January 2012

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!

“The mission of Dominica Herbal Business Association (DHBA) is to develop the herbal industry towards international standards promoting sustainable use of natural and herbal resources while taking advantage of the business opportunities existing and promoting the healthy lifestyle and wellness benefits associated with traditional herbs in Dominica. ” ~ Dominica Herbal Association

The Dominica Herbal Business Association was formally launched in the Commonwealth of Dominica on the 21st June, 2006, to establish a forum for generating, developing and exchanging ideas, coordinating the efforts of herbal business throughout Dominica, and promoting a common interest through collective action and shared vision among persons involved in the herbal industry.

They have already done great things; Spa Products Workshop; Zeb Kweol are just a few I can think of

Contact them at


“We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.” ~Marion Wright Edelman

I am visualizing a world without such a strong reliance on plastic shopping bags. Slowly but surely an awareness of the environmental consequences of indiscriminate use of plastic bags is growing through out the world.

Dominica has not been using plastic bags like now for long. As little as 10 years ago if you went to the shop in my neighbourhood without your bag they sent you back home to get it! We went to market with baskets and cloth bags to carry our produce home.

Do we really need to receive a bag every time we go to shop? When calculated over a year it adds up rapidly; if we shop on an average of 3 times a week; get 2 plastic bags each time; that adds up to 302 bags a year! Multiply that times 30,000 (guessing that would be the number of active shoppers on island out of 70,000) – now that’s a lot of plastic.

We can recycle our plastic bags and that does happen a lot here. Clean intact plastic bags rarely go in the landfill they are often reused but still ….. imagine if there were none!

Europe’s biggest consumer of plastic bags, Italy, (they use more than 20 billion plastic bags annually) has banned plastic bags as of January 2011.

In 2007 San Francisco was the first city in the US to ban plastic bags and so far, that translates into 5 million fewer plastic bags every month. Long Beach California and  a host of other US cities  have followed suit.

As of January 2011 Malaysia starts the process of banning plastic bags by banning them one day a week.

Dominica has always had a certain eco slant within the traditional culture.

“It is not only that we want to bring about an easy labor, without risking injury to the mother or the child; we must go further. We must understand that childbirth is fundamentally a spiritual, as well as a physical, achievement. The birth of a child is the ultimate perfection of human love.” ~ Dr. Grantly Dick-Read, 1953