Botany and Production
The Bay laurel, Laurus nobilis of the Lauraceae family, is the only representative of this family in our part of the world. It is a dioecious tree, 2 to 10 meters high, with evergreen leaves. The female plant produces small yellow flowers followed by black or deep violet shiny fruits. The Bay laurel originates from Greece, where its ancient use is reported from Delphi. In the casting of the oracles, the place was cleaned by the smoke of laurel leaves, and it was regarded the sacred Herb of Apollo, the god of enlightenment poetry and music.
Today, it grows spontaneously all around the Mediterranean Basin, and its essential oil is available from North Africa, Spain, Italy and Yugoslavia as well.
We collect Laurus nobilis in the region of Apokoronas, in the northwestern part of Crete in the province of Chania, from a large wild growing population. It is the young shoots we cut, cleaning and weeding around the trees at the same time.
In Crete, its essential oil has been produced traditionally in the villages of Apokorona, called "Karabassi" and been used mainly for toothache and hair-care, however, today this village production has sadly ceased. In 1992 we met one of the last people producing Karabassi in a village in sub mountainous Apokoronas. An old man, he came riding on a donkey, shouting 'Karabassi', and would sell the oil measured in 'oka', using a bullet-shell to measure out the small amount.
All parts of the tree contain essences, but the leaves most. We distill the essential oil from the young shoots in February and March. These winter collections fall in the stage of fruit ripening, and the fruits, though yielding a very small amount of oil, do give an interesting, delicate aroma to the oil. The leaves have to be comminuted, cut, immediately before distillation to truly liberate their oil. Laurus nobilis, steam distilled for 4-5 hours, yields approximately 0.5-0.7% essential oil. Our oil has a truly wonderful round, warm, full and rich scent, and the collection of Laurel and the distillation process itself is an illuminating experience for us again and again.
Some of our bay laurel trees in Apokoronas in the north eastern corner of the Chania prefecture. This region is one of the greenest regions in Crete. In the picture to the left, you can see the berries.
The main components of our Laurus nobilis oil from Apokoronas are: 1.8 cineole (40%), terpinyl acetate (13%), eugenol (6%) linalool (3%), α-pinene (4.5%), β-pinene (3.8%), sabinene (6%), terpinen-4-ol (4%), a-terpineol (2.5%), methyl eugenol (1.3%), γ-terpinene (1%), along with about 0.5% each of geraniol, bornyl acetate, neryl acetate, trans-caryophyllene, α-humulene, α-thuyene, camphene, α-terpinene and aromadendrene.
The essential oil of Laurus nobilis is tested non-toxic.
Principle of Action
Regenerating, illuminating, clearing. Prevents physical aging and psychological weakness. A poly-valent oil, efficient even at low doses.
An excellent remedy for hair and scalp, stimulates growth, clears dandruff, helps to heal scars, acne and pimples.
Stimulates digestion, helps flatulence and loss of appetite.
Laurus nobilis is a mild broncho-pulmonary disinfectant; it's tonic to the kidneys and the reproductive system and helpful with oral infections and toothache.
Like many essential oils it shows antibacterial and fungicidal activity.
A few drops of Bay Laurel essential oil can be used to flavor foods, soups and seasonings instead of the often dry and aroma-poor bay leaves commercially available.
Apollo, the god of music, prophesy, intellectual pursuits and healing, poetry and philosophy, associated with the sun, loved Laurel, Daphne in Greek, a nymph transformed into this beautiful plant by her father Peneus so that she could avoid the courting of the god. Apollo hence wore a wrath of laurel leaves to have his love near, and Delphi, his oracle site is still today amidst Laurel trees. Laurel was considered as holy, and only Apollo's priestess Phytia was allowed to pick the shiny leaves in Delphi, to chew them, be fumigated by their smoke and purified during the ritual oracles at Delphi.
Throughout antiquity and history, laurel was associated with victory, nobility and illumination, with wisdom and protection.
Laurel leaves have been known for their medicinal properties since antiquity. Dioscurides, the ancient Greek physician, botanist and pharmacologist mentions Laurel leaves in his famous work 'De Materia Medica' dated around 75 AD, a work considered one of the most influential herbal books in history, in continuous use well into the 17th century. He mentions that the leaves are warming and emollient and thus beneficial in sit-baths for indications such as infections of the bladder or the womb. The crushed leaves 'heal bee- and wasp stings' and 'any kind of inflammation' if applied externally he notes.
Evaporated in an aroma lamp, sniffed to directly from the bottle, or used as a perfume this oil has an uplifting, illuminating effect, vitalizes and strengthens a tired mind and body and combats degeneration. A mental stimulant which favors clarity of mind and concentration, it is a good companion when creative work is to be accomplished. It helps us in moments of depression, psychic weakness and fear. The fragrance helps us to turn out our ‘noble’ side, to feel integrity and give out the best in an artful way.
Laurel stimulates digestion, counteracts flatulence and relieves stomach ache, and a drop or two can be taken in a small glass of alcohol after food. Taken this way before food, it stimulates the appetite. We can also add some drops of oil to soups and foods.
When suffering from a cold or respiratory problems, evaporate the oil in an aroma lamp in the bedroom, or use it diluted in a massage base oil at 3% or 4-5 drops in a small glass of alcohol to rub on chest and back. It is a mild treatment in cases when colds are accompanied with general weakness and exhaustion. Laurel is a good oil to use in times of recovering from illness, used diluted in vegetable oil (3%) and massaged onto the area affected.
Laurel stimulates the lymphatic system and disperses lymphatic congestion. Can be used in compresses for swollen lymphatic glands, or in a vegetable oil for massaging legs or other areas with swelling due to congestion in the lymphatic system.
The oil is a valuable ingredient in skin care products, as it has a regenerating activity. You can add a few drops to your daily cream, which should be little or non- perfumed, to a skin tonic, or an aftershave. To mix a body oil for use after bath, you can use 100ml of jojoba, almond, or olive oil, add 3ml of laurel oil, or a mixture of oils like wild carrot seed, myrtle and laurel (3% total). Smooth into skin when still moist. Laurel oil strengthens and beautifies hair. Give a few drops of oil onto your fingertips and massage your hair and scalp after washing. It not only strengthens it, but also makes it shine. You can also add some drops to your shampoo or balsam.
An excellent mask for truly healthy and shiny hair we make by beating a raw egg with approximately 30 ml of olive- and/or avocado oil into a kind of mayonnaise and adding 8 drops of each laurel- and rosemary essential oil. If you have longer hair, you might have to make a larger portion. This is then well applied to dry hair, covered with cling film and then a towel. Leave for about an hour, then wash well out. We have seen excellent results. You can almost feel your hair growing out towards the light.
Our Laurus nobilis leaf oil is one of the most all-round oils, and we use it in many different situations. We always have a bottle of it with us. In our experience, it's also an oil which almost everyone loves and responds to. An oil that will cleanse the atmosphere or the surroundings in many circumstances and many places.
We feel the greatest affinity with what Apollo represents, as god of the arts such as music and poetry, of wisdom and learning, of healing and philosophy. All the fine qualities which truly express what human beings can contribute to life as it is on this planet, a sign of true victory, of true expression of human possibilities and qualities. The scent of Laurus nobilis reminds us of all that what is truly noble, creative and compassionate in us. Of all that we are able to contribute with to the universe, if in alignment with ourselves and our purpose.
The ancient Greeks believed that Delphi, the sanctuary of Apollo, was the center of the world.
We have been to Delphi, which is still beautifully preserved in its natural environment, surrounded by the most splendid Laurel trees and bushes. The place still has an atmosphere of serenity, sacredness and inspiration. After thousands of years...
We have chewed the leaves there, have imagined the oracles taking place, have drunk from and washed by the still running spring, the Castalia, close to the sanctuary. The spring the Pythias drank from back then, the spring where every visitor had to wash, at least, his/her hands before entering the sanctuary.
The sanctuary from the amphitheater and the remains of Apollo's sanctuary.
The Castalia spring in Delphi
We went late march and had the privilege to have the place to ourselves. In the summer as well as in the winter months, the place is crowded with tourists and visitors.
That year we had a group of aromatherapists visiting for a field-course in Crete. We had saved some of the sacred water we collected from the Castalia to share with them, and some laurel leaves from this sacred place for each of them...
We truly cherish this plant and its fragrance.
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