Bay leaf

Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis)

5 minutes to read
Miki Tameishi

Miki Tameishi

ITEC Therapist (Aromatherapy, Holistic Massage, Reflexology), IEB Reflexologist, LCICI Japan Champissage trainer, Chakra-Aroma Reiki Master, Hbps Hydrotherapist

Beginner Potential Allergens

Note — The article was checked and updated May 2023.

Bay laurel has had many purposes and uses throughout history – from cooking and healing to being a symbol of prosperity and fame.

Recent research has shown that bay laurel is effective as

  • Antiseptic 
  • Bactericidal 
  • Carminative
  • Diaphoretic
  • Digestive
  • Expectorant
  • Stomachic

Today we will look in more detail how the most potent form of bay laurel, that form being the essential oil, can assist us in supporting our physical and mental health.


During this lockdown, I was talking to an Aroma teacher in Taiwan, and we were discussing essential oils that are great for cleaning, purifying the room, that work as a hand sanitiser, soap and face mask spray. 

We both came to a conclusion that Bay laurel ticks all these boxes.  

Common name: Bay Laurel, Bay, Sweet true bay, and Mediterranean Bay. 

Botanical name: Laurus nobilis (laurus means Genus of Tree, and nobilis means noble). This is where the term recipient of a Nobel prize “Nobel laureates” originates from.

Family name: Lauraceae.

Extraction methods: Steam distillation.

Parts used: Leaf and branchlets.

Countries: Serbia. Originated in Asia minor region and native to Mediterranean region.

Colour: Greenish yellow, pale-yellow, or very pale olive green. 

Odour/smell: Fresh, strong smell, with a sweet camphoraceous and spicy medical odour. The spicy calming camphor is the top note and the sweet refreshing menthol is the heart note.

Properties: Antiseptic, bactericidal, carminative, expectorant, diaphoretic, digestive, stomachic.[1,2]

Chemical composition: Bay leaf contains almost all the functional groups (oxides, esters, alcohol and phenol), which explains its spectrum to use.[3]

Bay Laurel essential oil - chemical composition

Oxides-1.8 cineole is an antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial with strong expectorant effects.[1]

Bay laurel contains a high percentage of 1.8 cineole and a-pinene self which is shown to have strong antiviral effects.[4]

Traditional uses

I always like to read the history and stories behind essential oils, herbs and plants, in order to know more about their characters and understand better how to use them. 

Bay laurel is a popular culinary herb throughout Europe, with symbolic meanings in many countries and cultures.

Bay leaf and cooking
Source: Richter @ Pixabay

For instance, it is a symbol for prosperity and fame in the Bible, the resurrection of Christ in Christian tradition, and was used by Greeks and Romans in specific events to crown their victors or high status men as a symbol of honour and victory.[5] 

The laurel tree is also known as the Daphne Tree

Bay laurel and Greek Mythology

According to legend, when Daphne, the nymph daughter of the earth goddess Gaia, was pursued by the ancient Greek god, Apollo, slayer of her bridegroom, she entreated gods for assistance, who then changed her into a laurel tree.

Apollo crowned himself with a circle of laurel leaves and declared the tree sacred to his divinity, and used his powers of immortality and eternal youth to make sure the leaves of the tree remained evergreen and never decayed.[6]

Bay laurel and Ancient Rome

A garland of woven laurel leaves was awarded as a symbol of honour and victory in Rome.

Bay laurel and modern times

Along with evergreens, bay laurel has been used to decorate houses and churches at Christmas. It has an ancient reputation of being beneficial to health.

Today, university graduates are called bachelors from the Latin baccalaureate (bacco, berry; laureus, of laurel). This also means that they were forbidden to marry as it was believed that this would distract them from their studies.[1]

Traditionally, laurel was beloved to confer the gift of prophecy. For instance, a withering laurel tree in the garden predicted a disaster.

Bay laurel has also long been used in herbal medicine to suppress profuse menstruation and hasten childbirth.

The inside of the bark and leaves were used to alleviate kidney disorder and respiratory problems as well as to cure a variety of afflictions including hysteria, colic, indigestion, loss of appetite and fever.[2,6]

Therapeutic uses

Calms the digestive system

Bay laurel has proven antispasmodic activities and is a warming oil which is useful for digestive issues such

Respiratory system aid

Bay laurel is a good antiseptic for the respiratory system. It has been tested against bronchitis, flu, polio and influenza, and it is the most most effective plant in the lauraceae family.[4]

Bay laurel exhibits antiviral, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial effects, and strong expectorant with mucolytic properties, which help the immune system and ease the cold or flu symptom.

Supporting the autonomic nervous system

Most of us could sometimes use more energy and confidence, and have less self-doubt.

Bay laurel essential oil promotes confidence, insight, and courage and it regulates Qi energy.[1]

Skin care

May and Willuhn (1979) tested 178 bay laurel species that have antiviral properties, and the most effective of the Lamiacea family help fight against the herpes virus.

Bay laurel has proven to have analgesic, antimicrobial, and insecticidal activity as well as being excellent for wound healing (ulcers, boils and acne) and fighting off fungal infections.[1,4]

How to use

Home uses

Topical application, massage, compress, bath, sauna, room sprays, ointment and amigel.

Skin care

  • Inhalation – direct inhalation, aroma diffuser, oil vaporiser 
  • Face cleanser
  • Toner
  • Face cream
  • Facial oil

Other uses

Bay laurel is used as a fragrance component in detergents, cosmetics, toiletries, and perfumes, especially aftershaves. 

It is also extensively used in processed foods, as well as alcoholic and soft drinks.[2]

The following is a list of some of the ways essential oils can be used, with their recommended quantities.

Essential oils inhalation instructions

  • Tissue or handkerchief – 1 drop
  • Water bowls – 1 to 9 drops 
  • Candle / scented light bulbs – 1 to 2 drops 
  • Vapour – 2 to 3 drops 
  • Diffuser – 1 to 6 drops 
  • Humidifiers – 1 to 9 drops

Essential oils bath instructions

  • Bath – 1 to 8 drops 
  • Shower – 1 to 8 drops (washing cloth)
  • Hand bath – 2 to 4 drops 
  • Foot bath – 1 to 6 drops
  • Sauna – 2 drops per 600ml water[9]

Essential oils massage instructions

Australia’s leading authority of aromatic medicine, Ron Guba, generally recommends a dilution from 2.5% – 10% essential oil in different vegetable oils, such as jojoba, grapeseed and almond. 

As an example, you can add 8 drops (2.5%) of essential oil to 10ml of jojoba oil.[10]

Bay laurel essential oil can also be used as a room spray. Add 4 or more drops to 300ml water.

Aromatherapy blends

A good combination for bay laurel is citrus and floral essential oils, such as citronella, lemon, eucalyptus, petitgrain, geranium lavender and ylang ylang.

RELATED — Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

Cold and Flu blend for massage

Apply to the affected area such as throat, chest, or back a 2.5% dilution.

  • Bay laurel – 2 drops 
  • Eucalyptus radiata – 3 drops 
  • Ravensara – 2 drops
  • Niaouli CT – 1 drop
  • Throat pain plus Thyme CT Thujanol – 1 drop
  • Any carrier (vegetable) oil – 10ml

RELATED — Eucalyptus (‎Eucalyptus globulus)

Cold and Flu blend - Diffuser use

  • Bay laurel – 2 drops 
  • Eucalyptus Radiata, Globros – 1 drop
  • Naiuli CT – 1 drop
  • Cinnamosma Fragrans – 1 drop 
  • Peppermint – 1 drop

RELATED — Natural Remedies: For our respiratory system

Upset stomach blend for massage

Apply to the area of the stomach.

  • Bay laurel – 1 drop
  • Cardamom – 2 drops
  • Wintergreen – 1 drop
  • Basil – 2 drops
  • Tarragon – 2 drops
  • Petigran – 1 drop
  • Any carrier (vegetable) oil – 10ml

Apathy Syndrome blend for massage

Massage and essential oils

Apply to the upper and lower back.

  • Bay laurel – 2 drops 
  • Lavender radovan – 3 drops
  • Geranium china – 3 drops
  • Any carrier (vegetable) oil – 10ml

Re-energising blend for massage

Apply to the chest and neck.

  • Bay laurel – 2 drops
  • Peppermint – 2 drops
  • Cinnamon – 1 drop
  • Lemon – 3 drops 
  • Any carrier (vegetable) oil – 10ml

Cutaneous candidiasis (skin, nair or hair)

Apply to the affected area.

  • Bay laurel – 1 drop
  • Tea Tree – 3 drops
  • Geranium Egypt – 2 drops
  • Oregano – 1 drop
  • Thyme CT Thujanol – 1 drop
  • Any carrier (vegetable) oil – 10ml[11]

Precaution and Safety

Bay laurel is generally regarded as safe

Frequent use of bay laurel on the skin over a longer period of time (approximately 3 weeks) can result in sensitisation and irritation.

Material (RIFM) monograph reported in three separate tests that there were no reactions for human volunteers.[4]

It is suggested that bay laurel should not be used during pregnancy.[2,3]

We hope you enjoyed the article and have found it educational. If you are looking for more information on other essential oils, you can find them in Essential Oils section.

Miki is a Japanese-born traditionally trained massage therapist and aromatherapy practitioner. She has Japanese expertise, techniques and Western training. Miki has studied in both Asian and Western modalities.

Miki can be found at Herbal Aroma Spa and Wellness shop and LCICI Japan School – NZ. For more information on Miki, please visit HanaAkari.


(1) Battaglia, S. (2003). The complete Guide to Aromatherapy, 2nd Ed. The international centre of aromatherapy.

(2) Lawless, J. (1995). The complete guide to the use of essential oils in aromatherapy. Element Books.

(3) Schnaubelt, K. (1995). Advanced aromatherapy. Healing Art Press.

(4) Buckle, J. (2003). Clinical aromatherapy, 2nd Ed. Elsevier.

(5) Preedy, V. (2016). Essential oils in Food Preservation, Flavour and Safety. Academic Press.

(6) Weiss, EA. (1997). Essential oils crop. CAB International.

(7) Turkez, H., Geyikoglu, F. The effect of laurel leaf extract against toxicity induced by 2,3,7,8 – tetrachlorodibenzo-P-dioxin in cultured rat hepatocytes. Department of Molecular Biology and Genetics (2011). Retrieved form

(8) Batool, S. et al. Bay Leaf. Medical Plants of South Asia (2020). Retrieved from

(9) Worwood, .V.A. (1991). The Fragrant Pharmacy. Macmillan London.

(10) Guba, R. (2006). Aromatherapy and Regenerative skin care The Centre for Aromatic Medicine.

(11) Nard Japan (2005). A dictionary of Chemotype essential oils for prescription. Nard Japan.

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