I think the oils I love most are the ones steeped in history, and Bay Laurel certainly has rather lofty historical connections!
And so to start with my friend Culpeper -
"Neither witch nor devil, thunder nor lightning, will hurt a man in the place where a bay-tree is".
Well that sounds rather useful! But how has it earned this approbation?
Perhaps the answer lies in the past.
The Laurel tree is also known as the Daphne tree. It is seen in Greek mythology as the embodiment of Daphne, the daughter of a river god. Daphne (sister of Artemis) was a Naiad nymph - minor goddesses associated with fresh water such as fountains, wells and springs. Said to be very beautiful, she had caught the attention of Apollo - god of music, poetry, light and the sun, and also a great warrior.
Apollo had been making fun of the God of Love (Eros, also known as Cupid). Angered, Eros fired two arrows - a golden one at Apollo, to make him fall in love with Daphne, and a lead one at Daphne, to make her despise Apollo. Under the arrow's spell, Apollo relentlessly pursued Daphne, and she continued to reject him. To escape his advances, she begged her father, the river god Peneus, to help her, and she was turned into a Laurel tree. Apollo declared the tree scared, and used his powers of immortality and eternal youth to make sure the leaves of the tree remained evergreen and never decayed.
Ever since (despite Apollo never possessing Daphne), the leaves have been the symbol of victory, achievement and greatness, as well as poetry ('poet laureate'), music and sport - all realms of Apollo.
Apollo is the son of Zeus, god of Thunder. Maybe this accounts for why "neither thunder or lightening will hurt a man...." The leaves were used to crown the victors in the Pythian Games (the original Olympics) and were used by the ancient Romans, given to generals and emperors who were victorious in war. Julius Ceasar always wore a crown of Laurel leaves to signify his status as a leader (although I have read that in actual fact, he wore it as he was going bald!)
Today the leaves still represent greatness and achievement. The name itself is derived from the Latin Laurus, to praise, and nobilis, meaning notable, renowned, famous.
Bay Laurel in fact contains constituents from almost every functional chemical group. This makes it a unique oil, with a wide range of actions and uses. This could be another reason for Culpepers' statement, in a more metaphorical sense. According to Battaglia, it has proven analgesic, antimicrobial and insecticidal activity, as well as being excellent for wound healing. It also has proven antispasmodic activity, and is considered a 'warming' and 'drying' oil, which makes it useful for issues of the digestive system. Respiratory complaints such as flu and bronchitis can also be treated due to its expectorant properties.
One use that I like it for the most, is the way it can be used to help people who doubt themselves and their abilities. To me, this harks back to the uses by great and powerful generals and warriors, as well as its associations with accomplished scholars. We often see this with warming and drying oils, they seem to light the inner fire and bring purpose, confidence and energy to people lacking these qualities. The fact that it was used in ancient times in such a way proves the innate and eternal power of Bay Laurel to impart these strengths.
Battaglia, S. The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, 3rd Ed, Vol. 1, 2018. Black Pepper Creative Pty Ltd.
Guba, R. Essential News Vol.15. March 2004. Essential Therapeutics.
Greek Gods & Goddesses, November 30, 2016 https://greekgodsandgoddesses.net/myths/apollo-and-daphne/