The leaf of the West Indian bay tree (Pimenta racemosa) is very fragrant and aromatic. It has complex notes of cinnamon, clove, and nutmeg along with hints of vanilla and cardamom, and if you rub the leaves, the distinctive scent will remain on your fingers for hours. In parts of the Caribbean, it is simply known as ‘the spice tree’ or the ‘bay rum tree’. West Indian Bay’s Inner Nature of ‘masking something’ could be derived from its very distinctive aroma.
Apparently as early as the 16th-century sailors passing through the West Indies discovered that rubbing the leaves of the West Indian Bay tree on their skin would mask the foul aromas the use of bay leaves as a natural deodorant quickly caught on. Apparently, they also found it helpful sunburn. Later it was discovered that steeping bay leaves in rum (the sailor’s favorite drink) was even more effective. This introduced a whole new type of cologne, Bay Rum, to the market. One with a spicy, almost smoky aroma as the complex aroma of the bay leaf mixed in with the aroma of rum.
This indicates to me that West Indian Bay has a Theme of “Masking Something” and I would consider adding a little West Indian Bay to a blend for someone who seems to be hiding behind a mask. Using it might help the individual to let their mask down and allow themselves to open up more to the world and its possibilities.
West Indian Bay Pimenta racemosa
Plant Description: A tropical evergreen tree that can grow up to 8 meters tall with large, leathery leaves and aromatic fruits. Native to the West Indies and cultivated in Venezuela, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean Islands.
History/Folklore: Also called the bay rum tree, it provides the basic ingredient for the famous old hair tonic, Bay Rum where the leaves are distilled in rum. It is said that this hair application has both tonic and fragrant virtues and is useful for those who suffer from greasy hair and need a spirit-based, scalp-stimulating lotion to help control their hair.
Extraction: A dark yellow essential oil is hydro or steam-distilled from the leaves with a yield of up to 3.9%.
Aroma: Fresh, penetrating, slightly camphoraceous, spicy-medicinal.
Odour intensity: Medium.
Perfume Note: Middle
Blends well with: Lavender, rosemary, geranium, ylang ylang, citrus and spice oils.
Perfume Key Qualities: Reviving, warming, clearing, refreshing.
Chemistry: The main chemical components of this oil are phenols (eugenol up to 56%; chavicol up to 22%; methyl chavicol and methyl eugenol in small amounts) and monoterpenes (myrcene up to 21%, limonene in small amounts). Other components are also present however in much smaller amounts including oxides (1,8 cineole), alcohols (linalool, a-terpineol). This oil has antiseptic and astringent properties.
Cautions: Use in moderation only. Moderately toxic due to high eugenol content, but generally non-irritant, non-sensitizing.
On a physical level, used for scalp and hair care; muscular and articular aches and pains, neuralgia and poor circulation. Can also be helpful for colds, flu and infectious diseases.
On a psychological level, its ability to help promote mental clarity and improve concentration. It is uplifting and helpful in relieving stress and anxiety.
On a subtle level, West Indian Bay will help to clear and cleanse away unwanted thought patterns and emotional blocks, especially fear.
Steffen Arctander, Perfume and Flavor Materials of Natural Origin, 1960
Salvatore Battaglia, The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy
Berkowsky’s Synthesis Materia Medica/Spiritualis of Essential Oils ©1998-2018 Joseph Ben Hil-Meyer Research, Inc.
Tony Burfield, Natural Aromatic Materials – Odours & Origins, 2000
Ernst Guenther, The Essential Oil, Vol V, 1948 reprinted 1972
Beverley Hawkins, Essential Oils and Carriers, Aromatherapy 101, Aromatherapy 201, Aromatherapy 301, 1999-2018
Alec Lawless: Artisan Perfumery or Being Led by the Nose, 2009,
Julia Lawless, The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, 1995
Jennifer Peace Rhind, Fragrance and Wellbeing, Plant Aromatics and Their Influence on the Psyche, 2014
Tisserand and Young, 2nd Edition Essential Oil Safety, 2014
Valeria Ann Worwood, The Fragrant Heavens, 1999
Valerie Ann Worwood, The Fragrant Pharmacy, London, Bantam Books, 1991
Valerie Ann Worwood, The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy, 25th Anniversary Edition, New World Library, Novato, California, 1991, 2016