Since ancient times, laurel leaves have been bestowed upon heroic, poetic, and scholarly Greeks and Romans for their prowess in battle, their mastery of imagery with words, and their esteemed contributions to knowledge. Even college students today who finish their studies are awarded a “bachelor” degree which is derived from the word “bacca-laureus” or “laurel berry.”
The oracle of Delphi and her priestesses were known to burn the leaves of bay laurel to enhance their psychic abilities and confer the gift of prophecy. In fact, if a bay laurel tree were beginning to wither, it was a sign of oncoming disaster.
No matter where you go in the world, bay laurel is a symbol of wisdom and love.
The Benefits and Properties of Bay Laurel Essential Oil
Bay laurel essential oil is renowned for its intoxicating fragrance, its use as an effective lymphatic tonic, and its ability to dispel feelings of low self-esteem, self-doubt, low energy, and apathy.
Bay, Laurel, Bay Sweet, True Bay, Mediterranean Bay, Laurel Leaf
Laurus nobilis is an evergreen tree that can grow up to 20 m high, though most trees are below 3 m with greyish bark and shiny semi-red stems that are adorned with black berries.
It is believed to have originated in the Armenian highlands and what is now modern Turkey. Today, it is considered a Mediterranean native.
There are several species of laurel that are under the name Bay such as Pimenta racemose (West Indian Bay) and Umbellularia California (California Bay).
Most often, Laurus nobilis essential oil is confused with Pimenta racemose due to their similar names – Bay Laurel essential oil and Bay essential oil. While they share some broad aromatic similarities, their chemical makeup is quite different.
Method of Extraction
Bay laurel essential oil is produced through the steam distillation of its leaves and branchlets.
Essential Oil Characteristics
Bay laurel essential oil is pale-yellow to pale-olive-green in color with a strong camphoraceous aroma that is softly sweet, spicy, and fresh with hints of floral notes.
Historical and Traditional Uses
In ancient Greece, bay laurel was sacred to the god Apollo. It is said that when Daphne, the nymph-daughter of the goddess Gaia, was pursued by Apollo, she entreated the gods for assistance when he slew her bridegroom. To escape his attention, the gods transformed her into a laurel tree. Since Apollo could not take Daphne as his wife, he crowned himself with a circlet of laurel leaves and took the laurel tree as a symbol of divinity and his personal emblem.
In Rome, garlands of laurel leaves were awarded to those who fought valiantly and victoriously in battle as a symbol of honor.
In the Middle Ages, men of great renown were crowned with circlets of laurel leaves and berries, hence the term Poet Laureate.
In medicine, bay laurel has been used to suppress heavy menstruation and encourage fats child-birth.
An infusion of the bark and leaves were used to support the kidneys and help alleviate the symptoms of chronic respiratory conditions.
Bay laurel essential oil also makes a lovely addition to soaps (it is a primary ingredient in Aleppo Soap), body scrubs, massage oils, and other shower and bath recipes. It is particularly intoxicating to use in the sauna to help invigorate the senses and boost immunity.
The dried leaves are commonly used in cooking to flavor tomato sauces, soups, and stews.
Other Possible Uses
Bay laurel essential oil may help with:
- Angina pectoris
- Flu symptoms
- Hair loss (after infection)
- Liver support
- Loss of appetite
- Spleen support
- Stiff muscles and joints
- Viral infections
The chemical makeup of bay laurel essential oil is quite unique as it contains constituents from a wide range of molecules from almost every chemical group – i.e. esters, phenols, oxides, and alcohols) which explains its multitude of therapeutic uses one would attempt to create in a blend.
The typical chemical composition of bay laurel essential oil is:
- 1,8-cineole – 40%
- Linalool – 10%
- α-terpinyl acetate – 9%
- sabinene – 7%
- methyl eugenol – 7%
- α-pinene – 7%
- β-pinene – 4%
- terpinene-4-ol – 4%
- α-terpinole 3%
- p-cymene – 1%
- γ-terpinene – 1%
- Antiseptic – kills germs and bacteria
- Antibacterial – kills germs and bacteria
- Carminative – relieves gas
- Expectorant – breaks up mucus and congestion
- Diaphoretic – relieves water retention by increasing the quality and frequency of urination
- Digestive – stimulates digestion and the release of stagnation
- Tonic – promotes health and strengthens the immune system
It is especially useful for treating staph, strep, and E. coli.
Astrological – Sun
Body Type – Ectomorph
Chakras – 2, 3, and 4
Character – Yin (medium)
Element – Fire
Number – 1
Note – Top to Middle (20-80% of the blend)
Fragrant Intensity – 3
Blend Classification – Modifier (adds a special twist to blends – especially men’s products like homemade cologne and after-shave)
Scent – Sweet, fresh, spicy, camphorous, medicinal
Blends Well With
- Clary sage
- Fir needle
- Juniper berry
- Sweet orange
- Ylang ylang
Indications for Bay Laurel Essential Oil
Bay laurel essential oil is known to have strong antibacterial and antifungal properties and is reported to depress a rapid heart rate and lower elevated blood pressure.
When used topically, bay laurel essential oil has an affinity for treating a multitude of digestive complaints such as gas, indigestion, and stomach pain. It is an appetite stimulant when smelled and has a tonic effect on both the liver and kidneys.
When diffused, bay laurel makes for an excellent cerebral tonic that stimulates the mind and dispels doubt in one’s cognitive abilities.
Bay laurel essential oil is a powerful antiseptic and is good for opening the lungs and improving respiratory function. It is an excellent expectorant and is a potent remedy for chronic bronchitis.
Bay laurel essential oil can be used topically to treat acne, ulcers, boils, and abscesses.
Energetically, bay laurel essential oil is considered to be a potent Qi stimulant that increases circulation and clears cold phlegm in the body.
Bay laurel essential oil is especially beneficial for those who suffer from low self-esteem, lack general energy and need more confidence when self-doubting themselves.
Diffusing bay laurel essential oil helps promote confidence and courage when dealing with challenges or new ideas. It encourages a sense of fortitude, inspiration, protection, direction, and creativity.
Mode of Administration
Topical – message, compress, roll-on, bath, serums, sprays
Inhalation – diffusion, sprays, oil vaporizer
Bay laurel essential oil is generally regarded as safe. However, topical use over long periods of time (3 weeks or more) can result in sensitization or irritation.
Pregnancy – NO
Is it Kid-safe?
Can be used for children 6 years and older.
How to Use Bay Laurel Essential Oil
- Dilute one drop of bay laurel essential oil per 1 tsp of carrier oil and apply it topically to alleviate digestive upset, sore muscles, and aching joints after overexertion.
- Diffuse 5-10 drops 2-3x daily to help alleviate the symptoms of chronic bronchitis, sinus congestion, and to help ward off airborne germs and bacteria.
Essential Oils Desk Reference – Third Edition
Essential Oils Integrative Medical Guide
Reference Guide to Essential Oils
The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy
Photo by Flickr user William Avery Hudson; Laurus nobilis
Have you used bay laurel essential oil? Please share your favorite uses in the comments below!
You may also enjoy reading:
Essential Oil Profiles and Therapeutic Uses
Citrus Essential Oils – Essential Oils 101
Conifer Essential Oils- Essential Oils 101
The Complete Guide to a Natural Medicine Cabinet
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