Traditional uses and benefits of Cherry Laurel

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Cherry Laurel Quick Facts
Name: Cherry Laurel
Scientific Name: Prunus laurocerasus
Origin Southwestern Asia (i.e. northern Iran, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and southern Russia) and southeastern Europe
Colors Purple to black
Shapes Small cherries that have 0.3 to 0.7 inches (1-2 cm) in diameter
Taste Bitter, aromatic, and astringent
Health benefits Beneficial for coughs, whooping cough, asthma, dyspepsia, eye infections, insomnia, stomach and intestinal spasms, vomiting, muscle spasms, pain and cancer
Prunus laurocerasus, also known as cherry laurel, common laurel is an evergreen species of cherry (Prunus) belonging to Lamiaceae / Labiatae (Mint family). The plant is native to regions bordering the Black Sea in southwestern Asia (i.e. northern Iran, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and southern Russia) and southeastern Europe, from Albania and Bulgaria east through Turkey to the Caucasus Mountains and northern Iran. This plant is commonly found in urban forests in King County, Washington and can also be found escaping into more remote areas, usually spread by yard waste dumping or by birds eating the plant’s cherry-like fruits (which are not palatable to people, and can be poisonous).Cherry laurel, common cherry laurel, common laurel, English laurel, laurel and laurel cherry are some of the popular common names of the plant.

Genus name Prunus comes from Latin means plum or cherry tree. Specific epithet laurocerasus means laurel cherry in reference to its laurel-like evergreen leaves and cherry-like fruit. The common names refer to the similarity of foliage and appearance to bay laurel (Laurus nobilis), and like the bay laurel, Prunus laurocerasus was used for making laurel wreaths, but the two plants are not closely related. It is not to be confused with its American relative Prunus caroliniana, which is also called cherry laurel. Cherry Laurel plants are pretty easy to grow for every type of gardener. They are tolerant of extreme light conditions, drought, aerosol salt, and even neglect. The plant is harvested from the wild for local use as a food, medicine and source of materials. The plant is widely grown as an ornamental, where selected cultivars can be used as ground cover or hedging.

Cherry Laurel Facts

Name Cherry Laurel
Scientific Name Prunus laurocerasus
Native Regions bordering the Black Sea in southwestern Asia (i.e. northern Iran, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and southern Russia) and southeastern Europe , from Albania and Bulgaria east through Turkey to the Caucasus Mountains and northern Iran
Common Names Cherry laurel, cherry-laurel, common cherry laurel, common laurel, English laurel, laurel, laurel cherry
Name in Other Languages Abkhazian: Aşymhara  (Ашымҳара)
Afrikaans: Kersie lourier
Albanian: Dafinë qershi
Amharic: Chērī larēli (ቼሪ ላሬል)
Arabic: Ghar alkurz (غار الكرز)
Armenian: Bali dap’nu (բալի դափնու), dap’nekerras (դափնեկեռաս)
Azerbaijani: Albalı laurel
Basque: Gerezi-erramu
Bengali: Cēri larēla (চেরি লরেল)
Bulgarian: Chereshova lavra (черешова лавра), lavrovishnya (лавровишня), zelenika (зеленика), zimnika (зимника), lechebna lavrovishna (лечебна лавровишна)
Burmese: Hkyaalre Laurel (ချယ်ရီ Laurel)
Catalan: Llorer-cirer, llorer-reial
Chinese: Yīngtáo yuèguìshù (樱桃月桂树), Guì yīng (桂樱)      
Croatian: Trešnja lovor, Lovorvišnja
Czech: Třešňový vavřín, Bobkovišeň lékařská, Vavrínovec lekársky
Danish: Kirsebær laurbær, Laurbærkirsebær
Dutch: Kersen laurier, Kerslaurier, Laurierkers, Gewone laurierke, laurier kerseboom
English: Cherry laurel, Common laurel, Common cherry laurel, laurel cherry
Esperanto: Cerizo laŭro
Estonian: Kirsil loorber, Harilik loorberkirsipuu
Filipino: Cherry laurel
Finnish: Kirsikkalaakeri, Laakerikirsikka
French: Laurier cerise, Laurier-amande, cerisier laurier-cerise,  laurier au lait, laurier aux crèmes, laurier de Trébizonde, laurier-amandier, laurier-tarte, laurine
Galician: Loureiro real
Georgian: Alublis dapnis (ალუბლის დაფნის), ts’q’avi (წყავი)
German: Kirschlorbeer, Kirschlorbeerbaum, Kolchische Lorbeerkirsche, Lorbeer-Kirsche, Kirschlorbeer, Lorbeerkirsche, Gemeine Kirschlorbeer, Gemeine Lorbeerkirsche, Pontische Lorbeer-Kirsche, Kolchislorbeerkirsche, pontischer Lorbeerkirschbaum
Greek: Dáfni kerasiás (δάφνη κερασιάς)
Gujarati: Cērī lōrēla (ચેરી લોરેલ)
Hausa: Ceri daidai
Hebrew: דפנה דובדבן
Hindi: Cheree lorel (चेरी लॉरेल), aalu balu
Hungarian: Cseresznye babér, Babérmeggy, balkáni babérmeggy
Icelandic: Kirsuberjagripur          
Ido: Cerizolauro
Indonesian: Ceri laurel
Irish: Labhrais silíní
Italian: Alloro ciliegia, Lauroceraso, Lauro regio 
Japanese: -Sakuranbo gekkeiju (さくらんぼ月桂樹), Seiyou bakuchi noki (セイヨウバクチノキ)
Javanese: Laurel
Kannada: Cerri lārel (ಚೆರ್ರಿ ಲಾರೆಲ್)
Kazakh: Shye lavri  (шие лаврі)
Korean: Cheli wolgyesu (체리 월계수)
Kurdish: Dara giyayê
Lao: Laurel cherry
Latin: Cerasus laurea
Latvian: Kiršu lauru
Lithuanian: Vyšnių lauro
Macedonian: Lovorov lovor (ловоров ловор)
Malagasy: Serizy laury
Malay: Ceri laurel
Malayalam: Ceṟi lēāṟal   (ചെറി ലോറൽ)
Maltese: Rand tal-ċirasa
Marathi: Cheree lorel (चेरी लॉरेल)
Mingrelian: Ts’q’I (წყი)
Mongolian: Intooryn lavryn (интоорын лаврын)
Nepali: Cheree lorel (चेरी लॉरेल)
Netherlands: Laurierkerseboom
Norwegian: Kirsebær laurbær, Laurbærhegg
Occitan: Laurer reiau, laurina
Oriya: ଚେରି ଲରେଲ୍
Ossetic: Lavrbal (Лаврбал)
Pashto: ګیډۍ لورل
Persian: لورل گیلاس, پرونوس لاروسراسوس
Polish: Laur wiśniowy, Laurowisnia wschodnia, Laurowishnia wschodnia
Portuguese: Louro cereja, Loureiro-cerejeira, Loureiro-cerejeiro, Loureiro-real, Loureiro-cereja, Loureiro-cerejeira, louro-cerejeira, louro-inglês, loiro-inglés           , loureiro-de-trebizonda               , loureiro-romano, louro-cerejo               
Punjabi: Cairī laurēla (ਚੈਰੀ ਲੌਰੇਲ)
Romanian: Laurul de cirese        
Russian: Vishnevyy lavr (вишневый лавр), Lavrovishnia  (Лавровишня), lekarstvennaia, lavrovishnya obyknovennaya (лавровишня обыкновенная)
Serbian: Cherri lovor (цхерри ловор), Lovorvišnja (Ловорвишња), Zeleničje (Зеленичје)
Shambala: Lovorvišnja
Sindhi: چيري لوريل      
Sinhala: Ceri lōral (චෙරි ලෝරල්)
Slovak: Vavrínovec lekársky
Slovenian: Cešnjev lovor, Lovorikovec
Spanish: Laurel de cereza, Laurel cerezo, Lauroceraso, Lauro, laurel real, laurel romano, lauroceraso, loro
Sudanese: Laurel sakur
Swedish: Körsbärsblad, Lagerhägg, Bulgarisk lagerhägg, Körsbärslager
Tajik: Lavhai gelos (лавҳаи гелос)
Tamil: Cerri lāral (செர்ரி லாரல்)
Telugu: Cerrī lārel (చెర్రీ లారెల్)
Thai: Chex r̒ rī̀ lxrel (เชอร์รี่ลอเรล)
Turkish: Kiraz defne, Karayemiş, taflan
Ukrainian: Vyshnevyy lavr (вишневий лавр), Lavrovishnya (Лавровишня)
Upper Sorbian: Bobkowišeń
Urdu: چیری لاریل
Uzbek: Gilos dafna
Vietnamese: Nguyệt quế anh đào
Welsh: Llawryf ceirios, Coeden Lawrgeirios, Llawr-Sirianen, Llawryf Geirios
Zulu: I-cherry laurel
Plant Growth Habit Tall, spreading, thicket-forming evergreen shrub or small to medium-sized tree
Growing Climates Fields, forest edge, plantations,  roadsides, waste lots, riparian thickets, shaded ravines, understory of urban and second-growth forests, damp to wet sclerophyll forest, cool montane forest and other disturbed areas
Soil Prefers a damp but well-drained moisture retentive soil that is rich in nutrients. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Thrives in a loamy soil, doing well on limestone. Prefers some chalk in the soil but it is apt to become chlorotic if too much is present, growing badly on shallow chalk. Extremely tolerant of shade, it succeeds in the dense shade of trees with almost no direct light and in their drip line
Plant Size 5 to 15 meters (16 to 49 ft.) tall, rarely to 18 meters (59 ft.), with a trunk up to 60 cm broad
Bark Green; cherry-like aroma when bruised
Leaves Thick, leathery, shiny, alternate, on short, thick stalks, oblong-ovate, from 3-8 in. (7.6-20.3 cm) long, growing narrower at each end, and with a slightly serrate margin
Buds Sessile, round to ovoid shape, generally has six scales.
Flowering season April to June
Flower Cup-shaped flower is 1 cm across with five small cream to white petals and numerous yellowish stamens and grows in small clusters
Fruit Shape & Size Small cherries that have 0.3 to 0.7 inches (1-2 cm) in diameter, turning black when ripe in early autumn
Fruit Color Purple to black
Poisonous Parts Wilted leaves, stems, and seeds (may be fatal if eaten)
Propagation By seeds, also spreads laterally by layering
Taste Bitter, aromatic, and astringent
Plant Parts Used Fresh leaves, fruits, seeds
Season September
Precautions
  • In small quantities, hydrogen cyanide has been shown to stimulate respiration and improve digestion, it is also claimed to be of benefit in the treatment of cancer.
  • In larger concentrations, however, cyanide can cause gasping, weakness, excitement, pupil dilation, spasms, convulsions, coma and respiratory failure leading to death
  • Leaves and seed may cause severe discomfort to humans if ingested.

Plant Description

Cherry laurel is a tall, spreading, thicket-forming evergreen shrub or small to medium-sized tree that normally grows about 5 to 15 meters (16 to 49 ft.) tall, rarely to 18 meters (59 ft.), with a trunk up to 60 cm broad. The plant is found growing in fields, forest edge, plantations, roadsides, waste lots, riparian thickets, shaded ravines, understory of urban and second-growth forests, damp to wet sclerophyll forest, cool montane forest and other disturbed areas. The plant prefers a damp but well-drained moisture retentive soil that is rich in nutrients. It grows well in heavy clay soils and thrives in a loamy soil, doing well on limestone. It prefers some chalk in the soil but it is apt to become chlorotic if too much is present, growing badly on shallow chalk. It is extremely tolerant of shade; it succeeds in the dense shade of trees with almost no direct light and in their drip line. The plant has green bark which has cherry-like aroma when bruised.

Leaves

The leaves are thick, leathery, shiny, alternate, on short, thick stalks, oblong-ovate, from 3-8 in. (7.6-20.3 cm) long, growing narrower at each end, and with a slightly serrate margin. The dark green upper surface is smooth and shining and the under one much paler, dull, and the midrib very prominent. There are glandular depressions and hairs near the base. The leaves can have the scent of almonds when crushed. Leaves are evergreen with no fall color.

Flower

The flower buds appear in early spring and open in early summer in erect, oblong 7–15 cm racemes of 30–40 flowers. Each cup-shaped flower is 1 cm across with five small cream to white petals and numerous yellowish stamens and grows in small clusters. Flowers have a powerful aroma. The blooming period occurs from April to May.

Fruits

Fertile flowers are followed by small cherries and grow in clusters like grapes. The fruits are 0.3 to 0.7 inches (1-2 cm) in diameter, turning black when ripe in early autumn. This fruit is basically inedible for humans (bitter aftertaste) but is loved by local bird populations. It is similar in shape and structure to a black cherry, the odor of hydrocyanic acid may be detected in almost all parts of the tree and especially in the leaves when bruised.

Varieties

Angustifolia

It is described by Loudon as a more dwarf-growing plant, which seldom flowers. Leaves are about one-third as wide as in the normal form, i.e., scarcely 1 in. wide.

Camelliifolia

It has a leaves of ordinary size, but curled and twisted. It is curious, but not ornamental.

Caucasica

It is a vigorous, erect shrub with more or less elliptic leaves up to 7 in. long, about 3 in. wide, deep green. It is considered as one of the finest variety.

Colchica

Its leaves are up to 7 in. long, 2 in. wide, tapering to the stalk.

Compacta

Its leaves are about the ordinary size, but the habit dwarf and close. It is introduced to Kew from Transon’s nurseries, Orleans.

Herbergii

It is a dense erect shrub with narrow elliptic leaves up to 6 in. long, 1{3/4} in. wide, tapered at the apex, glossy. It is a very hardy and a good hedging plant raised in Germany.

Magnoliifolia

It is considered as one of the finest of all the varieties in foliage, the largest leaves 10 to 12 in. long, 3 to 4{1/2} in. wide. It is a strong grower, it may, if desired, be trained into tree form by tying up a lead and gradually removing the lower branches.

Mischeana

It is of spreading, more or less horizontal habit, with dark green leaves up to 5{1/2} in. long, 2 in. or slightly more wide. It was introduced by Späth’s nurseries from the Balkans and put into commerce around 1900.

Otinii

Leaves are large and broad, but not remarkable for size so much as for their dark, almost black, lustrous green. The plant is of more compact habit than most varieties. Leaves are dark green, about 4 in. long, slightly under 1 in. wide, tapered at both ends, tips slightly acuminate.

Parvifolia (‘Microphylla’)

It is a dwarf, narrow-leaved form, the smallest leaves 1 in. long by {1/4} in. wide only, and the plant 1{1/2} to 2 ft. high. It may occasionally be seen reverting back to the typical form. This variety has apparently also been called angustifolia in gardens, though it is different from the ‘Angustifolia’ of Loudon.

Reynvaanii

It is of dense, erect habit to about 5 ft. high, with more or less elliptic, acute, dark green leaves up to 5 or 6 in. long and to 1{3/4} in. wide, raised in Holland.

Rotundifolia

Leaves are about half as broad as long and yellowish green. It is a tall growing variety.

Schipkaensis

It was originally found wild near the Shipka Pass in Bulgaria, north of Kazanlik, and introduced to cultivation by Späth about 1886. It has narrow, entire leaves, 2 to 4{1/2} in. long, {3/4} to 1{1/2} in. wide, and a certain elegance of habit, but is not as ornamental as some of the larger-leaved varieties. Its great value is its extreme hardiness. It will withstand winters where no cherry laurel has been known to do so before, such as N. Germany and parts of N. America.

Zabeliana

Leaves are entire, narrow, and almost willow-like, the branches growing rather stiffly and obliquely upwards. It is very free flowering and valuable as a specimen or for ground-cover, retaining its low habit even in shade. It attains a width of 12 ft. or even more, but is usually less than 3 ft. in height.

Traditional uses and benefits of Cherry laurel

  • Fresh leaves are antispasmodic, narcotic and sedative.
  • They are valuable in the treatment of coughs, whooping cough, asthma, dyspepsia and indigestion.
  • Externally, a cold infusion of the leaves is used as a wash for eye infections.
  • In small amounts this exceedingly poisonous compound stimulates respiration, improves digestion and gives a sense of well-being.
  • Cherry laurel water is used for treating cough, colds, trouble sleeping (insomnia), stomach and intestinal spasms, vomiting, muscle spasms, pain, and cancer.
  • It is also used as a sedative to promote sleepiness.
  • Cherry laurel water is used in eye lotions.
  • Some people inhale cherry laurel water to improve breathing.
  • In Anatolian folk medicine, the leave extract is used in the therapy of coughs, hemorrhoids, eczemas, asthma, digestive system complaints as well as in the treatment of stomach ulcers.
  • Traditionally it is also used in analgesic, antispasmodic, and sedative effects.
  • Leaves, fruit, and seed of cherry laurel are a valuable herbal medicine and used for various health complaints

Culinary Uses

  • Fruit can be consumed raw or cooked.
  • Water distilled from the leaves is used as an almond flavoring.
  • Seed can be consumed raw or cooked.
  • Do not eat the seed if it is too bitter.
  • Fruit of the cherry laurel is used in making jam, pickle, and cake.
  • It is also eaten as dried.

Other Facts

  • This plant makes an excellent hedge especially in shady areas.
  • Water distilled from the leaves is used in perfumery.
  • Bruised leaves, when rubbed within any container, will remove strong odors such as garlic or cloves so long as any grease has first been fully cleaned off.
  • Green dye can be obtained from the leaves.
  • Dark grey to green dye can be obtained from the fruit.
  • Wood is used in turnery and lathe work.
  • It is often used for hedges, as a screening plant, and as a massed landscape plant.
  • The foliage is also used for cut greenery in floristry.
  • Freshly cut wood is creamy white and smells of almonds; it turns to orange and brown when dried.
  • Sections that are large enough in diameter may be used to turn bowls.
  • Pinkish grey wood is used in turnery and lathe work.
  • Leaves contain prussic acid or cyanide and were formerly crushed and used in jars by entomologists, to kill butterflies and other insects.

Control Methods

Listed below are few of the measures for controlling Cherry laurel

  • Small plants can dug up when soil is moist (take care when handling because this plant is poisonous if ingested).
  • To control larger plants, cut stems and trunks by hand or chainsaw, cutting as close to the ground as possible and remove stems to make it easier to control re-growth. Stems can be chipped and used as mulch or taken to a landfill. Leaving stems on moist ground might result in some stem-rooting, but it is unlikely, and if stems are chipped this shouldn’t be a problem.
  • After cutting, plants are very likely to re-grow. There are five main options for controlling the re-growth after cutting:
  • Dig out the stumps including as much root as possible. To avoid regrowth, stumps should be turned upside down and soil should be brushed off roots. Mature laurel trees have deep and extensive roots so digging is labor-intensive and may result in considerable soil disturbance. If the stumps are dug up, be sure to stabilize the area to prevent erosion and replant with appropriate trees and shrubs, especially on steep slopes. For large infestations or steep slopes, digging may not be the best method. OR
  • Monitor stems for re-growth and break off any new stems. This should be done regularly throughout the growing season over several years until the plant stops sending up new shoots. Some older plants won’t re-sprout very much, but left alone, all English laurels will re-grow to some extent. Also, monitor the area for seedlings and pull them up. They are easy to spot with their thick, shiny leaves pointed at the tips. Applying mulch to the area will reduce seedling growth. OR
  • Immediately after cutting, treat stump by painting or spraying with glyphosate or triclopyr. Read the product label carefully for rate, timing and safety precautions. Herbicides may not be allowable in all locations, so contact your local jurisdiction about permitting requirements or restrictions. OR
  • Variations on the cut stump method that also work is frilling (chipping notches around the trunk and applying herbicide to the fresh cuts) or injecting herbicide into the trunk (this may require special injection tools). These methods can be used on large stems that have not been cut down, although it may be easier to first cut off smaller side stems and foliage to access the main trunk. OR
  • Spray re-growth and seedlings with triclopyr or glyphosate diluted according to the product label for controlling brush. Make sure to use an appropriate surfactant and follow the label recommendations on timing and safety precautions. As stated above, make sure to follow all local, state and federal rules regarding herbicide use at your site.

References:

https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=24786#null

https://npgsweb.ars-grin.gov/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomydetail?id=30027

https://pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?latinname=Prunus+laurocerasus

http://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=286448

https://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/c/chelau54.html

https://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/l/lauche11.html

http://www.narc.gov.jo/gringlobal/taxonomydetail.aspx?id=30027

https://gringlobal.irri.org/gringlobal/taxon/taxonomydetail?id=30027

https://plants.usda.gov/home/plantProfile?symbol=LAPU2

https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/44309

http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/rjp-714

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prunus_laurocerasus

https://gd.eppo.int/taxon/PRNLR

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