The bay laurel tree is an evergreen that is native to Greece and the surrounding Mediterranean region with a regal status that dates way back to ancient Greek mythology. Once worn up the heads of powerful Greek gods such as Apollo, renowned scholars such as Ovid and even Roman statesmen such as Julius Caesar, the bay laurel leaf has long been a symbol of strength, virility and victory. The rulers during the time also used laurel leaf wreaths to reward the champions of athletic competitions, academic contests and other match ups. This is why the leafed wreaths are synonymous with the Olympic games and the athletes who compete in them.
These leaves really do provide a number of benefits and they can be used in a variety of ways. In fact, physicians of the day used to use the oil extracted from bay laurel leaves as an astringent, a soothing massage oil and to treat skin irritation due to poison ivy, poison oak or stinging nettle poisoning.
Those who are familiar with Mediterranean cuisines know just how much flavor laurel leaves can add to savory dishes such as pastas, soups and broths. The bay laurel is also commonly used as a garnish in Bloody Mary cocktails. According to ancient legends and folklore, eating food infused with bay laurel is known to enhance your sex drive as many believe it to be a natural aphrodisiac.
In today’s society, wreaths made out of bay laurel leaves are used as Christmas decorations in some countries and featured on many different trophies, crests, flags and official emblems. They are also used in some modern-day commencement ceremonies, especially for those of one’s master’s degree. Prestigious colleges and universities all around the world traditionally award laurel leaf wreaths to those who deserve the status of “poet laureate”.
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