Laurel essential oil is distilled from the cut and chopped leafy branches of the evergreen tree named Laurus nobilis. This “noble” tree has domain over an entire plant family, the Lauraceae. This family includes several aromatic shrubs and trees from around the world such as Cinnamon, Cassia, Camphor, Litsea, Sassafras, Rosewood and more. Of note, several of these aromatic plants thrive in the “East,” whereas Laurel is from the Mediterranean basin, originating in Asia Minor (Holmes). Laurel is often distilled for its oil from the western Mediterranean (Morocco and France) over to Eastern locales such as Turkey, Croatia and Bosnia.
Timeless, ancient Laurel has the power to ignite while still green—giving it seemingly magical powers. The power, no doubt, lies in its abundant volatile oil content and overall chemistry. Allow your imagination to ignite and expand in the aromatically alchemical fire that is Laurel, the plant that allows one’s soul to “eat fire and drink light” (Mailhebiau). That may be a bold statement, but spend some time with this noble plant to embrace its inherent warmth and dryness that may clear up muck and mire, allowing insights to emerge from within you.
Much has been written about “noble Laurel” which is long associated with divination and prophecy (e.g., the Oracle at Delphi), inspiration, muse, victory, scholarship (e.g., a baccalaureate) and continued pursuit of success (e.g., not to “rest on one’s laurels”). The epitome of Laurel is embodied in Apollo: divine heat of the sun. To this day Laurel symbolizes achievement, will-to-power, valor, courage and strength. It is not flighty and whimsical nor demure. It is crowned victory: bold and centering. Its heat and strength stir the embers of the soul, igniting an inner fire that may dissolve cobwebs of emotion and fear, uncovering hidden potential. Taken to an extreme, Laurel may bring too much fire and burn too bright eating up everything around it with boastfulness, ego and war: Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Napoleon. Yet in moderation, Laurel may help bring out the yang-driving-emperor in all of us.
Bay laurel’s complex chemistry allows it to act on many levels. It is a notable broad-spectrum antimicrobial and immune supporter with affinities for the lungs and lymph. Apollo-yang qualities of the sun give Laurel a sphere of influence over stuck, wet, cold, devitalized conditions. Following are notable therapeutic actions and indications for Laurel essential oil:
|System||Actions & Indications|
|Musculoskeletal||Pain relieving, muscle aches, pains, spasms, arthritis|
|Skin||Wound healing, oily skin, fungal infections, stimulant (e.g., hair follicles), slow healing wounds/ulcers/necrosis|
|Respiratory||Flu symptoms, excess wet mucus, expectorating; Contraindicated for hot & dry conditions (e.g., dry hacking cough)|
|Lymphatic||Gently stimulating on capillaries and lymphatic circulation.|
|Emotions||Revitalizing, stimulating but relaxing to the nervous system, fortifying, tension relieving, “clearing the muck,” promoting inner strength (“fire”) and confidence|
Chemistry Highlights: Laurel essential oil is abundant in 1,8 cineole (often well-over 50%), supported by several esters (notably alpha-terpinyl acetate) and monoterpenes. Laurel often contains small amounts of methyl eugenol; it is advised to seek out an oil with a trace amount. If this is not possible, dilute conservatively (under 10 drops per ounce of carrier) and blend with gentle essential oils (e.g., Lavender, Rosalina).
Is Laurel Essential Oil Safe?
Laurel essential oil is rich in 1,8 cineole (a.k.a., eucalyptol). Essential oils high in eucalyptol may cause CNS and breathing problems in young children. Do not apply to or near the face of infants or children. Avoid application of Laurel essential oil on hypersensitive, diseased or damaged skin. As noted above, these safety concerns may be quenched by blending Laurel with other oils and working within appropriate dilution rates for the situation at-hand.
Blending with Laurel Essential Oil
Laurel’s power lies within its dualistic nature of cooling and heating and energetically stimulating but calming properties that unfold over time. Its aroma profile embodies this. The complete oil is its own alchemical romance. The first exhilarating experience of its vapor is cooling, brisk and expansive mingled with everbearing spicy-cloves and eucalyptus. This is followed by sweet, warm and dry musings with notes of camphor. Over time an even softer sweetness emerges. Subtle perfume, hints of floral, dusky rose with a zest of warmth. The end brings a lingering glimpse of many an aftershave memory from childhood and Santa Maria Novella’s alluring potpourri. It is an enveloping perfume in its entirety.
Laurel essential oil blends well with: Peppermint (Mentha x piperita), Eucalyptus globulus or E. radiata, Birch (Betula lenta), Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens), Rosemary ct. verbenone (Rosmarinus officinalis ct verbenone), Niaouli (Melaleuca quinquenervia), Inula (Inula graveolens), Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi), Lemon (Citrus limon), Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens), Juniper berry (Juniperus communis), Cinnamon leaf (Cinnamomum zeylanicum), Ravintsara (Cinnamomum camphora ct cineole), Ravensara (Ravensara aromatica) and Saro (Cinnamosma fragrans).
Creating Wellness Products with Laurel
As with most essential oils, Laurel offers many virtues across symptomologies and “systems.” Realizing the mind-body connection essential oils have, it always pays to hone-in on plant affinities. In the case of Laurel, we are guided toward the respiratory tract and battering out the sluggish muck and cobwebs from the mind and lymph. Following are two “stock blends” to consider incorporating into your routine should you heed the call of Laurel.
Mind-Clearing Confidence Blend
Do you ever feel sluggish in the mind and need help focusing while also craving inspiration and a brighter inner fire to embolden your spirit? That statement may seem lofty but give the following cephalic blend of essential oils a try over a few days to see what may be stirred within you. The way the cool, blueness of Elemi plays off the warm, spicy heat of Laurel is an absolute delight. Every experience with this blend has been joyful, light and uplifting!
- 15 drops Laurel (Laurus nobilis)
- 20 drops Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) (I prefer the verbenone chemotype for this blend)
- 20 drops Black pepper (Piper nigrum)
- 15 drops Elemi (Canarium luzoncium)
- 50 drops Lemon (Citrus limon)
To Make: blend the essential oils into a glass bottle with a cap. I enjoy blending “stock blends” in a small glass bottle with a dropper cap such as this one.
To Use: Add 25 drops of the blend to an aromatic inhaler, a 2-ounce spritzer with distilled water or to a 10 ml roller ball applicator with your choice of carrier oil. Choose your preferred method of application and use it daily, 2 to 3x per day for 5 days, and check in with yourself to see how you are responding to the blend.
Opening Space for Breath and Flow
Indulge your senses in an entirely tree-based blend of essential oils to support your respiratory health and immunity. Demure Myrtle complements the vigor of Laurel while Ravensara sustains the vigor of Laurel like a “right hand man.” Saro comes in to support the effective but calming properties of Myrtle and gentle Hemlock Spruce rounds out the blend with its uplifting sweetness, as soft as its branches.
- 12 drops Laurel (Laurus nobilis)
- 24 drops Myrtle (Myrtus communis)
- 18 drops Ravensara (Ravensara aromatica)
- 24 drops Saro (Cinnamosma fragrans)
- 42 drops Hemlock spruce (Tsuga canadensis)
Usage suggestions: This blend would be delicious used daily, for 5 to 7 days, in a shower steam, direct palm inhalation or up to 3x a week in a body scrub. Following is an idea for an all-purpose sugar scrub (yield is approximately 1 cup):
- Measure out 3 tbsp of fixed oil (e.g., sunflower) into a jar with a lid that will hold a cup of sugar.
- Add 20 drops of the essential oil blend to the fixed oil and stir to incorporate.
- Add 12 to 13 tbsp of finely textured sugar to the combined oils and mix well to incorporate.
- Affix the cap and apply a label noting the ingredients.
- Use within 7 days.
Can you remember any of your first encounters with a specific plant and its essential oil? Laurel is one I still feel in my bones. To this day the same sensation arises each time I am with the single oil of Laurus nobilis. It helps me release the “shoulds” and “coulds.” It gives me a gap, just enough, to boldly smile, laugh and say out loud that “I don’t care!” This power—boldness with humor—generates a lightness and drive, allowing me to emerge from the muck and mire of the paltry mind into an inner vitality that embodies the true meaning of Carpe Diem.
Thank you for spending time with Laurus nobilis and me.
Holmes, P. (2019). Aromatica A Clinical Guide to Essential Oil Therapeutics (Vol. II). London: Singing Dragon.
Mailhebiau, P. (1995). Portraits in Oils. Editions Jakin.