Botanical name Laurus nobilis
Processing Method Steam Distillation
Color/Consistency Pale yellow-green liquid.
Aromatic Summary / Note / Strength of Aroma A top note with a strong aroma, Laurel Leaf Essential Oil has a fresh, strong but sweet, camphoraceous, and somewhat spicy odor.
Blends With Clary Sage, Orange, Cypress, Hyssop and Juniper.
The laurel tree is a small unimpressive shrub or tree, originating in the eastern Mediterranean countries. The evergreen tree reaches maturity after five years and yields about 5 kg of leaves per season, which in turn gives about 50-70 g of essential oil. Laurel Leaf has been known for thousands of years, but the use of its leaves as a household culinary herb is believed to be a comparatively recent one.
Bay laurel was used to fashion the laurel wreath of ancient Greece, a symbol of highest status. A wreath of bay laurels was given as the prize at the Pythian Games because the games were in honor of Apollo, and the laurel was one of his symbols.
The symbolism carried over to Roman culture, which held the laurel as a symbol of victory. It is also the source of the words baccalaureate and poet laureate, as well as the expressions "assume the laurel" and "resting on one's laurels". Ovid tells the story in the Metamorphose that laurel tree was first formed when the nymph Daphne was changed into a laurel tree because of Apollo's pursuit of her. Daphne is the Greek name for the tree.
The essential oil is extracted from the bay laurel leaves by steam distillation. The oil has a herbaceous and spicy scent and comes in numerous variations. For example, the oil produced in North Africa has an aroma reminiscent of eucalyptus due to the high content of cineol while the oil produced in Italy or France has a lower cineol content resulting in an aroma most people associate with the laurel leaves used in cooking.
Due to the presence of high concentration of eugenol, this oil can cause irritations in the skin and mucus membrane. It should be avoided during pregnancy. May cause skin irritation in some individuals; a skin test is recommended prior to use. Contact with eyes should be avoided.
a-Terpinyl acetate 4.5–7.0%
Linalyl acetate 0.4–2.7%
Bornyl acetate 0.4–2.3%
Hazards Potentially carcinogenic, based on methyleugenol content; essential oils high in 1,8-cineole can cause CNS and breathing problems in young children; skin sensitization (low risk); mucous membrane irritation (low risk).
Cautions (dermal) Hypersensitive, diseased or damaged skin, children under 2 years of age. Some laurel leaf oils may cause skin sensitization.
Maximum adult daily oral dose 18 mg
Maximum dermal use level
Tisserand & Young 0.5%
Our safety advice
We recommend a dermal maximum of 0.5% and an oral maximum of 18 mg, based on 3.8% methyleugenol content with dermal and oral limits of 0.02% and 0.01 mg/kg.
IFRA recommends that the maximum concentration of methyleugenol for leave-on products such as body lotion should be 0.0004%. The equivalent SCCNFP maximum is 0.0002%.
Adverse skin reactions In a 48 hour occlusive patch test on 50 Italian volunteers, undiluted laurel leaf oil produced no adverse reactions. Similarly tested at 1%, it produced no reactions in 380 eczema patients (Meneghini et al 1971). Undiluted laurel leaf oil was moderately irritating to rabbits, but was not irritating to mice or pigs. Tested at 2% on 25 volunteers it was not irritating, nor was it irritating when re-tested at 10%. A second sample of laurel leaf oil was not irritating when tested at 10% on two separate panels of volunteers. Laurel leaf oil was non-phototoxic in hairless mice and swine.
Acute toxicity Laurel leaf oil acute oral LD50 in rats 3.95 g/kg; acute dermal LD50 in rabbits >5 g/kg. 1,8-Cineole has been reported to cause serious poisoning in young children when accidentally instilled into the nose.
Antioxidant/pro-oxidant activity A laurel leaf oil showed moderate antioxidant activity in scavenging DPPH radicals and inhibiting lipid peroxidation.
Carcinogenic/anticarcinogenic potential Laurel leaf oil containing 2.5% methyleugenol was active against human melanoma, renal cell adenocarcinoma, and human chronic myelogenous leukemia cell lines in vitro. Methyleugenol is a rodent carcinogen if exposure is sufficiently high.
Laurel leaves contain various sesquiterpene lactones, some of them known skin sensitizers. These include costunolide and deacetyl laurenobiolide; dehydrocostuslactone was indentified in a laurel leaf concrete. It is not clear from the literature whether or not laurel leaf oil is likely to cause sensitization problems. This may be because some laurel leaf oils contain sensitizing agents and others do not. Some fragrance houses internally restrict the use of laurel leaf oil because of customer sensitization issues. Based on literature published in German, laurel leaf oil has been classified as category A, a significant contact allergen,