Fresh bay leaves have long been known to have a narcotic effect when eaten in large amounts. Despite their homely place in spice cabinets today, in ancient times they were associated with the Greek god Apollo and given a key place in ritual soothsaying. They also play a role in traditional folk medicine.
The origin of bay leaves goes all the way back to ancient Greece. Also known as laurel leaves, they were considered to be sacred. The oracle at Delphi would chew on bay leaves in order to invoke divine inspiration. The myth about bay laurel was that a beautiful woman named Daphne, who was being sought by the god Apollo, begged her father, the river god Peneus, to save her from Apollo's relentless pursuit. In response, Peneus transformed Daphne into a laurel tree. The original oracles of Delphi were also said to have sprouted from a laurel tree.
The word narcotic doesn't necessarily imply an illegal drug. Narcotic is derived from the Greek word narkos, meaning sleep. This explains the bay leaf's ability to induce a trancelike, semiconscious state during a ritual. Narcotics also have the ability to relieve pain or numb an area of the body. This works because narcotic substances bind to painkilling sites in the brain, thus slowing down the uptake of neurotransmitters like dopamine between neurons. A reduction in pain results, as well as drowsiness and a feeling of well-being. In order for this to happen, you would have to eat a large amount of fresh bay leaves.
The leaves, fruit and essential oil of the bay tree have long been used in folk medicine. In addition to its narcotic effects, bay leaves have anti-fungal, antiseptic, astringent, anti-cancer, stimulative and digestive properties. They have been used as a treatment for influenza, respiratory problems and also to stimulate appetite.
Fresh bay leaves have a pungent aroma and bitter flavor, which are less intense when dried. They are often used in soups, as well as in seasoning poultry. Because of their strong flavor and smell, they are usually removed from the dish before serving, unless crumbled finely.
As with any narcotic substance, consult a medical practitioner before attempting to use bay leaves as a narcotic. The resulting effects will vary from person to person, as one person's sensitivity may be more or less than that of another.