Basil Essential Oil
Basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) is an edible, fragrant leafy herb belonging to the Lamiaceae family, sporting deep green leaves on the upper side and green-gray underneath.7 Hailing from the Greek word basileus meaning ‘king’ basil is popular for its fragrant leaves, and often referred to as ‘king of the herbs’.2
The herb originated in India and was introduced to the Mediterranean on the spice routes during ancient times. Holy basil, or ‘tulsi’, is the most notable of the more than 50 different types of basil now grown in Asia, Africa, Central and South America, Canada and the United States.3
Basil leaves are sweet when picked early and become spicy as they ripen. They produce an aromatic essential oil, that is extracted through steam distillation. This process involves boiling the plant material until the oil is separated and captured in an inhaler.4
Basil essential oil, is often said to be the “oil of renewal” that can help reduce stress, anxiety, and nervousness, while soothing sore muscles and helping alleviate mental exhaustion.
Basil Essential Oil Uses
Basil oil is an additive in perfumes, cosmetics, soaps, toothpastes and mouthwash. It’s also used in medical preparations, insect repellents and various household products.5 Basil essential oil can be used topically or inhaled. The most common basil essential oil uses are detailed below.
Basil essential oil is said to help increase mental acuity and focus through inhalation. The inhalation of this essential oil has been reported as a calming way to ease migraines and headaches, while having an uplifting effect on mood.1 Add 2-4 drops of basil essential oil to a diffuser or bowl of hot water and let the aroma fill the room.
Natural Insect Bite Relief
With natural antimicrobial properties, reach for basil essential oil you have an insect bite. Add 2-3 drops of basil essential oil to a carrier oil such as grapeseed, jojoba or almond, and apply topically for minor skin irritations or itchiness caused by insect bites.7
Natural Household Cleaner
Basil essential oil can be used as a chemical-free, household cleaning spray. Combine 2 cups water, 1 cup white vinegar, 20 drops of lemon essential oil, 15 drops of basil essential oil and add to a spray bottle. Mist over household surfaces before wiping clean with a wet cloth.
In the Bath
Sprinkle 2-3 drops of basil essential oil in your bath for a soothing and calming effect.7
For a stress-relieving massage, add 1-3 drops of basil essential oil to a carrier oil like jojoba or coconut. Gently massage over the affected areas to help relieve aching muscles.7 For a full body massage, apply the mixture at the sacrum up the spine to the neck, and evenly massage into the skin.6
Relieve Cold and Flu Symptoms
Basil essential oil has been reported to help ease a cold through inhalation. Add 4-5 drops of the oil to a bowl of hot water. Cover your head with a towel and lean over the bowl to inhale the steam.7
Benefits of Basil Essential Oil
In recent years, basil essential oil has been evaluated for its therapeutic properties. Due to advances in clinical studies, researchers suggest that the essential oil of popular herb may even help reduce symptoms of common maladies. Here are the top scientifically studied benefits of basil essential oil.
Reduce Mental Fatigue
A pilot study in 2012 investigated the effectiveness of a mixture of basil, peppermint and helichrysum essential oil on mental exhaustion and ‘burnout’ due to work or stressful conditions. Using a personal aromatherapy inhaler, test subjects were randomized into a control group which used rose water, or the experimental group. The mixture was inhaled at home or at work, up to 7 times a day for three weeks.1
Results suggest that while both groups experienced improvements in the perception of mental exhaustion or moderate burnout, the aromatherapy group reported a 21% improvement, compared to 11% in the control group.1
Preliminary research shows basil essential oil as having effective antimicrobial properties in the battle against infections. One study looked at the effects of basil essential oil on Giardia lamblia (a parasite in the small intestine), and found that linalool, a pure concentrate of basil, killed 100% of parasites after one hour of incubation.8
While preliminary laboratory studies show promise for basil essential oil having antimicrobial benefits, it should be noted no human trials have been conducted and further research is still required before human use. Conventional treatments should not be replaced by essential oils8.
Basil has shown antifungal properties in some studies, particularly in linalool, a pure concentrate of basil. A 2005 study on the antifungal activity of basil essential oil, investigated the effects of linalool on the fungi Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, Rhizopus stolonifer and Mucor sp which cause decay in peach fruit. The linalool contributed to inhibiting the growth of the fungi in vapor form using different doses during the experiment.9
Basil essential oil has been observed to have potent antioxidant properties, demonstrating natural antidiabetic and antihypertensive behaviors. A recent clinical study suggests that basil essential oil could one day have an application as a nutraceutical ingredient for type 2 diabetic patients.10
Side Effects of Basil Essential Oil
Basil essential oil is considered generally safe for inhalation and topical use. For topical application, always dilute basil essential oil before applying to the skin. To avoid potential adverse reactions, always read and follow the label’s directions.
Ingesting essential oils can be harmful and toxic. Never consume an essential oil unless under the direct supervision of a health care professional.
Consult a healthcare professional before using basil essential oil on children, or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
Where to Buy Basil Essential Oil
Previously, high quality essential oils could only be bought at specialty health stores, or through expensive multi-level marketing companies. Now, due to advancements in technology, extremely high grade essential oils can be purchased over the internet at very reasonable prices.
Scientific Research Referenced in this Article
- Varney, E. & Buckle, J. (2013). Effect of Inhaled Essential Oils on Mental Exhaustion and Moderate Burnout: A Small Pilot Study. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 19(1): 69-71. doi:1089/acm.2012.0089
- Makri, O., & Kintzios, S. (2008). Ocimumsp. (Basil): Botany, Cultivation, Pharmaceutical Properties, and Biotechnology. Journal of Herbs, Spices & Medicinal Plants, 13(3), 123-150. doi:1300/j044v13n03_10
- Government of Saskatchewan. (n.d.). Basil. Retrieved February 24, 2017 from url: https://www.saskatchewan.ca/business/agriculture-natural-resources-and-industry/agribusiness-farmers-and-ranchers/crops-and-irrigation/specialty-crops/herbs-and-spices/basil – View reference
- Simon, J.E., Quinn, J. & Murray, R.G. (1990). Basil: A source of essential oils. p. 484-489. In: J. Janick and J.E. Simon (eds.), Advances in new crops. Timber Press, Portland, OR. Retrieved March 4, 2017 from https://hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/proceedings1990/V1-484.html
- Kusuma, H.S., Mahfud, M. (2016). Preliminary study: Kinetics of oil extraction from basil (Ocimum basilicum) by microwave-assisted hydrodistillation and solvent-free microwave extraction. South African Journal if Chemical Engineering. 21:49-53. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.sajce.2016.06.001
- Higley, C., & Higley, A. (2016). Reference guide for essential oils. Spanish Fork, UT: Abundant Health. Retrieved March 4, 2017 from https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=qbcwxnkLOSYC&oi=fnd&pg=PA22&dq=basil+essential+oil+to+promote+mental+clarity&ots=kVearCJTr-&sig=9qMuCIs8LuxKyMirD-JZOA7ZGIc#v=onepage&q=basil%20essential%20oil%20to%20promote%20mental%20clarity&f=false – View reference
- Lawless, J. (1999). The illustrated encyclopedia of essential oils: The complete guide to the use of oils in aromatherapy and herbalism. Retrieved February 24, 2017, from https://books.google.ca/books?hl=en&lr=&id=LhUT8qNwbR4C&oi=fnd&pg=PP3&dq=basil+essential+oil+stress+headaches+calming&ots=7WwGE2ig2C&sig=49Ch93uG1u7LH2L3m8H6ssXPVdo#v=onepage&q&f=false – View reference
- De Almeida, I., Alviano, D. S., Vieira, D. P., Alves, P. B., Blank, A. F., Lopes, A. H., … Rosa, M. D. (2007). Antigiardial activity of Ocimum basilicum essential oil. Parasitology Research, 101(2), 443-452. doi:1007/s00436-007-0502-2
- Oxenham, S. K., Svoboda, K. P. and Walters, D. R. (2005). Antifungal Activity of the Essential Oil of Basil (Ocimum basilicum). Journal of Phytopathology, 153: 174–180. doi:1111/j.1439-0434.2005.00952.x
- Ademiluyi, A.O., Oyeleye, S.I. & Oboh, G. (2016). Biological activities, antioxidant properties and phytoconstituents of essential oil from sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) leaves. Comparative Clinical Pathology, 25: 169. doi:10.1007/s00580-015-2163-3