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NATURE'S ESSENTIAL OILS: BAY, LAUREL

From THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF ESSENTIAL OILS, by Julia Lawless and MODERN ESSENTIALS, by Aromatools 
Balm, Lemon Balsam copaib Balsam, Peru Balsam, Tolu Basil, Exotic
Basil, French Bay Laurel Bay W. Indian Benzoin Bergamot
Birch, sweet Birch, White

BAY, LAUREL (Laurus nobilis)

FAMILY: Lauraceae

EXTRACTION METHOD: AEssential oil by steam distillation from the dried leaf and branchlets. (An oil from the berries is produced in small quantities.)

SYNONYMS: Sweet bay, laurel, Grecian laurel, true bay, Mediterranean bay, Roman laurel, noble laurel, laurel leaf (oil).

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: An evergreen tree up to 20 metres high with dark green, glossy leaves and black berries; often cultivated as an ornamental shrub.

DISTRIBUTION: Native to the Mediterranean region; extensively cultivated especially for its berries, in France, Spain, Italy, Morocco, Yugoslavia, China, Israel, Turkey and Russia. The oil is mainly produced in Yugoslavia.

OTHER SPECIES: There are several related species, all of which are commonly called Bay: Californian bay (Umbellularia california), West Indian bay (Pimenta racemosa) and the cherry laurel (Prunus laurocerasus), which is poisonous.

HERBAL/FOLK TRADITION: A popular culinary herb throughout Europe. The leaves were used by the ancient Greeks and Romans to crown their victors. Both leaf and berry were formerly used for a variety of afflictions including hysteria, colic, indigestion, loss of appetite, to promote menstruation and for fever. It is little used internally these days, due to its narcotic properties. A ‘fixed’ oil of bay, expressed from the berries, is still used for sprains, bruises, earache, etc.

PROPERTIES / ACTIONS: Antirheumatic, antiseptic, bactericidal, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, fungicidal, hypotensive, sedative, stomachic.

CHARACTERISTICS: A greenish-yellow liquid with a powerful, spicy-medicinal odor. It blends well with pine, cypress, juniper, clary sage, rosemary, olibanum, labdanum, lavender, citrus and spice oils.

PRINCIPAL CONSTITUENTS: Cineol (30–50 per cent), pinene, linalol, terpineol acetate, and traces of methyl eugenol.

SAFETY DATA: Relatively non-toxic and non-irritant; can cause dermatitis in some individuals. Use in moderation due to possible narcotic properties attributed to methyl eugenol. Should not be used during pregnancy.

AROMATHERAPY/HOME USE: 

  • DIGESTIVE SYSTEM: Dyspepsia, flatulence, loss of appetite.
  • GENITO-URINARY SYSTEM: Scanty periods.
  • IMMUNE SYSTEM: Colds, ’flu, tonsillitis and viral infections.

OTHER USES: Used as a fragrance component in detergents, cosmetics, toiletries and perfumes, especially aftershaves. Extensively used in processed food of all types, as well as alcoholic and soft drinks.