This section is from the book "A Text Book Of Materia Medica, Being An Account Of The More Important Crude Drugs Of Vegetable And Animal Origin", by Henry G. Greenish. Also available from Amazon: A Text Book of Materia Medica : Being an Account of the More Important Crude Drugs of Vegetable and Animal Origin.
The true laurel, bay or bay laurel, Laurus nobilis, Linne (N.O. Laurineœ), is a small evergreen tree commonly cultivated in this country.
Laurel leaves are of a shining, green colour on the upper surface, paler below, coriaceous in texture, lanceolate and acuminate in outline, attaining 10 cm. or more in length and shortly stalked, with an entire, wavy margin, the apex being often acute but sometimes blunt. They are quite glabrous, with the exception of a few hairs often present on the under surface in the angles made by the lateral veins with the midrib. The upper surface appears finely shagreened; the lower is reticulated, an appearance due to the prominence of the network of minute veinlets. When crushed they emit an aromatic odour, due to the volatile oil contained in oil-cells situated in the mesophyll of the leaves. These oil-cells are with difficulty visible, even when the leaf is held against a strong light and examined with a lens. The taste is aromatic and bitter.
The student should note
(a) The coriaceous texture,
(b) The entire, wavy margin and acute apex,
(c) The characteristic odour; and should be careful not to confuse these leaves with cherry/-laurel leaves.
The leaves contain from 1 to 3 per cent, of volatile oil, consisting chiefly of cineol (50 per cent.), eugenol, geraniol, and terpenes. This oil should not be confounded with that of Pimenta acris, Wight, also known as oil of bay, and from which bay rum is made. The latter oil is distilled in the West Indies.
Laurel leaves are aromatic and stimulant, but are now seldom employed medicinally.