By Hwaa Irfan
Known as Bay, bay leaf, bayberry, laurel bay, laurel, bois d’Inde, dhafne, warak el lowri, erramu, yueh, kuei, barg-e-bu, and pei, oil of bay is achieved through a process of distillation of the leaves and the flowers from the flowering plant. The sturdy bay tree is of the Lauraceae family that can grow to a height of 60 feet in warm climates. There are many varieties, with the pimento racemosa native to the Caribbean. Cultivation began in Britain since the 1600s, but it can be commonly found around the Mediterranean today. The bark ranges from olive green to reddish in color. The evergreen leaves are thick, shiny and a dark green with unisex flowers that grow in clusters, bearing small berries.
The laurel leaves claim to fame is through the Olympics via the ancient crowns and wreaths worn by heroes. Bay oil was considered the herb a symbol of wisdom, peace and protection, and the leaves were a popular spice in Roman cuisine.
Dried Bay leaves have become a popular addition in Western, Middle Eastern and Caribbean cuisine, and can be found added to meat dishes, stews, sauces, soups and pickles. The specie of bay leaf in India is native to the Himalayas, and Indonesian bay leaf comes from a different family.
The oil is collected from a tree when it is at least 5 years old. It has a strong, spicy, ethereal scent, and is dark yellow (Pimenta racemosa) to dark green in color. The oil from the berries is known as Oil of Bays, and the oil from the leaves is sometimes known as Oil of Laurel (Oleum lauri). The oil from the Caribbean variety Pimenta racemosa is also known as Oil of Bay.
Like most essential oils, one can find adulterated bay oil, which can sometimes be distinguished by the color red which appears after adding ammonia
- Laurin (berries)
- Glycerides of acetic, oleic, linoleic, stearic, palmitic, myristic, and lauric acids (berries)
- Terpenes (cineol, A-pinene, B-pinene, citral)
- Chlorophyll – permanent
- Methyl chavicol
- Cis–Sabinene hydrate
- Trans–Sabinene hydrate
- Linalyl acetate
- Isobornyl acetate
- Methyl eugenol
The Laurus nobilis grows wild in Tunisia, where a research team led by Marzouki found as expected the same properties in all parts of a Bay Tree, but it differed from wood to stem, stem to leaf, leaf to flower, and flower to berry, but varying only in concentration. They also found the Bay Tree to very strong antibacterial properties. Mohammed Reza Verdian-Rizi and research team of the Tehran University of Medical Sciences found that the time of harvesting of the organs of the tree for oil production does not significantly affect the chemical composition of the essential oil, but the best time for harvesting is the time of flowering when there is a higher concentration of the essential oil.
The aroma uplifts the mind, helps one to focus, and boosts the confidence.
- Anti septic
- Emetic (in large does)
As an antiseptic and as antibiotic bay oil protects against infection, and prevents growth of unwanted microbes in the body. Bay oil is disliked by insects and is useful as an insecticide. As an analgesic it eases localized pain. As a spasmolytic cramps, and any convulsive activity that leads to a spasm are eased and as an astringent that contracts muscles and tissues, the oil helps to strengthen hold of hair on the scalp, tighten gums, and narrow blood vessels in cases of haemorrhaging. It is good for loss of appetite as an appetizer, and helps to stimulate the secretion of bile, important in the process of proper digestion. As a tonic to the stomach it helps to maintain proper functioning of the stomach, and as a tonic to the whole body helps to sustain proper regulation of the nervous, immune, and endocrine systems.
Bay oil helps to normalize the menses, stimulate delayed menses, and yet eases the discomfort that may come from the cycle.
Reduces fevers as a febrifuge and eliminate toxins as a sudorific, and in cases of hysteria, anxiety, stress or depression, acts as a sedative.
In the Caribbean bay leaves were distilled with rum to produce bay-rum which was used for fevers, bodily aches and pains, and as a hair tonic.
In Iran, the oil was used to relieve haemorrhoids, pain from rheumatism, as a diuretic, and also as an antifungal/antibacterial.
- Muscular pain
- Menstrual pain
- Delayed menses
- Circulation problems
- Colds, flu, etc
- Dental infection
- Hair growth
- Skin infections.
- Poor digestion
- Cuts, wounds, hemorrhaging
- Grief, anxiety, panic attacks
The high concentration of eugenol in bay can irritate the skin, so it is wise to do a skin test beforehand. As an emmenagogue it should be avoided during pregnancy, if one is a hemophiliac, suffers from prostate cancer, kidney or liver problems, and avoid taking with anticoagulants. Avoid inhaling too much or there is a reverse affect to the intended therapy.
Use in the diluted form when applying to the skin/bathing/massage, and avoid applying bay oil to children aged under 5 years. One can add 1 part of bay oil to 1 part organic oil (avocado/grapeseed/jojoba/wheatgerm/sesame/sweet almond).
It can be used in a liniment/massage oil to stimulate the lymph glands, bile secretion, and blood circulation – when applied in this way, the body temperature increases, which in turn eases muscle tension.
In the form of vapor therapy, bay oil can be used to treat infections, fevers, aches and pains, calm the nerves grief, stimulate appetite, and stimulate the mind.
Felter, H. W. and Lloyd, J. “King’s American Dispensatory”, U.S. 1898.
“Health Benefits of Bay Essential Oil”. http://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/essential-oils/health-benefits-of-bay-essential-oil.html
“Laurel (Laurus Nobilis L.)” http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Laur_nob.html
Marzouki et al. “Essential Oil Composition and Variability of Laurus Nobilis L. Growing in Tunisia, Comparison and Chemometric Investigation of Different Plant Organs”. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19296375
Verdian-Rizi, M. et al. “Phenological Variation of Laurus Nobilis L. Essential Oil from Iran”. http://ejeafche.uvigo.es/component/option,com_docman/task,doc_view/gid,402/