Which Bay Leaf is in Your Spice Rack? – A Quality Control Study[*]
received 25 December 2016
revised 27 January 2017
accepted 08 February 2017
01 March 2017 (eFirst)
The accurate identification of bay leaf in natural products commerce may often be confusing as the name is applied to several different species of aromatic plants. The true “bay leaf”, also known as “bay laurel” or “sweet bay”, is sourced from the tree Laurus nobilis, a native of the Mediterranean region. Nevertheless, the leaves of several other species including Cinnamomum tamala, Litsea glaucescens, Pimenta racemosa, Syzygium polyanthum, and Umbellularia californica are commonly substituted or mistaken for true bay leaves due to their similarity in the leaf morphology, aroma, and flavor. Substitute species are, however, often sold as “bay leaves”. As such, the name “bay leaf” in literature and herbal commerce may refer to any of these botanicals. The odor and flavor of these leaves are, however, not the same as the true bay leaf, and for that reason they should not be used in cooking as a substitute for L. nobilis. Some of the bay leaf substitutes can also cause potential health problems. Therefore, the correct identification of the true bay leaf is important. The present work provides a detailed comparative study of the leaf morphological and anatomical features of L. nobilis and its common surrogates to allow for correct identification.
Key wordsbay leaves - Laurus nobilis - Lauraceae - substitutes - microscopy - authentication - spice
* Dedicated to Professor Dr. Max Wichtl in recognition of his outstanding contribution to phytotherapy research.