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Bay (Laurus nobilis)


Laurus nobilis

Bay (Laurus nobilis) is a perennial persistent foliage shrub with dark grey bark of the Laureaceae family. It includes two varieties, golden bay tree (Laurus nobilis aurea) and the narrow leaf bay tree (Laurus nobilis angustifolia).

It is native to southern Europe and the Middle East and can sometimes reach six metres.

Its leaves, like all other parts of the plant, are leathery, lanceolate with undulate edges and rich in essential oil. They grow in all soils in the Mediterranean regions. Sowing and cuttings are performed in the fall.


Main aromatic molecules: Terpene oxides (1,8-cineole or eucalyptol), monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, monoterpenols (α-terpineol, terpinene-4-ol), phenols (methylugenol), esters (terpenyl acetate), lactones (costunolide).
Family: Lauraceae.
Productive organs: Leaves
Yield: 130g of essential oil per 100kg of leaves.
Equivalence: 1ml → 33 drops (dosage calculated for a calibrated dropper European Pharmacopoeia)

  • Bath Bath
  • Skin application Skin application
  • Oral route Oral route
  • Respiratory route Respiratory route

Main properties

Essential oil of bay is antibacterial, antiviral and fungicidal. It treats winter respiratory diseases, mouth sores, neuralgias and all skin and intestinal infections (it re-equilibrates the intestinal flora) as well as others. Among other exploits, combined with tea tree it cures Candida albicans mycoses. It helps fight fatigue and nervous disequilibrium conditions, stimulates the scalp and even has the property of make eyelashes grow.

Find all the virtues and uses of essential oils in our tips section.


Mouth ulcers
4 ml of essential oil of bay, 10 ml of rose hip plant oil. Apply three times daily using a cotton swab on the mouth ulcer until healed over a maximum of seven days.

Recurrent colitis
Take twice daily for fifteen days, 2 drops of essential oil of bay and 1 drop of essential oil of cinnamon on a neutral tablet.

Hair growth
Dilute 3 drops of noble laurel essential oil in 10ml of castor and argan castor and argan vegetable oils in equal parts. Apply this aromatic mixture by massaging the scalp. Leave on for 15 minutes then wash hair. Adults only

Cultivation and production

Bay grows all over the Mediterranean basin, in France, Italy, Spain, Greece and in the Balkans. Turkey is by far the first exporter, its culture brings it more than twenty million dollars every year. It is abundant in Corsica where traditionally a herbal tea was prepared for stomach pains. It is propagated by cuttings or layering in rich, drained and sandy soil.


The odour of bay is both fresh, woody and spicy, similar to that of its crushed leaves.

Extraction and yield

The steam distillation of bay leaves has a very low yield of 0.13% of essential oil. One hundred kilograms of plant are required to obtain one hundred and thirty millilitres of essential oil.

Chemical formula

The active constituents of Laurus nobilis are principally monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, monoterpenols (linalool), esters, phenols, oxides (1,8-cineol) and lactones (costunolide).

Precautions for use

Essential oil of bay must be used diluted on the skin, after a skin test because it is allergenic and slightly dermocaustic. Oral administration requires a medical prescription. Beware of not exceeding the dose or prolonging the use of essential oil of bay as it could have a narcotic effect.

Do not use in: pregnant or breast-feeding women, children under the age of three years. persons allergic to one of the components (geraniol, linalool, limonene), subjects with asthma without the advice of an allergologist before the first use.

Like most Mediterranean plants, bay has its legend: Eros made Apollo fall madly in love with the nymph Daphne, as a revenge for making fun of him, and was the cruel enough to make the beauty insensitive to her divine suitor. Tired of fleeing, she was changed into a bay tree that Apollo who was still in love dedicated to peace, triumph and happiness. This is why the Romans waved bay branches as a sign of joy. In Rome and in Greece, winners were crowned with bay, as were students who succeeded their exams in the Middle Ages. Their head was crowed with bay leaves and berries (Bacca laurea) thus our "baccalaureate". It is found in the very ancient recipe for "Aleppo soap" for skin care, and in Crete women have been using since time immemorial to give lustre to their hair. Its culinary merits are so well known that they hardly need to be restated.


Extracts from the book 'Aromatherapia - All about essential oils', by Isabelle Pacchioni, watercolors by Patrick MORIN, Aroma Thera Editions . Extracts from the book '41 essential oils essential for treating yourself differently' and '48 essential oils which every home needs to be healthy' by Isabelle Delaleu and Isabelle Pacchioni, Publications of the Mandadori France group. Botanical illustrations by Agathe Haevermans.

The properties, benefits and method of use are given for information; they cannot in any case constitute or replace medical information that only health professionals can provide. For any use of essential oils for therapeutic purposes, please consult your GP or pharmacist.
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