Basil Oil: Benefits, Uses, Properties, and Side Effects
Be it treating constipation, fighting bacterial infections, easing indigestion, or soothing respiratory discomfort, the basil oil benefits are abundant.
Also known as St. Joseph’s wort, basil is a well known culinary herb, which belongs to the Lamiaceae family.
Considered as the “Queen of Herbs” in India, Basil is fortified with medicinal properties and vital compounds to treat various health conditions.
Keeping its value and importance in mind, here is an article that explains about basil essential oil in depth.
What Is Basil Oil?
Basil oil is a potent extract that is obtained from the leaves of the basil plant. Basil belongs to the Lamiaceae (or mint) family and is native to the tropical regions of Southeast Asia and Central Africa. (1)
There are many hybrids or related species of basil. However, the most commonly used for culinary purposes is sweet basil (also called Genovese basil).
While most basil varieties are treated to be annuals, others are perennial that tend to grow in tropical, warm climates.
The plant of basil blooms tiny white flowers and comes with a thick foliage. The fresh leaves of basil emit a fresh, minty smell and taste sweet. On the other hand, its leaves, when used in dry form, emits earthy and spicy scents.
It is said that the oil extracted from its flowers is of superior quality than the oil obtained from the entire basil plant. The commonly used basil essential oil in aromatherapy is the sweet basil, which is commonly produced in France, Spain, Italy, and the U.S.
The other exotic basil oil types are known to be from Seychelles or Comoro Islands.
Scientific Name Of Basil Oil
History Of Basil Oil
Basil is a well admired herbaceous plant, which is known to have originated from Southeast Asia. The practice of using basil as a spice and to treat different health problems is known to have started 5000 years ago, especially from India.
However, basil is widely grown and used throughout the world today. It requires high temperature and fertile soil to grow (cannot tolerate frost).
The use of basil also dates back to the ancient civilizations when the Romans and Greeks thought that basil would grow only if you yelled wild curses and screamed intelligibly when sowing its seeds.
They even believed that if you left a fresh basil leaf under its pot, it would magically become a scorpion. Some also believed that smelling fresh basil leaves would grow scorpions in their brains!
While the ancient Romans and Greeks had various superstitions about basil, the perception was completely different in Italy.
The ancient Italians perceived basil as a token of love. In fact, in Romania, if a girl gives her boyfriend its sprig, it signifies that they are engaged.
Talking about its culinary use, basil is a key ingredient in Vietnamese, Laotian, and Thai cuisines.
It is grown commercially in Yugoslavia, California, India, Hungary, Bulgaria, Israel, Germany, Morocco, Egypt, Madagascar, Italy, and Mexico.
There are more than 160 types of basil whose leaves differ in their color and size. Moreover, each of its chemical composition determines its taste. (2)
Color, Consistency, and Smell Of Basil Oil
- The color of basil oil is either amber or pale yellow liquid.
- The consistency of basil oil is thin and flowy.
- The smell of basil oil is strong, minty, and fresh, much like camphor.
Properties Of Basil Essential Oil
The therapeutic properties of basil oil include (3):
- Anti-inflammatory – Reduces inflammation
- Anti-fungal – Inhibits fungal growth
- Antimicrobial – Reduces the growth of microbes
- Stimulant – Helps increase energy or aids nervous activity
- Insecticide – Kills insects or repels them
- Stomachic – Assist digestion or promotes a healthy appetite
- Antispasmodic – Relieves spasms of the involuntary muscles
- Galactagogue – Enhances the production of mother’s milk
- Carminative – Prevents the formation of gas in the gastrointestinal tract
- Aromatic – Loosens mucus
- Antidepressant – Eases depression
- Antiseptic – Kills germs
- Expectorant – Promotes sputum secretion via air passage or treats coughs
- Digestive – Aids in a healthy digestion
- Cephalic – Stimulates the brain cells
- Emmenagogue – Increases or stimulates menstrual flow
- Analgesic – Relieves pain
- Nervine – Helps calm the nerves
- Febrifuge – Reduces fever
- Sudorific – Induces sweating
Chemical Compounds In Basil Oil
The primary chemical compounds of basil oil include linalool, methyleugenol, methyl chavicol, eugenol, and E-methyl cinnamate.
The other components include 1,8-cineole, estragole, borneol, geraniol, ocimene, 10-cadinols, anethol, a-terpineol, B-caryophyllene, trans-anethole, 3-octanone, camphor, safrole, 1-epibicyclosesqui-phellandrene, and sesquithujene. (4)
Uses & Benefits Of Basil Oil
Though the basil oil benefits are numerous, the best ones are listed below:
1. Helps Repel Insects
Basil is one of the most effective essential oils to repel insects. Its fresh, minty aroma works as a natural repellent and helps in keeping those pesky insects away.
This is due to the presence of methyle chavicol and methyl cinnamate in it. Both are proven as an effective insecticide.
Also, research has demonstrated basil’s active constituents (estragole, linalool, and trans-anethole) to repel different species of fruit flies. The compound estragole and linalool in basil acted faster and effectively. (5, 6)
So, the next time you step outdoors or want to prevent insects from entering your house, either make a DIY bug repellent spray or diffuse a few drops of it.
2. Soothes Itchy & Inflamed Skin
Basil is a well-known anti-inflammatory and that’s the reason it is highly helpful in soothing itchy and inflamed skin.
Ever wondered what exactly in basil soothes irritated skin the moment after it is applied? Well, it’s the eugenol and linalool. Both are effective in obstructing the enzymes and reducing the inflammation. (7, 8)
3. Reduces Pimples & Breakouts
The main reason for skin breakouts or acne is excess oil secretion, bacteria built-up, and infections. However, basil oil can do a great deed in treating them and preventing from further breakouts. (9)
This is due to its antimicrobial compound linalool. It helps in killing the pathogens that are the root cause for acne breakouts. Besides this, it also helps in treating mosquito bites and bee stings.
4. Fights Oxidative Stress
One of the benefits of basil oil is its potential to fight against oxidative stress. This is due to its rich antioxidants, which defend the body tissues from free radical damage.
In simple words, free radicals are unbalanced atoms. In order to turn it stable, it takes electrons from different atoms to form chains.
Now, these chains of free radicals are the chief cause for oxidative stress, causing further damage to the body cells.
The oxidative stress can be reduced if an individual consumes adequate antioxidants. Basil’s two significant water-soluble antioxidants — viceninare and orientin strengthen the immune system, protects the DNA, cellular structure, and delays the aging process. (10)
5. Treats Cold and Cough
Basil is often used as a home remedy to treat colds and coughs. Whether you are drinking basil herbal tea or doing a basil-oil based steam, its anti-spasmodic properties do the work. (11)
So, the next time you are down with flu symptoms, sip in some basil tea or inhale its vapors (through steam inhalation method). This will relieve nasal congestion and will make you feel better.
6. Eliminates Bad Odor
Basil is a well-admired deodorizer, as its fresh aromatic fragrance helps in impeding the odor-causing fungus and bacteria – be it your car, home, furniture, or appliances. (12)
This is due to its natural antifungal and antibacterial properties. Next time when you clean your kitchen appliances, combine a few drops of basil with baking soda and run it through. This will eliminate the stains, removes bacteria, and leaves a fresh smell.
7. Controls Generalized Anxiety
Beyond its antioxidant benefits, basil also helps in relieving anxiety and stress, making it an “adaptogen” herb. (13)
In fact, people have used basil for centuries to overcome nervousness, fear, and anxiety. It holds a high value in aromatherapy. It works for headaches too. Just apply 1-2 drops on your temples to relieve it fast.
8. Treats Diabetes Mellitus
Diabetes is one of the common metabolic health conditions and is increasing worldwide. When left untreated or unnoticed, it can lead to complications over time, causing neuropathy, nephropathy, cardiovascular diseases, dyslipidemia, and retinopathy.
It is primarily characterized by loss of glucose with a disruption in carbohydrates, protein metabolism, and fats, defecting the insulin action or insulin secretion or both.
Now, whenever there is an insulin deficiency, your liver, body tissues, adipose, and muscular tissues have a hard time utilizing the glucose from the blood. This results in an elevated blood glucose level, a condition that is popularly called hyperglycemia.
However, the chemical components of basil possess anti-hyperglycemic effects. Among them, the compound eugenol is shown to have the maximum potential.
9. Aids In Healthy Digestion
Basil has been traditionally used to reduce water retention, appetite loss, bloating, acid reflux, and parasites. It balances the acid levels and restores the pH levels in the body.
This, in turn, facilitates digestion and increases immunity by flourishing some healthy bacteria in the gut.
This is mainly due to the compound eugenol in it, which performs an anti-inflammatory action within the GI (Gastrointestinal) or digestive tract. (16)
10. Dissolves Kidney Stones
Basil is a natural diuretic and acts as an incredible detoxifier to help in eliminating the kidney stones. Further, it strengthens the way your kidneys functions by lowering the levels of uric acid in the blood and cleansing them.
This is mainly because of the presence of acetic acid in it. By consuming basil on a regular basis, it dissolves the kidney stones and passes them via urine. (17)
Uses Of Basil Oil
- Flavoring Dishes: Basil, particularly its seeds and leaves are used mostly for culinary purpose throughout the world. It is a key ingredient in Italian dishes like pasta and salads. Also, it is used in different types of vinegars, pickles, ketchups, spiced meats, and sausages.
- Insect Repellents: Due to its natural insecticide properties, it is used in many commercial insect repellents.
- Perfumery: As far as the perfumery is considered, the spicy and green basil notes are popular and extensively used primarily in men’s perfumes.
- Mouthwashes: Due to its minty flavor, basil is often used in mouthwashes and dental creams to control plaque. (18)
What Blends With Basil Oil?
Basil oil can be combined with any essential oil, but works the best when blended with:
- Orange oil
- Black pepper oil
- Bergamot oil
- Citronella oil
- Marjoram oil
- Neroli oil
- Rosemary oil
- Melissa oil
- Verbena oil
- Spearmint oil
- Sandalwood oil
- Amyris oil
- Lime oil
- Lavender oil
- Lemongrass oil
- Geranium oil
- Peppermint oil
- Ylang-ylang oil
- Hyssop oil
How To Use Basil Oil?
- Topically: Keep in mind that every essential oil is potent and needs to be diluted before applying it on the skin. Hence, basil essential oil is no exception. If you are applying it topically, mix it with any carrier oil like coconut oil, olive oil, or almond oil.
- Aromatically: The best way to spread the fragrance of basil oil is through a vaporizer or a diffuser. Never do the mistake of smelling its aroma directly from the bottle. It is too strong and can cause dizziness and headaches. If you don’t have any of these at home, apply 1-2 drops of it to your palms to inhale.
- Internally: The FDA (Food & Drug Administration) recognizes basil oil (purest form) to be safe for consumption, given that they are consumed in appropriate quantities. However, this is the case only when you are using 100% high-quality, therapeutic-grade oil brands. So, make sure that you are buying it from a good seller. Also, check its ingredient label cautiously. Buy a bottle of basil essential oil only if it is made from Ocimum basilicum. For consumption, you can add a drop or two with a glass of warm water. You can even mix 1-2 drops in raw honey. (19)
Side Effects Of Basil Oil
Though basil is safe to use, there might be a few side effects, which possible include:
- Bleeding disorders: There are chances that basil oil or its extracts may increase bleeding and can worsen bleeding disorders. Avoid it if you are on certain medications for internal bleeding problems.
- Pregnancy & Breastfeeding: Basil is not recommended for pregnant women and nursing mothers because consuming it in large amounts from food can be possibly unsafe.
- Lowers Blood Pressure: If you are someone who already has low blood pressure issues, then excess amounts of basil might reduce it even more.