Laurus nobilis

Family : Lauraceae

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Text © Eugenio Zanotti

 

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English translation by Mario Beltramini

 

Stoloniferous, with pyramidal bushy look, Laurus nobilis rarely exceeds the 10 m © Giuseppe Mazza

Stoloniferous, with pyramidal bushy look, Laurus nobilis rarely exceeds the 10 m © Giuseppe Mazza

Species probably native to Asia Minor or, perhaps, wreck of the warm-humid climate of the Tertiary Era, nowadays with Steno-Mediterranean distribution, that is limited to the Mediterranean coasts, from Gibraltar to the Black Sea, widely introduced and cultivated in many regions and naturalized, in particular in the Olive tree zone and of the large Insubria lakes. In Europe (Açores Islands and Canary Islands) grows also the Azores laurel Laurus azorica Franco (1960), only other species of the genus Laurus.

The name of the genus “laurus” is traced back to the Latin epithet “laus”, praise, because the wreaths intertwined with its branches were placed, in those times, on the head of those deceiving praises. After others, due to the many praises bestowed to this species, sacred to Apollo. For other Authors, it should come from the Celt “blaur”, meaning green. The name of the species “nobilis” = noble is due to what said before and its many virtues.

The bay laurel or laurel (Laurus nobilis L. 1753) is a small tree or shrub, 3-10 (The fruits are 10-12 ( ‘Angustifolia’, resistant, with strictly lanceolate laminae and the ‘Aurea’, more delicate and sensitive to the cold and to the strong insolation, with golden and pointed leaves.

The leaves are preferably collected in July and are to be dried in cool and aerated locations; they contain a yellow-greenish essential oil, much aromatic, besides tannins, resins, mucilage, bitter substances, etc.. They have digestive, appetizing, antiseptic, expectorant, carminative, anti-rheumatic, diaphoretic and tonic properties. For external use, they serve for stimulating baths and deodorizing footbaths, they can also be utilized for keeping moths away from clothing and is repellent also for flies and cockroaches.

Leaves are used in cuisine and like fruits have medicinal virtues © Giuseppe Mazza

Leaves are used in cuisine and like fruits have medicinal virtues © Giuseppe Mazza

They are much used in cuisine for aromatizing dishes of meat, offal and game (favouring also their digestion) or of fish, in the vegetables in oil and pickles and in the packages of dried figs and of liquorice.

The ripe fruits are collected in autumn from the female plants and are dried in the sun or in warm oven; these contain also laurin, laurostearine, sugars and gums.

They extract the laurel oil, popularly employed, not only in veterinary medicine, but also as anti-rheumatic and anti-gout, and which, time ago, was gotten cooking the berries in the lard.

With the fruits they prepare the excellent Laurino, typical Emilian liquor.

In the popular tradition the laurel enters into various preparations against meteorism, intestinal fermentations, diarrhoeas, nervous and mental depression, rheumatisms and rheumatic pains, hepatic-biliary insufficiency and liver intoxications and, for external use, in the skin parasitic infections.

Preparations:

Anti-influenza diaphoretic infusion

Leave to infuse for five minutes a teaspoon of chopped fresh laurel leaves in a cup of boiling water just taken off from the heat. To strain with a sieve, leave cooling a little and add a teaspoon of honey. To be taken in the evening one hour before going to bed.

Sant’Elpidio Laurino (Marche liquor)

For obtaining this digestive and strengthening liquor prepare syrup with 1 kg of sugar and one litre of water. When still boiling pour it on 1 kg of ripe laurel fruits, leave to cool and finally unite one litre of alcohol for liquors. Leave to rest for one month in the cool and dark in a glass vessel, then strain with thin paper or tissue paper and bottle. To drink after one year of ageing.

Synonyms: Laurus vulgaris Duhamel (1755); Laurus ondulata Miller (1768)

 

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