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