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Can you remember your first encounter 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 essential oil of Laurus nobilis. It helps me release the ideas of “should” and “could.” 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. This article is an invitation to spend more time with Laurel and its empowering essential oil.
The Noble Laurel
Is a plant so regarded that an entire botanical family is named after it? Yes! Enter in the magnificent Laurel (Laurus nobilis), who has domain over the “Lauraceae” plant family. This family includes several aromatic, evergreen 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).
Supporting Individuation of the Soul
Much has been written about the noble Laurel (Laurus nobilis!), which has ancient affiliation with divination and prophecy. Of note is the myth of Daphoene (aka “Daphne”) and Apollo and the corresponding ecstatic rites of Daphoene at Tempe and the Oracle at Delphi. Laurel symbolizes and promotes qualities of inspiration, muse, victory, scholarship (e.g., a baccalaureate) a continued pursuit of success (e.g., not to “rest on one’s laurels”) and individuation true to one’s soul.
To Thine Own Self Be True
Laurel’s aromatic oil brings out and supports qualities depicted in the Grecian myth of Daphne that can promote vitality when in balance: being free to the self (soul) supported by divine heat of the sun (symbolizing education, knowledge, culture or “sophistication). To this day, Laurel in its highest regard symbolizes achievement, will-to-power, valor, courage and strength all set on the foundation of self-determination set by the souls will to thrive. To put it simply, Laurel may support an individual in being true to the self while living in the messy but necessary human constructs of culture and society.
Laurel’s energy is not flighty and whimsical nor demure. It is crowned victory: bold, direct and centering. It protects the self’s need to be free. Its molecules of heat and strength stir the soul’s embers, igniting an inner fire that may dissolve cobwebs of emotion and fear. Thus, uncovering hidden potential. Laurel may bring too much fire and burn too bright if taken to an extreme! Eating up everything around it with boastfulness, ego and war; examples being Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan and Napoleon. Yet in moderation Laurel may help bring out the hidden yang-driven-nobility in all of us by supporting the mysteries of the soul’s need to be true to itself.
Timeless, ancient Laurel has the power to ignite while still green (i.e., alive), 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 according to Mailhebiau, allows one’s soul to “eat fire and drink light”.
Experience Noble Laurel for yourself to feel its inherent warmth and dryness that may clear up muck and mire in the psyche and soma, allowing insights to emerge from within you.
A Portrait of Laurel Essential Oil
Laurel essential oil is distilled from the cut and chopped leafy branches of the evergreen tree named Laurus nobilis. Laurel is often distilled for its oil from the western Mediterranean (Morocco and France) over to Eastern locales such as Turkey, Croatia and Bosnia.
Impressions & Personality of Laurel Essential Oil
“…walk near a body of water sparkling in the sun to get some solar spirit in you…and rub Laurel leaves.”Marsilio Ficino as told by Thomas Moore
Mind-Body Impressions of Laurel
To experience Laurel’s aromatic signature is that of sinking into your own glorious skin and wearing it gracefully. Holding your head high, the little stuff, earthy matters don’t bother you and Laurel’s shield protects the psyche.
Clarity easefully penetrates into the body down to the lower abdomen, through the thighs and into the feet. Each inhalation is felt down to the toes, synapse by synapse. The physical body is enlivened and vital. Blood flow is easeful, gently pulsing. Not due to an increased heartrate, rather a noticing of blood and vitality in the body. This is you, waking up to your potential.
Laurel’s aromatic molecules encourage deep, slow, steady breathing. Each exhalation is a release of more than metabolic waste, it includes waste of the psyche (e.g., weight of ideas, should, could). There is not an impulse to DO when with Laurel; rather to BE and calmly embody its “hutzpah.” Other people’s opinions don’t matter as much when Laurel supports you. Your inner fire is ignited and can “do the work”. Laurel’s vitality is so pervasive it ignites your psyche, allowing your true nature to emerge.
The mind-body is vital and alive! It is also at ease, content and ready to act through right-action and right-thought rather than hot, brut, jittery force. The aromatic molecules promote a feeling in the mind-body of lightness, upwards and forwards yet without aggression or jitters like the bubbly nature of Peppermint. Although a feeling of stability may be experienced, Laurel isn’t “grounding” in the sense of Vetiver or Patchouli, rather… a lightness of being.
Aromatic Personality of Laurel
Laurel’s power lies within its dualistic nature of cooling and heating. It is energetically stimulating but houses calming properties that unfold over time. Its aroma profile embodies this paradoxical nature.
The complete oil is its own alchemical romance. The first exhilarating experience of its vapor is pungent, 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 reminiscent of a vanilla experience. 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 Safety & Chemistry Highlights
• Safety Notes: 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.
• Chemistry Notes: 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).
Affinities and Usage Applications for Laurel Essential Oil
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:
- Musculoskeletal: Pain relieving, muscle aches, pains, spasms, arthritis
- Consider blending with Peppermint, Birch or Wintergreen and Cinnamon leaf.
- Skin Care: Wound healing, oily skin, fungal infections, stimulant (e.g., hair follicles), slow healing wounds/ulcers/necrosis
- Blending? So many oils to choose from! Though Rosemary and Niaouli are lovely with Laurel.
- Respiratory Support: Flu symptoms, excess wet mucus, expectorating; Contraindicated for hot & dry conditions (e.g., dry hacking cough)
- Several of the oils listed below are beneficial for respiratory support: consider blending Laurel with Inula for allergies as well as Ravintsara and Saro.
- Lymphatic Help: Gently stimulating on capillaries and lymphatic circulation.
- Look to other lymphatic supporting friends such as Grapefruit, Cypress and Juniper berry.
- Emotions & Mental Health: Revitalizing, stimulating but relaxing to the nervous system, fortifying, tension relieving, “clearing the muck,” promoting inner strength (“fire”) and confidence.
- There are so many to choose from depending on your intention. Bring more fire with Ravensara or Spiritual lifting with Saro. Invigorate with Juniper and Cypress and most citrus oils help round out a blend.
Blending with Laurel Essential Oil
The following essential oils pair nicely with Laurel depending on your intention (as noted above): 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).
Aromatherapy in Practice with Laurel Essential Oil
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 need Laurel’s support.
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/Salvia rosmarinus) (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.
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.
Featured Class: Learn How to Make Your Own Scrubs!
DIY Series: Aromatherapy Sugar Scrubs
Create your own sugar scrub that is luxurious, accessible, and affordable! In this Aromatherapy Sugar Scrub foundation class, Amy encourages you to use your creativity and ‘have fun’ while building your sugar scrub with essential oils. In this class, you will receive recipes and blending inspirations, an engaging video, and a PowerPoint with information and extra tips. This video introduction gives you an awesome sneak-peak. Scroll down to learn more about class content. See you in class!
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.