GENERAL DESCRIPTION an evergreen tree up to 20 metres high with dark green, glossy leaves and black berries; often cultivated as an ornamental shrub.
DISTRIBUTION Native to the Mediterranean region; extensively cultivated especially for its berries, in France, Spain, Italy, Morocco, Yugoslavia, China, Israel, Turkey and Russia.
HERBAL/FOLK TRADITION a popular culinary herb throughout Europe. The leaves were used by the ancient Greeks and Romans to crown their victors. Both leaf and berry were formerly used for a variety of afflictions including hysteria, colic, indigestion loss of appetite, to promote menstruation and for fever. It is little used internally these days, due to its narcotic properties. A ’fixed’ oil of bay, expressed from the berries, is still used for sprains, bruises, earache, etc.
ACTION Antirheumatic, antiseptic, bactericidal, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, fungicidal, hypotensive, sedative, stomachic.
EXTRACTION Essential oil by steam distillation from the dried leaf and branchlets. ( An oil from the berries is produced in small quantities.)
CHARACTERISTICS A greenish-yellow liquid with a powerful, spicy-medicinal odour. It blends well with pine, cypress, juniper, clary sage, rosemary, olibanum, labdanum, lavender, citrus and spice oils.
PRINCIPAL CONSTITUENTS Cineol (30-50 per cent), pinene, linalol, terpineol acetate, and traces of methyl eugenol.
SAFETY DATA Relatively non-toxic and non-irritant; can cause dermatitis in some individuals. Use in moderation due to possible narcotic properties attributed to methyl eugenol. Should not be used during pregnancy.
AROMATHERAPY / HOME USE
DIGESTIVE SYSTEM: Dyspepsia, flatulence, loss of appetite.
GENITO-URINARY SYSTEM: Scanty periods.
IMMUNE SYSTEM: Colds, ’flu, tonsillitis and viral infections.
OTHER USES Used as a fragrance component in detergens, cosmetics, toiletries and perfumes, especially aftershaves. Extensively used in processed food of all types, as well as alcoholic and soft drinks.