Laurus nobilis is an aromatic evergreen tree or large shrub with green, glossy leaves, native to the Mediterranean region. It is one of the plants used for bay leaf seasoning in cooking. It is known as bay laurel, sweet bay, bay tree (esp. United Kingdom), true laurel, Grecian laurel, laurel tree or simply laurel. Laurus nobilis figures prominently in classical Greek, Roman, and Biblical culture.
Worldwide, many other kinds of plants in diverse families are also called “bay” or “laurel”, generally due to similarity of foliage or aroma to Laurus nobilis, and the full name is used for the California bay laurel (Umbellularia), also in the family Lauraceae.
The laurel can vary greatly in size and height, sometimes reaching 10–18 metres (33–59 ft) tall. Laurus is a genus of evergreen trees belonging to the Laurel family, Lauraceae. The genus includes three species, whose diagnostic key characters often overlap (Mabberley 1997).
The laurel is dioecious (unisexual), with male and female flowers on separate plants. Each flower is pale yellow-green, about 1 cm diameter, and they are borne in pairs beside a leaf. The leaves are 6–12 cm long and 2–4 cm broad, with an entire (untoothed) margin. On some leaves the margin undulates. The fruit is a small, shiny black berry-like drupe about 1 cm long that contains one seed.
A recent study found considerable genetic diversity within L. nobilis, and that L. azorica is not genetically or morphologically distinct.
The most abundant component found in laurel essential oil is 1,8-cineole, also called eucalyptol. The leaves contain about 1.3% essential oils (ol. lauri folii), consisting of 45% eucalyptol, 12% other terpenes, 8-12% terpinyl acetate, 3–4% sesquiterpenes, 3% methyleugenol, and other α- and β-pinenes, phellandrene, linalool, geraniol, and terpineol, contains lauric acid also.
Both essential and fatty oils are present in the fruit. The fruit is pressed and water-extracted to obtain these products. The fruit contains up to 30% fatty oils and about 1% essential oils (terpenes, sesquiterpenes, alcohols, and ketones).
What is Bay Laurel or Laurel Leaf Essential Oil?
Bay Laurel or Laurel Leaf essential oil is well-regarded in aromatherapy due to its unique molecular structure. It contains elements of nearly all of the primary chemical groups which make up essential oils. The result is a broad range of therapeutic uses. Bay Laurel (and other essential oils of Mediterranean plants) were the subject of research into possible anti-viral activity. Bay Laurel was noted to have ‘interesting’ anti-viral action against the SARS coronavirus, or SARS-CoV, which causes severe acute respiratory syndrome.
Most outstanding is the mention it receives by Dr. Kurt Schnaubelt in ‘Advanced Aromatherapy’: “Its positive effects on the lymphatic system are undeniable. Rubbing a few drops of bay laurel on swollen lymph nodes will produce an immediately noticeable relieving effect. The positive and pleasant effect of this oil is so distinct and strong that one application will normally suffice to convince the most hardened skeptic to use it.”
The oil has traditionally been used to alleviate digestive complaints, but its modern aromatherapy applications make use of its antiseptic, anti-microbial, expectorant, mucolytic, anti-bacterial and anti-infectious properties. It may be included in blends for breathing support, and the aroma may be more appreciated by some that other oils used for this purpose. Laurel leaf essential oil can be safely used as an immune system support agent, particularly when one may be exposed to higher-risk situations, or may find their immune system depleted from traveling or stress.
Further, Bay Laurel essential oil is indicated by some authorities for nerve regeneration (blending with Helichrysum may be useful), as well as rheumatoid arthritis. The oil has a lovely aroma, and would make an excellent addition to arthritis/joint/muscular formulas not only due to its therapeutic action, but its beautiful spicy & herbaceous scent!
The leaves are distilled to produce a greenish-yellow essential oil. It has an agreeable odour reminiscent of cajuputalthough the latter is softer and more acrid.
Last century, Dr Cazin classified laurel as a carminative, expectorant, diuretic and sudorific, and prescribed it for flatulence, slow and difficult digestion, asthmatic conditions and bronchorrhoea (a chronic form of bronchitis, with a great amount of phlegm). More recently Dr Leclerc recommended its use for chronic bronchitis, ‘flu and ‘flu fevers, dys¬pepsia, flatulence and virus infections; his remedy was an infusion of the leaves or berries.
Use 5 g (1/4 oz) leaves, 10 g (1/2oz) organic orange peel and 300 ml (1/2 pint) boiling water: infuse for ten minutes, strain and then drink with honey if required. It is a wonderful sudorific – promoting sweating ¬and can really help in the case of ‘flu.
To help counter rheumatic aches and pains, add 10 drops of laurel oil – or some fresh leaves – to a hot bath and relax for a while. After the bath, rub the affected areas with an oil made from 20 ml (4 tsp) grape seed oil and 12 drops laurel; wear a thick, warm dressing gown and lie on your bed for at least half an hour.
A soya and laurel oil is very useful for a stiff neck: add 5 drops laurel to 10 ml (2 tsp) soya oil and use to massage all over the neck until absorbed then wear a thick scarf for at least 20 minutes, resting your head on a pillow. You could use leaves as well: boil for 10 minutes, then dip a small towel or nappy in the liquid and place around the neck. Either of these remedies can also be used for sprains.
The essential oil can also be used for pediculosis, scabies and loss of hair after an infection.
Bay laurel leaves may be used fresh, when they are rather bitter, or dried, when the aroma is still present but the bitterness has softened. (Really old bay leaves will taste of nothing at all.) Bay leaves are used in cooking all over the world, but particularly in Europe to flavour stocks, court bouillons, marinades, sauces, bouquet garnis, and in and on pate mixtures. The tej-pat of Indian cookery is not bay, as is so often thought, but dried cassia leaf (that of laurel’s not-too-distant relative, Cinnamomum cassia).
Bay can also be used in sweets, boiled in the milk for a pudding or custard, for instance.
Marination helps tenderize meat of any sort, and using plenty of aromatics helps to prevent putrefaction.
Laurel leaves were used as a strewing herb in the time of the Elizabethans. Bay leaves are placed in boxes of figs to keep away weevils; and a leaf or two in jars of flour or pulses will similarly discourage insects at home.
Laurel essential oil has been and still is used in a great many medicaments, for bath lotions, and in antiseptic soaps, as well as in food flavouring, and perfumery. In veterinary practice, it is included in cleansing ointments for farm animals.
Wounds should not be ignored, even if they look mild, more so when they are from iron objects, rusty or otherwise, or from dirty or unclean objects. Wounds are very much prone to Septic or Tetanus, which can result in severe convulsions, cramps, breathlessness, pain, hydrophobia, and even insanity. The antiseptic property of this oil protects wounds against such infections and inhibits bacterial growth, while helping to avoid those painful situations.
This oil is also known for its antibiotic properties. That means that it inhibits any sort of biotic growth (growth of microbes, bacteria, or fungi) in the body, effectively safeguarding you against those infections. There is one more advantage of using this oil as an antibiotic. It is completely safe and has no adverse side effects (unless used in very heavy doses), unlike those antibiotic medicines available on the market that heavily impact the liver, heart, and other internal organs.
Neuralgia is very painful and it leaves almost the entire oral zone, including the throat, ears, tonsils, base of the nose, larynx, pharynx, and the surrounding areas suffering from severe pain. It is caused due to compression of the Glossopharyngeal or the Ninth Cranial Nerve by the surrounding blood vessels, which tends to swell when excited or stimulated as a result of chewing, eating, laughing, shouting, or any other excitement or movement in that region. The essential Oil of Bay has analgesic and astringent properties, each of which helps provide relief from the pain of Neuralgia in its own way. Being an analgesic, it reduces the feeling of pain in the affected area. Then, as an astringent, it induces contraction in the blood vessels, thus relieving the pressure on the cranial nerve, giving immediate relief from the pain.
Cramps, coughs, aches, diarrhea, nervous afflictions, and convulsions are some of the ailments caused by spasm, which is an excessive contraction in the respiratory tracts, muscles, nerves, blood vessels, and internal organs. Not only does it cause the ailments discussed above, but sometimes it can also become fatal if it is overly excessive. For example, excessive spasms in the respiratory system can leave someone breathless or literally choke them to death. The Essential Oil of Bay gives relief from spasm by relaxing the contractions and helping to avoid the related dangers or ailments.
Loss of appetite is a very common problem with people who lead a metropolitan way of life. With the excessive pressure of work in the office as well as at home, a never-ending search for money, and almost no time to relax or exercise, it is bound to happen! This loss of appetite eventually induces acute deficiencies in those people. Therefore, an appetizer or an aperitif can be a helping hand in these cases. Nothing is better than an herbal aperitif like the Essential Oil of Bay to help them want and have a sumptuous lunch or dinner.
We have already read that astringency can be beneficial in treating painful conditions like Neuralgia. However, it is not its sole benefit. An astringent’s main function is to induce contractions in muscles and tissues. This contraction helps in many ways. It strengthens the grip of gums on teeth, pulls up the sagging skin and muscles, strengthens the hold of the scalp on hair roots, thereby preventing loss of hair and finally, it induces contractions in the blood vessels, thus helping to stop hemorrhaging.
Bay Oil promotes the discharge of bile into the stomach, thereby helping maintain the acid and base balance in it. This bile is used to break down the complex food molecules and to neutralize the excess acids discharged into the stomach, which is very important, since this excess acid can wear down the inner lining of the stomach, causing ulcers.
This property of Bay Essential Oil is effective in turning on obstructed menses and making them more regular. It also eases the pain and other troubles associated with menstrual periods.
Since certain components of Bay Oil are capable of fighting infections that cause cough, cold, and fever, this oil helps reduce fevers. Its sudorific property also contributes to this, since perspiration helps bring down body temperature.
Being lethal for insects and lower animals is yet another beneficial property of this oil, which helps drive away insects. Therefore, it can be used in fumigants, sprays, vaporizers, and in various other ways to keep away insects.
This oil sedates nervous afflictions and disturbances and helps provide relief from conditions like epilepsy, hysteria, convulsions, anxiety, stress, depression, anger etc.
The stomach is the root to health and is the root to all health problems as well. Any malfunctioning by the stomach results in an ailment. As long as it is functioning well, then your total health remains fine. This is exactly what Bay Oil does. It keeps the stomach functioning fine and maintains it in very good health, keeping it safe from infections, ulcers, and acidity.
Bay Essential Oil promotes perspiration and facilitates the removal of toxins, excess salt, water, and fat from the body through sweat. This makes the body lighter and protects it from ailments caused due to the accumulation of toxins, salt, and water in the body. Perspiration also brings down body temperature in the case of fever.
This property of Essential Oil of Bay is beneficial for the whole body. It improves the metabolic functions such as decomposition of food and the absorption of nutrients by toning up the liver, stomach, and intestines, helping you grow stronger and healthier. It also takes care of proper excretion, regulates the endocrinal secretions of hormones and enzymes, and also tones up the nervous system, thus making you more alert and active. Finally, it boosts the immune system, thereby protecting you from infections.
Other Benefits: The Essential Oil of Bay is equally effective in symptoms like rheumatism, neuralgia, muscular pain, circulation problems, cold, flu, dental infection, diarrhea, skin infections and promoting growth of hair, and general health of the scalp.