Bay Essential Oil

The plant family to which bay belongs is Lauraceae, the same family as camphor and cinnamon. The essential oil is extracted by steam distillation of the dried leaves and berries of the bay plant.

Bay, or sweet bay as it is also known, originally comes from the area around the Mediterranean, but is quite easily grown in sheltered, sunny positions in this country. The tree grows to as much as 60 feet high (18 meters) and is evergreen.

Bay leaves are a common addition to stews and casseroles, whether fresh or dried, and bay is one of the standard ingredients of a classic bouquet garni. The leaves are used whole and are removed from the dish once cooking is complete and their flavor has infused throughout.

In common with most of the herbs that are widely used in cooking, bay has beneficial effects on the digestive system. Bay can also help to combat flatulence, and chewing on a bay leaf will help to freshen the breath after a spicy meal.

History reveals that bay was widely used in ancient Rome and Greece. Apart from its benefits as a digestive aid, it was believed to offer protection from malign spiritual influences. The emperors of ancient Rome wore wreaths of laurel (another name for bay) in time of victory and it remains a symbol of victory, wealth and importance to this day.

Essential Oil

The essential oil is extracted from bay by steam distillation of the dried leaves and twigs. The oil is yellow-green in color and smells strongly medicinal. Bay oil is used for its fragrance by the cosmetics and perfume industries and is also used in the production of a variety of foods and drinks.

Bay oil can be used in massage, bathing and inhalation. It has an uplifting effect on the spirits, and medicinally it can help in the treatment of minor respiratory illnesses such as colds and influenza. It helps combat flatulence and indigestion and can stimulate a jaded appetite. Bay oil is an emmenagogue – it can induce menstruation – and can help when periods are scanty and irregular.

Suitable methods of use

  • Massage (well-diluted)
  • Hair care
  • Inhalation
  • Vaporizer/diffuser.


Bay oil can be irritating to sensitive skins. Use in proper dilution and in moderation only. Those with particularly sensitive or allergy-prone skins should avoid the use of bay oil in massage at home. Warning: Bay should not be used during pregnancy.

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