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  • Jovita Turan

Laurel (Laurus nobilis L.) – Valuable Ancient Treasure

by Jovita Turan, October 22, 2021

Laurel (Laurus nobilis L.) – belongs to the Lauraceae family and is native to southern Europe and the Mediterranean region. It can grow like an evergreen tree or shrub. Laurus nobilis is mostly cultivated as an ornamental plant in Europe and the USA.

The plant is hardy multibranched that can grow to about 10 m high. The leaves are alternate and narrowly oblong-lanceolate. Laurel flowers are small and four-lobed, while fruits are 10-15 mm, ovoid shape, and black when they are ripe. The plant is propagated by seeds or by cuttings.

Laurus nobilis L. illustration by Otto Wilhelm Thomé, 1885

The plant has a high value as a spice, ornamental plant, preservative and flavoring agent in the food industry, and remedy in traditional medicine.

Common names of the plant:

~ bay tree, bay laurel, sweet bay, true laurel, Grecian laurel, or simply laurel ~


The extracts from plants fruits and leaves have been used to treat several dermatological, neurological, and urological disorders. Fruits and leaves are possessing aromatic, stimulant, and narcotic properties.

In traditional medicine, L. nobilis used orally to treat gastrointestinal problems, such as epigastria bloating and flatulence. In Iranian traditional medicine leaves of laurel have been used to treat epilepsy, neuralgia, and Parkinsonism.

The essential oil of the plant is used in traditional medicine to treat rheumatism, dermatitis, hemorrhoid, and epilepsy. The essential oils have shown antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial, antiviral, antioxidant, insecticidal, and pharmacological properties as well.


The plant contains volatile and non-volatile oils, flavonoids, tannins, sesquiterpenic alcohols, alkaloids, minerals, and vitamins.

During the previous studies, on the essential oils of the fruits, the main compounds such as 1,8-cineole, α-terpinyl acetate, sabinene, α-phellandrene, eugenol, methyl eugenol, α-pinene; β-ocimene, β-pinene, and others were determined.

The essential oils from leaves were found to be rich in 1,8-cineole, linalool, α-terpinyl acetate, α-pinene, β-pinene, sabinene, α-terpineol, terpineol-4, and others.


Due to the biological activity of the plant's essential oils, it could be used as a natural supplement or antioxidant in cosmetics. However, several studies suggested that some compounds may cause allergic reactions when included in cosmetic products. That is why the analysis of the chemical composition of the plant has to be taken very seriously as the laurel has several genotypes from various regions.

Laurel tree photograph by J.Turan, 2019

Laurel essential oil is used in aromatherapy, phytotherapy, cosmetics, perfumes, soaps, nutrition, and spices.


‘In the Greek myth about Apollo and Daphne, Apollo falls madly in love with Daphne, a woman sworn to remain a virgin. Apollo hunts Daphne who refuses to accept his advances. Right at the moment he catches her, she turns into a laurel tree’.. ‘And truly since then, the laurel became the sacred tree of Apollo. In the Delphi, the oracle would chew laurel leaves before receiving the divine wisdom that she translated into a prophecy’.

In Ancient Greece - a symbol of highest status.

In Roman culture - a symbol of victory/triumph and protection.

In the Renaissance Era - a symbol of achievement and success

Today the laurel wreath – a symbol of victory, achievement, and peace.


Fidan, H., Stefanova, G., Kostova, I., Stankov, S., Damyanova, S., Stoyanova, A., & Zheljazkov, V. D. (2019). Chemical composition and antimicrobial activity of Laurus nobilis L. essential oils from Bulgaria. Molecules, 24(4), 804.

Caputo, L., Nazzaro, F., Souza, L. F., Aliberti, L., De Martino, L., Fratianni, F., ... & De Feo, V. (2017). Laurus nobilis: Composition of essential oil and its biological activities. Molecules, 22(6), 930.

Mssillou, I., Agour, A., El Ghouizi, A., Hamamouch, N., Lyoussi, B., & Derwich, E. (2020). Chemical Composition, Antioxidant Activity, and Antifungal Effects of Essential Oil from Laurus nobilis L. Flowers Growing in Morocco. Journal of Food Quality, 2020.

Patrakar, R., Mansuriya, M., & Patil, P. (2012). Phytochemical and pharmacological review on Laurus nobilis. International journal of pharmaceutical and chemical sciences, 1(2), 595-602.

Main picture: by Jovita Turan, 2019.


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