although the leaves are removed at the end of the cooking process and is not eaten. In cooking, bay laurel serves as an appetite stimulant and also assists with the digestive process of heavy foods.

Medicinal Uses

Bay laurel is said to be an excitant (exciting, stimulating) and to have narcotic properties although may cause perspiration as it acts as a diaphoretic or as an emetic, which causes vomiting, in large doses. Medicinal uses of bay laurel include:

* Analgesic
* Anti-bacterial
* Anticonvulsant
* Anti-inflammatory
* Antioxidant
* Bronchitis
* Bruises
* Cancer
* Cough
* Dandruff
* Digestive complaints
* Ear ache
* Flu
* Fungicide
* Insect repellent
* Muscle aches and pains
* Promotes onset of menstruation (and therefore can cause miscarriage in pregnant women)
* Respiratory issues
* Rheumatism
* Settles the stomach
* Sprains

To make a herbal tea from bay leaves, boil 1 litre of water and add three level teaspoons of crushed bay leaves. Cover and allow to steep for approximately half an hour. Strain before use. Can be stored in the refrigerator.

To prepare a rub using bay laurel, combine bay leaves and a little olive oil and heat for approximately 20 minutes. Ensure the heat is kept very low to prevent the oil from overcooking, burning or smoking. Strain the oil from the leaves, allow to cool and then rub or massage into the affected area.

Use the stained leaves from the tea or rub when warm to make a poultice by spreading them on a cloth and applying to the affected area.

Magical Uses

Bay laurel is a strong purification and protection herb. Magical uses include:

* Avoid curses / jinxes
* Clairvoyance
* Prevent unwanted attention / interference
* Prophetic dreams
* Purification bathing (e.g. Ritual bath)
* Remove curses
* Wisdom

Ways that bay laurel can be used in magic include:

* Added to a talisman or mojo bag
* Candle dressing
* Dream pillow
* Hung in a room or area to prevent mischievous or harmful workings cast by others
* Scattered on a floor, in a cupboard, doorway etc then swept away to purify the area and to ward off negativity
* Worm as an amulet

History and Myths

Laurel wreaths were used in ancient Greece, particularly as a prize at the Pythian Games. This is one of the many areas where bay laurel is seen as a symbol of victory, success, fame or prosperity. This is also the origin of the term ‘to rest on your laurels’ and of the title ‘poet laureate’.

In Chinese folklore there is a great laurel tree on the moon, and the Chinese name for the laurel, (traditional Chinese: 月桂), literally translates to "moon-laurel". This is the subject of a story of Wu Gang, a man who aspired to immortality and neglected his work. When the deities discovered this they sentenced Wu Gang to fell the laurel tree, whereupon he could join the ranks of the deities; however, since the laurel regenerated immediately when cut, it could never be felled. The phrase (simplified Chinese: 吴刚伐木) ("Wu Gang chops the tree") is sometimes used to refer to endless toil, analogous to Sisyphus in Greek mythology.

The Delphic priestess are said to have made use of bay leaves to aid in their prophetic visions and divination rites.

In Greek mythology, Apollo, who was a great warrior, was said to have insulted Eros for playing with bows and arrows when, in Apollo’s view, Eros was unworthy of using such weapons. In retribution, Eros took a lead arrow and shot Daphne in order to incite hatred and then took a gold arrow and shot Apollo through the heart to incite love. Apollo was thereby stricken with love for Daphne whereas she saw him as repulsive and fled from him. Apollo took chase and as he was about to catch her, Daphne called out to her father, Peneus, to open the earth to enclose her or to change her form. At that moment, Daphne was transformed into a bay tree. Apollo still loved her and tended to her with his powers of healing and eternal youth to render her evergreen.


Shadow said...

love these kinda posts... enlightening!

Wendy said...

Thanks, Shadow - I always appreciate your supportive comments!