Laurel Leaf oil – sometimes just called Laurel essential oil – is the oil of the Bay Laurel, Laurus nobilis, and is steam distilled from the leaves of the plant.
As a fragrance ingredient, it is used especially during the winter months to soothe the symptoms of colds and flu, either diffused into the air or included in bath and shower products where it will be released into the steam.
But for many people it is more familiar as a flavour ingredient, and Laurel Leaf oil used in cooking can provide a similar flavour to that of whole bay leaves.
The Bay Laurel itself is an evergreen tree, with the potential to grow up to about 60 feet in height, and as well as its dark, glossy leaves, it produces small dark berries that can also be used to express an oil.
Bay leaves were historically worn as a sign of status in Roman and Greek communities, where they would be fashioned into a crown, and are still found mainly in Mediterranean countries.
In modern usage, Laurel essential oil is an effective alternative to Eucalyptus, and is often compared to it both for its effects and for its soothing nature – many people find Laurel to be even more soothing than Eucalyptus.
At low concentrations the oil is considered very safe to use, with only a small risk of dermal irritation as the concentration increases; generally however it is used more as an aroma than in direct contact with the skin, and is a fresh and herbal top scent with good applications in cleaning products.
Finally, Laurel Leaf oil is often included in fragrances in order to stimulate the senses and soothe the mind – it helps to ease the nerves of many people, making it a useful aromatherapy ingredient in addition to its direct effects on cold and flu symptoms mentioned above.
Its slightly medicinal scent helps to reinforce the sense of Laurel as a healing aroma, as well as leaving surfaces smelling clean and disinfected when used in household cleaning products.
And although Laurel essential oil has calming, almost sedative properties, it is also associated with a warmth of emotion and leaves many people feeling more confident and invigorated within – a complex combination of effects that help this fragrance ingredient to stand out from the crowd.
With a good yield of around 50g of Laurel essential oil from the 5kg of leaves produced by each tree in a typical growing season, it’s a reliable natural ingredient that deserves its place in a wide variety of everyday household products.