Dominica is a leading producer of Bay Oil; the West Indian Bay Oil is antiseptic and the scent is heavenly; we export the oil all over the world.
I have been using and promoting the use of bay oil as a cleaning agent for over 20 years.
I utilized this oil to make my own cleaning products for Eco Clean, an ecologically friendly cleaning company I owned and operated in Canada people raved about the scent.
Pimenta racemosa. Indigenous to northern South America and the Caribbean, this tropical bay is a sturdy, evergreen tree of the Myrtle family which has been cultivated for commercial purposes for 80-90 years in Dominica. Not to be confused with the bay leaf or laurel (laurus nobilis) native to the Mediterranean area.
To grab a handful of these leaves and steep a tea is truly heavenly and a gift from the earth ….. but that is a whole other post!
Bay oil is used in herbal healing preparations, perfumes and cosmetics of all kinds and also for making Bay Rum.
There are at least 3 kinds of Bay tree grown throughout Dominica but the distilleries I know use the most common bay and are concentrated in the Carib Territories and the south east of the island. As you tour the island you can often smell the distillery before you see it!
The oil is produced in several small distilleries, many of which are run as co-operatives, by distilling the steam from boiling leaves, a traditional process using fire that gives Dominican oil its distinctive dark colour and sweet, spicy, aroma. This oil can be used for many, many things and the agro processing waste is traditionally used as a soil enhancement.
Recently we have been producing a more highly refined bay oil extracted by steam distillation of the leaves. This is a clear oil that is claimed to be more potent and is a natural product but I love the dark oil made traditionally and I hope efforts are made to keep this knowledge alive.
I clean with bay oil and wrote my first article about bay oil for the Times over 10 years ago. It is a great cleaning agent for almost all surfaces. It may stain a pourous surface so test it out before using if in doubt. It imparts a nice scent which is said to repel cockroaches and some other pests plus it kills bacteria without impinging on the environment.
I would hope other niche markets for tropical bay oil may also evolve as medicinal uses are further investigated.
It is, for instance, an important ingredient, in a herbal supplement promoted for aiding stress associated with the withdrawal symptoms people suffer when quitting smoking.
The bay tree itself is hardy and can even be grown on poor, rocky soils, we could take advantage of this and the fact that unlike some other plant extracts, it is not easy to produce an acceptable synthetic substitute, as bay oil is a particularly complex essential oil with over 20 components. We all know what happened to vanilla when they found a chemical copy.
This oil is easy to store and ship – as most essential oils do, it has a long shelf life. We could truly become the world source for organic bay oil!
Dominica Essential Oils and Spices Co-op right here in Dominica is the best place to get bay oil; you can buy the oil right there in small medium and large bottles. Once in a while they don’t have butafter over 15 years of purchasing there, that has hardly ever happened to me.
Buy Bay Oil add it to your mop water or cleaning water – just a few drops required and a few drops of any liquid soap (liquid soaps are very similar - dish soap and shampoo are not that different and they rarely contain phosphates) to distribute the oil evenly through the water; you will be amazed how easy it is to clean greenly.
Cleaning with Bay Oil means we keep the environment clean too!