Essential Oils

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Bay - West indian - Pimenta racemosa

Family: Myrtaceae

Synonyms: Myrcia acris, Pimento acris, myrcia, bay, bay rum tree, wild cinnamon, bayberry, bay leaf (oil).

General description
A wild-growing tropical evergreen tree up to 8 metres high, with large leathery leaves and aromatic fruits.

Distribution
Native to the West Indies, particularly Dominica where the essential oil is produced.

Other Species
There are several other varieties, for example the anise-scented and lemon-scented bay, the oils of which have a totally different chemical composition. Not to be confused with bay laurel, the common household spice, nor with the North American bayberry or wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera) well known for its wax yielding berries.

Herbal/Folk Tradition
The West Indian bay tree is often grown in groves together with the allspice or pimento bush, then the fruits of both are dried and powdered for the preparation of the household allspice. The so-called bay rum tree also provides the basic ingredient for the famous old hair tonic, which is made from the leaves by being distilled in rum. 'A hair application with both fragrant and tonic virtues useful for those who suffer from greasy hair and need a spirit-based, scalp-stimulating lotion to help them to control their locks!


Actions
Analgesic, anticonvulsant, antineuralgic, anti rheumatic, antiseptic, astringent, expectorant, stimulant, tonic (for hair).

Extraction
Essential oil by water or steam distillation from the leaves. An oleoresin is also produced in small quantities.

Characteristics
A dark yellow mobile liquid with a fresh-spicy top note and sweet balsamic undertone. It blends well with lavender, lavandin, rosemary, geranium, ylang ylang, citrus and spice oils.

Principal Constituents
Eugenol (up to 56 per cent), myrcene, chavicol and, in lesser amounts, methyl eugenol, linalol, limonene, among others.


Safety data
Moderately toxic due to high eugenol content; also a mucous membrane irritant - use in moderation only. Unlike laurel, however, it does not appear to cause dermal irritation or sensitization.

Aromatherapy/ Home Use
Skin care: Scalp stimulant, hair rinse for dandruff, greasy, lifeless hair, and promoting growth.

Circulation Muscles and Joints
Muscular and articular aches and pains, neuralgia, poor circulation, rheumatism, sprains, strains.

Immune system
Colds and 'flu, infectious diseases.

Other uses
Extensively used in fragrance work, in soaps, detergents, perfumes, aftershave and hair lotions, including bay rum. Employed as a flavour ingredient in many major food categories, especially condiments, as well as alcoholic and soft drinks.

Reference: The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: Julia Lawless

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