Bay Oil: Benefits, Uses, Properties, and Side Effects
Discovered in the twentieth century, with a masculine and spicy aroma, Bay essential oil is pleasant to use during fall and winter. The benefits of bay oil is enormous. From its application as hair growth tonic to keeping dandruff at bay, it possesses a lot of therapeutic properties.
On that note, let us unveil more about the Bay leaves oil benefits, its properties, compounds, and learn how to use it.
What Is Bay Oil?
Also known as “Bay Rum oil” or “Myrica oil,” Bay essential oil is extracted from the Bay tree (Pimenta racemosa).
Pimenta racemose or bay tree is a member of the Myrtaceae family and grows to a height of 30 feet or more. It has small white flowers, black color berry-like fruits, and highly fragrant leaves.
The tree is native to West Indies but is also commonly found in the Caribbean and Central America. Today, Dominica, Jamaica, Virgin Islands are the principal places of production.
Biologists claim that there are about 16 species of Pimenta. Among them, only two species namely Pimenta dioica and Pimenta racemose are the most economically valued trees (1).
The crushed leaves of the trees have a spicy odor with hints of clove and cinnamon. For a long time now, the leaves are used as spices in foods, as syrups, and as herbal teas.
The oil is extracted from its leaves through steam distillation and purified with anhydrous sodium sulphate.
Scientific Name Of Bay Oil
History Of Bay Oil
Caribbean countries have a rich heritage of folk medicine. Since historical times, bay leaves were used to treat high blood pressure, headaches, and digestive problems.
As said above, the tree Pimenta racemose belongs to the Family Myrtaceae, and trees or plants belonging to this family have two cotyledons and yield a fragrant oil. No wonder, bay oil has an incredible aroma.
Plants like clove, guava, and eucalyptus are some of the members of Myrtaceae family (2).
There is an amusing anecdote on the discovery of Pimenta species. It is said that in the sixteenth century, explorers from Spain found a medium-sized tree whose fruits resembled Black Pepper.
The explorers misconceived this tree as an alternative to Black pepper and named it “Pimenta”Pimenta’, the Spanish name for pepper.
On the contrary, the fruits are toxic and not suitable for oral consumption. However, the name “Pimenta” is still conserved as the genus name.
For centuries, the fruits of the Bay tree were distilled with alcohol to produce bay rum. Bay rum is a tonic used for colds, muscle pains, and hair treatments.
Despite the term “rum” in it, bay rum has no place in beverages, as it is toxic when consumed. People have exploited the tree for many years for “Bay rum tonic.”
Only in around twentieth century, people became aware of Bay oil extraction from its leaves. The oil was used to add aroma to food earlier. Over time, people discovered its therapeutic properties and that was the time when a few scientists studied about its antimicrobial activity.
That’s how the oil came to limelight and today, it is praised for its antioxidant property.
Colour, Consistency, and Smell Of Bay Oil
- The colour of bay oil is deep amber to light-brown.
- The consistency of bay oil is thin to medium.
- The smell of bay oil is spicy, sweet, and clove-like aroma.
Properties Of Bay Essential Oil
The therapeutic properties of Bay oil include (3):
- Analgesic – reduces pain sensation
- Anti-infectious – prevents uptake of infection
- Anti-rheumatic – relieves symptoms associated with rheumatic conditions
- Antiseptic – destroys microbes and prevents their development
- Antispasmodic – prevents or relieves spasms or contractions
- Circulatory – promotes the flow of blood and lymph
- Nervine – acts on nerves; relieves nervous disorders
- Anti-cancer – inhibits oxidation
- Nematicidal – kill plant-parasitic nematodes
- Insecticidal – Repels insects and kills them
Chemical Compounds In Bay Oil
The primary and the most significant chemical compounds present in Bay essential oil are eugenol (45.2% – 52.7%), myrcene (25.1% – 29.4%), chavicol (7.1% – 9.3%), Limonene (3.0% – 4.0%), and 8-cineole (2.1% – 3.2%) (4).
Eugenol and chavicol are two phenolic components dominating the chemical composition of the oil. These two are responsible for the oil’s strong aroma. However, if inhaled too much, they can turn to be a skin and mucous membrane irritant too.
Myrcene is a kind of monoterpene, which serves as an immune stimulant, antiseptic, and analgesic.
Some other minor components present in bay oil are alpha-pinene, beta-pinene, Linalool, neral, alpha-terpineol, and geranyl acetate.
Benefits Of Bay Oil
Though there are multiple benefits of bay oil, the notable ones include:
1. Relieves Muscular pain
Bay essential oil is highly effective in relieving muscle pain. In fact, it has been used for centuries now. It is a proven analgesic too. The extracts from bay leaves are believed to inhibit neutrophil (a type of WBC) into the inflamed tissue, which, in turn, prevents further inflammation.
Eugenol, chavicol, and myrcene are responsible for inhibiting the immune mediators and the mechanisms involved in inflammation. Thereby, relieving pain in muscles and joints. (5).
2. Prevents infection
The therapeutic value of the oil came to limelight only after the scientists discovered its antibiotic properties. Bay oil is highly helpful in inhibiting the growth of pathogenic bacteria.
Optimal application of diluted bay oil on the infected area prevents microbial growth. However, prolonged exposure of the bay oil is a risk. Eugenol and chavicol (the only phenolic compounds present in the oil) and myrcene are responsible for the antibiotic properties of the oil.
It also helps to cure minor infections. However, it is always good to consult a professional before you use it on serious ailments (6).
3. Alleviates Nerve pain
Neuralgia is a condition that is characterized by severe pain in the nerve courses due to an irritated and damaged nerve. The symptoms include burning and stabbing sensation, particularly in the face or head.
The causes of neuralgia range from infection, damage/pressure to a nerve, diabetes, and multiple sclerosis.
The pain caused by neuralgia is almost severe and unbearable. However, bay oil helps in alleviating the nerve pain. This is due to its astringent and analgesic properties.
As an analgesic, it reduces pain in the affected area. It also induces contraction in the blood vessels, removes pressure on the nerves, which in turn, gives immediate relief from the burning sensation and pain (7).
4. Aids in wound healing
According to studies, topical application of diluted bay oil promotes wound healing. Many people often ignore wounds.
However, you should be careful about it, especially if you get a severe wound as a result of contact with rusty or metal objects (8, 9). If you fail to treat the wounds properly, you may make them you more vulnerable to tetanus infections, leading to severe complications.
Bay essential oil is an excellent antiseptic. When applied (after diluting), it prevents microbial infections on the skin, and aids wound healing. You can also apply diluted bay oil to prevent the formation of scars.
5. Fights depression and anxiety
For centuries, Bay leaves were used for relieving stress, hypertension, anxiety, and depression. It possesses a calming effect. Since bay oil is a well-known sedative, it calms the mind, relaxes body muscles and nerves (10).
The oil, being a calming agent, can be diffused by mixing it with rose essential oil. You can also use it for massage by mixing it with coconut oil and juniper oil.
6. Promotes healthy menstrual cycle
An irregular menstrual cycle is a sign of hormonal imbalance. It is one of the most common problems among women.
The hormonal imbalance may result due to various reasons like lifestyle issues, nutrient insufficiency, sedentary lifestyle, unhealthy eating habits, and much more.
Scientists claim that bay oil assists in balancing the hormones and further promotes a regular menstrual flow (11).
7. Stimulates hair growth
One of the significant bay oil benefits is its ability to stimulate hair growth naturally. It is an excellent skin emollient and anti-inflammatory. It has been used for centuries to treat different hair problems. Bay rum is primarily made for this purpose.
You can make a tonic for hair growth, restoring dull hair, greasy hair or dry hair. Its antimicrobial properties aids in preventing infections in the scalp (12).
The oil also possesses rich anti-fungal properties. You can even consume a cup of herbal tea made from bay leaves to combat dandruff and head lice. In fact, people followed this is as a remedy in the olden days.
In addition to that, it also has an extraordinary nutritional profile. Optimal usage of bay oil gives you healthy and glowing hair. It may also help in treating balding and alopecia.
8. Cures respiratory problems
As mentioned earlier, bay oil is known for its excellent antispasmodic, antiviral, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. It provides immediate relief from congestion that are mainly due to respiratory problems (13).
Bay oil relieves congestion, loosens phlegm, and cleans the respiratory tract & lungs. Researchers confirm that it is an excellent antiseptic for the respiratory system, throat, nose, and lungs.
This is mainly due to its high amounts of phenolic content, which alleviate any bronchial infection.
9. Relieves digestive problems
The spice is added in food for its aroma and its ability to stimulate digestion. Also, the leaf is an excellent appetizer. Digestive problems can occur due to different reasons like infections, malnutrition, loss of appetite, overeating, unhealthy lifestyle, insufficient bile secretion, etc.
At such circumstances, bay oil helps ease the digestive tract and further, improves the appetite. When you consume food after a proper appetite, the quality of nutrient assimilation increases. This cures most of the digestive problems.
Traditionally, bay leaf tea was used to relieve flatulence, treat ulcer pain, acid reflux, and heartburn (14).
10. Improves overall body function
Apart from the benefits mentioned above, bay oil enhances the circulation of blood and lymph. It stimulates the immune system. Proper blood circulation facilitates oxygen flow to all the cells in the body.
The lymphatic system plays a vital role in eliminating the toxins from the body. It is apparent that when your body is free from toxins, you will feel lighter and healthier (15).
What Blends With Bay Oil?
Though bay oil blends well with essential oils, it works the best with the citrus- flavored ones. A few of them include:
- Cinnamon leaf
- Clove Bud
How To Use Bay Oil?
Bay oil finds its place in cosmetic industries. The potent masculine smell of the oil makes it a fabulous perfume in shaving soaps, creams, shampoos and exclusively in men’s fairness creams. In all these cases, however, only diluted oil is used.
The high phenolic content, Eugenol in specific, forces us to handle bay oil more thoughtfully.
Eugenol is a potent skin and mucous membrane irritant. In Bay oil, eugenol is the primary component. The pure form of oil extracted from the leaves are usually concentrated. One should never use concentrated essential oils directly on the skin.
Make sure you always blend the concentrated bay oil with a suitable carrier oil like Almond oil, Olive oil, or Coconut oil.
Prolonged usage even in diluted form may cause skin irritation. It is always better to consult a professional before you plan to have a massage with bay oil.
The fragrance of Bay oil is more like clove oil. It is robust, spicy and sweet. However, you should avoid inhaling the fragrance of the concentrated oil directly from the bottle. This may trigger some allergic reactions immediately.
For aromatherapy, you can spread the fragrance using a vaporizer or a diffuser.
If you want to use it to relieve congestion, especially if it is due to cold and cough, add 1-2 drops of Bay oil in water and then inhale its vapors for a few minutes.
The United States Food and Drug Administration has allocated GRAS status for bay essential oil, which means the oil is “generally recognized as safe for its intended use.”
The oil can be used in food, only when the oil is solvent free. However, oral consumption of concentrated bay oil is not advisable.
Ingestion of bay rum is TOXIC and HAZARDOUS when swallowed. You should be aware of the quality of the oil before using it for cooking.
Side Effects Of Bay Oil
- Bay oil may be a dermal irritant over prolonged usage. The oil may irritate the skin and mucous membrane when applied for a long time due to its phenolic content.
- The oil should be used in very less quantity or as advised by a professional aromatherapist.
- People who have a medical history of allergic reaction or those who feel that they may be allergic should use it only after a successful patch test.
- Pregnant and nursing women should avoid using bay oil.
- Children under 6 should not be exposed to the oil.
- You should be aware of the source from which the oil is extracted.
- Bay rum is strictly not for ingestion.
- People suffering from kidney and liver disorders should avoid using oil.