One of the features of my new garden is a number of formally clipped Bay trees. They provide beautiful evergreen structure in the borders, but are also useful in the kitchen. The only think I know they can be used for is as a flavour in stews, but according to my research, Bay is actually really useful in herbalism as well.
Laurus nobilis is also known as Sweet Bay and True Laurel. If you have ever seen the sculptures of the ancient rulers with leaves on their heads in a crown shape, they were made of Bay. These crowns were not just for kings but for heroes as well. Apparently Delphic priestesses also made use of bay leaves. Not being a priestess of much, I am interested in more down to earth uses.
Oil of Bay, which is a fixed oil expressed from the berries of the Bay, is full of warming chemicals which make it idea for treating arthritic aches and pains. It can also be used for lower back pain, earaches, sore muscles and sprains. It sounds immensely useful, but it also needs to be treated carefully. The oil should never be used by pregnant women as it can cause miscarriage, and the oil should not be taken internally. If using the oil from the bay berry it needs to be diluted and used in very small amounts indeed.
The Bay leaves are also useful. Obviously, you can pop them into stews and soups for a Mediterranean kind of flavouring, but the bay leaves are also a source of an essential oil with the same analgesic and warming properties that you find in feverfew, which could help to treat migraine headaches.
Bay Leaves can be used in tea, or herbal baths, or infused in oil to take the benefit of the essential oil in the leaf. The oil from the berries should only ever be used externally, topically, to relieve pain. I think if I use Bay Leaves for herbal remedies, I will be using the leaf only, and perhaps as a part of a topical warming ointment to help sore muscles.
Probably the same muscles which got sore from looking after all of the Bay trees! There is a nice circularity with that!