9 Uses for Bay Laurel

Bay laurel (Laurus nobilis) is the plant bay leaves are harvested from. Itís a large shrub native to the Mediterranean, where it has an illustrious history far beyond a simple addition to soups as itís commonly used for today.

Ancient Romans and Greeks believed bay leaves were a source of happiness, clairvoyance and artistic inspiration. The bay laurel tree was a symbol of honor, which is why crowns of bay laurel leaves were bestowed to great poets, philosophers and winners of ancient game tournaments.

Bay laurel has also been used medicinally for thousands of years. And now modern science is starting to support many of the traditional uses of bay leaves.

These are a few helpful notes about bay leaves before we get into the exact uses of bay described below:

  • To make bay leaf tea, steep 1 or 2 fresh or dried leaves in 1 cup (250 milliliters) of boiling water.
  • Applying a bay leaf poultice to your skin can help with some conditions discussed below. The Herbal Academy has great instructions on how to make a poultice.
  • If you apply bay laurel essential oil directly to your skin, always dilute it with a neutral carrier oil to prevent skin sensitization. Combine one-part bay laurel oil and one-part carrier oil, such as sweet almond oil.
  • Always speak to your doctor before adding bay laurel or any other herbal remedy to your routine.

1. Relieve Pain

Research has shown that bay leaf essential oil has significant pain-relieving effects. In fact, one study found that bay leaf oil was as effective as morphine for pain control. Bay laurel can help reduce pain related to many conditions, such as headaches, menstruation discomfort, muscle pain or joint pain.

How to Use: Apply diluted bay laurel essential oil or a poultice externally to a painful area. Including bay leaves in your cooking or drinking bay leaf tea may also help reduce pain.

2. Control Inflammation

Bay laurel is proven to help reduce inflammation, and the essential oil was shown to be as effective at reducing inflammation as piroxicam, a common anti-inflammatory drug.

Bay laurel can assist with inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis or neuralgia, when taken internally. Bay laurel can also be applied externally to reduce inflammatory skin conditions like psoriasis, eczema, insect bites or areas exposed to poison ivy.

How to Use: Apply a poultice or diluted bay essential oil to inflamed areas of skin. Consuming bay leaf tea or adding the leaves to foods may also reduce general inflammation.

3. Support Digestion

Traditionally, bay laurel is used to aid digestion and ease bloating and gas. Bay laurel has also been found to help protect against gastric ulcers.

How to Use: You can drink bay leaf tea with meals or when youíre experiencing any digestive upset. Including bay in your cooking may also assist with digestion.

Bay leaves

4. Reduce Anxiety and Increase Mindfulness

Chemical compounds found in bay leaves, such as linalool and cineol, are shown to help reduce anxiety, increase social interaction, and decrease aggressive behavior when they are inhaled. Researchers believe smelling these compounds may somehow lower the levels of stress hormones circulating in your body.

These chemicals are also proven to help increase alertness, which may explain why some cultures burn bay leaves during meditation and prayer. Those who practice burning bay leaves claim inhaling the smoke increases mindfulness and focus.

How to Use: You can inhale bay laurel essential oil, or put it in a diffuser. You can also burn bay leaves by putting 2 or 3 leaves in an ashtray or other fire-safe tray, igniting them with a match or lighter, and letting them burn into ash. Close your doors and windows to allow the smoke to fill your living space, and keep the actively burning leaves away from your smoke alarm. Make sure the final ashes are completely cold before disposing of them.

5. Clear Respiratory Tract

Bay laurel can be used as an expectorant to help clear respiratory infections and sinus congestion. Itís also shown to have antiviral properties, which may help fight colds and flu.

How to Use: Diffuse bay essential oil and inhale, or brew a large bay leaf tea and breathe in the steam. You can also soak some bay leaves in boiling water, cool the infusion, then drench a cloth with it. Put the cloth compress on your chest to relieve respiratory congestion.

6. Assist Wound Healing

Bay laurel essential oil has been shown to have significant antimicrobial activity against bacteria such as Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli†and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This means it can help clean a wound, and it is also shown to assist wound healing.

How to Use: A poultice or diluted essential oil can be applied directly to a fresh or healing wound.

7. Repel Insects

Certain chemical compounds found in bay laurel are proven to repel insect pests. The smell will ward off many types of insects, including mosquitoes. Bay essential oil will actually kill certain pests when used in large enough amounts.

How to Use: Hang bunches of fresh or dried bay laurel leaves in prominent areas to repel insects. You can put bay leaves in your pantry to keep insects out of your stored food. Diffusing bay laurel essential oil can also help deter bugs.

Related: 9 Health Benefits of Thyme

8. Lower Blood Sugar and Cholesterol Levels

One study found that consuming ground bay leaf can lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels. The study gave participants who had type 2 diabetes ground bay leaf twice a day for one month in addition to their regular medications. At the end of the study, participants had significant decreases in their pre-meal blood sugar levels. Also, their levels of ďbadĒ low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol dropped, whereas, their ďgoodĒ high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol increased.

How to Use: Include bay leaf in your cooking and consider taking a supplement to get a daily dose of bay leaves. The study only gave participants 1 to 3 grams of ground bay leaves per day, so make sure you donít overdo it.

9. Improve Hair and Scalp

Bay leaves are known to have astringent properties, which means they cause tissues to tighten. This may partially be why bay leaves help reduce pain, but itís also good news for your hair and scalp. Applying bay leaf oil or water infusion to your scalp will strengthen its hold on your hair roots and reduce dandruff and flaking skin.

How to Use: Steep a few bay leaves in water and rub the cooled water on your scalp after shampooing. You can also add a few drops of bay leaf essential oil to your shampoo, or rub diluted oil into your scalp and rinse off after a few minutes.

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Val P
Val Pabout a month ago


Mia B
Mia B2 months ago

thank you for sharing

Chad Anderson
Chad A2 months ago

Thank you.

Karen Martinez
Karen M2 months ago

I love cooking with bay leaves, and now I know that they are good for me. Will look into getting some bay leaf oil, and I'll be planting some bushes in my back yard! Thank you for the informative article.

Frances G
Frances G3 months ago


Anna R
Anna R3 months ago


Gino C
Gino C3 months ago

thank you

Maria P
Maria P3 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Glennis W
Glennis W3 months ago

Great info and help Thank you for caring and sharing

Glennis W
Glennis W3 months ago

Very informative Thank you for caring and sharing