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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.


  • 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.