With ancient origins in Asia Minor, the Bay Laurel tree is a hardy evergreen shrub that is related to the camphor laurel, the sassafras, the Californian laurel and the Oregon myrtle but is not to be confused with the common laurel, which can be poisonous. Bay laurel leaf essential oil (laurus nobilis) is steam distilled from the twigs and leaves of the bay laurel tree. It presents as a clear, colorless to pale yellow liquid with a strong middle fragrance note, exuding a spicy, camphorous, medicinal and herbaceous aroma. Its primary chemical constituents are 1,8-cineol (which makes up about half of it), a-terpinyl acetate, linalool, geraniol, sesquiterpene, sesquiterpenic alcohol, a-pinene, phellandrene, and eugenol, the latter of which is highly irritating and corrosive to metal, so care should be taken. Mostly known for its calming effect on headache, colds, and flu symptoms, its warm, savory aroma is instantly recognizable, inviting and appetizing as a flavoring for soups, stews, and roasted meats.
Laurel Leaf essential oil in history
The bay laurel grows wild in Greece and Western and Southern France and been cultivated in Italy since Christ’s time, though it didn’t arrive in Great Britain until the 16th century.
Its name laurel refers to a mythical tale of a nymph who asked the gods for protections because she was being chased by Apollo. They changed her (magically) into a laurel tree, which remains protected by the pantheon of Greek gods. Since Apollo could not have her, he adopted the tree as his emblem.
The French call it ‘laurel of Appollo’, and in general, it is considered to be an embodiment of the god of the same name, who is known as the god of music and lyric.
The bay laurel represented military might for the Greek armies, so much so that their leaders would wear a crown of it on their heads and carry a twig from the tree in their hand. It is from this that we get the title ‘Poet Laureate’ in Great Britain, and in France, the baccalaureate. During the Renaissance, revered scholars would wear a laurel crown. Other related English phrases are ‘to win one’s laurels’, ‘to look to one’s laurels’, or ‘to rest upon one’s laurels’.
It was also believed that the laurel imbued a person with powers prescience and that it could protect who possessed it from evil and virulent disease as easily as it could thunder and lightning. Asclepius, the Greek god of medicine, was commonly represented wearing a crown of laurel leaves. The Romans also believed that the laurel held powerful magic. In Pliny’s Natural History, you’ll find a story of how a bird carrying a laurel twig landed on the lap of Caesar’s fiancée, the beautiful Augusta. This was considered to be rather auspicious, and they quickly planted the twig, which grew into a beautiful tree.
The bay laurel has long been known to have therapeutic value. Dioscorides, for instance, took the leaves as an emetic, the fruit for chest ailments, and the roots for treating ailments such as kidney stones. It was also prescribed for liver ailments, as it stimulated and warmed the body’s functions. Fast-forward to the Middle Ages, it was touted it as a cure-all for a number of complaints that included gout, fever, angina pectoris, migraine, palpitations, asthma, and diseases of the liver. It was also said that it could keep evil ‘at bay’, and recommended that people wear it on their bodies, or hide beneath its branches for protection against thunderstorms. There are sayings in many languages, in fact, that state something to the effect that “lightning will never strike the laurel”.
Laurel leaf oil uses
Expectorant/cough: loosens chest congestion and soothes the bronchial passages to lessen the severity of coughs.
Flu symptoms: addresses multiple flu symptoms, such as body aches, fever, headache, stomach upset, chest congestion, and cough.
Muscle pain: eases sore, achy, and overworked muscles.
Analgesic: good for arthritis, bruises, sprains, lower back pain, headaches, earaches, and may actually prevent migraines.
Fatigue: combats fatigue with an uplifting and stimulating effect.
Induces menstruation/labor: induces spasms of the uterus which can start a stalled menstruation, but can also induce labor or abortion.
Digestive tract/stomach complaints: eases nausea, gas, and indigestion.
Appetite stimulant: encourages enzymatic production in the stomach and stimulates the appetite.
Courage/confidence: lends a healthy feeling of pride and self-worth.
Creativity: encourages creative thoughts and stimulates ideas.
Culinary: a common ingredient in stews, sauces, especially dishes associated with Mediterranean cuisine.
Use with caution on broken or sensitive skin. Test on a small, inconspicuous area before applying liberally. Eugenol is highly corrosive to metals, so care should be taken. Avoid if you are pregnant or nursing and treatment of children is not recommended as it may cause difficulty breathing. Avoid if you take blood thinning medications, and discontinue for at least two weeks prior to and after surgery. Always heed recommended dilution ratios, and keep away from mucous membranes.
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your physician before using this product.