The trees are either male or female, and both are needed for fruit production. Leaves are used as a condiment or tea. Freshly dried and crumbled leaves are stronger than fresh leaves, but should not be stored for longer than a year when they start to lose pungency. Listed properties of bay as a medicine include it being abortifacient, antirheumatic, antiseptic, appetizer, aromatic, astringent, anti cancer, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, emetic, emmenagogue, narcotic, parasiticide, stimulant, and stomachic.
It is also cultivated for essential oil production. It is said to protect neighbouring plants from pests and insects. It is also used dried as an insect repellent in grains, feeds and for clothing. Burning bay leaves are said to be effective in ridding a house from cockroaches.