Basil essential oil: The fighting oil - The essential oils collection [Oils101]
Our sense of smell is strongly connected to our emotions and memories as our scent receptors are located next to the emotional centers in our brain, the amygdala and hippocampus. That is one of the reasons why aromatherapy is so powerful – using oils can trigger the body’s own healing process to begin, as well as soothe and calm your mind to actually allow the process to take place. Essential oils can also interact with certain hormones, neurotransmitters, or enzymes, resulting in a specific change to our bodies’ chemistry. Oils are powerful, and they have little or no side effects.
Basil Essential Oil
Derived from the Ocimum basilicum plant, basil essential oil is an energising oil that is best used early during the day. Also called sweet basil oil, it has been used for centuries to treat a list of health issues and concerns. Being naturally anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibiotic and stimulating, it is widely used in traditional Indian medicinal practices, especially to treat stomach issues such as spasms, appetite-loss, fluid retention and intestinal worms. Also used in the treatment of head colds, warts and emotional well-being.
Distilled using steam, basil oil is derived from the Ocimum basilicum L. plant, which (sweet basil) belongs to the Lamiaceae or mint plant family. This plant family includes about 200 species of basil, each with a unique chemical composition. The aromatic character of each type of basil is determined by the plant’s exact genotype and major chemical compounds. With a naturally sweet, warm, spicy and herbal smell, basil oil can be used in multiple ways.
The oil is commonly used for:
• Fighting bacteria
• Fighting infections
• Reducing disease-causing inflammation
• Fighting viruses
• Relieving congestion
• Increasing urine output
• Fighting free radical damage
• Stimulating the nervous system
• Stimulating the adrenal cortex'
Although similar in smell and benefits to the fresh herb, the oil is a lot more concentrated and potent. The oil has high levels of antioxidants and other phytochemicals, with three primary compounds being 0xygenated monoterpenes (60.7–68.9 %), followed by sesquiterpene hydrocarbons (16.0–24.3 %) and oxygenated sesquiterpenes (12.0–14.4 %). The chemical composition of the oil changes according to the season, thus the range for each active component.
[Refer to the safety information mentioned below.]
Character of the oil
Common method of extraction
Plant part typically used
Leaves and flowers/buds
Strength of initial aroma
Sweet, herbaceous, liquorice-like, slightly camphorous.
Benefits and uses
Essential oil uses
Bronchitis, colds, coughs, exhaustion, flatulence, flu, gout, insect bites, insect repellent, muscle aches, rheumatism, sinusitis.
1. Flavour enhancer
For a fresh and Mediterranean kick, add a drop or two of basil essential oil to your next pasta dish, salad dressing, salsa, etc. The antimicrobial properties of the oil will also assist in keeping the food safe from contamination and spoiling
The oil is useful in minimising the symptoms of anxiety, nervousness and fear. In aromatherapy it is used to help calm the mind, to relax and unwind. The oil can also be helpful in decreasing the severity of headaches.
3. Potent antibacterial
Basil essential oil has shown activity against a wide range of microbials, including some bacteria, yeast and mould. It is especially effective against E. coli, so add a few drops to your home-made fruit and vegetable wash/spray.
4. Digestive booster
Not only does the oil help to stimulate digestion, but it is also a natural remedy for constipation. Inhale the oil or massage directly into the affected areas (abdomen and lower back).
5. Cold and flu treatment
The oil is a natural anti-viral, making it effective in stopping the growth and spread of the virus that causes colds and flu. Diffusing the oil or adding it diluted to your bath water will help you beat the virus that much faster, while also opening up your nasal passages and sinus channels.
6. Natural odour eliminator and cleaner
By killing odour-causing bacteria and fungi, the oil can assist in naturally deodorizing your home or even yourself. The oil can also be used to sanitise, so add a few drops to your counter-cleaner or hand-sanitiser.
7. Hair health
Basil oil can assist in stripping excess oil from your hair, making hair stronger and shinier. Add a few drops to your regular shampoo, or make a DIY hair rinse by combining apple cider vinegar, baking soda and a few drops of the oil.
8. Muscle and joint soother
Aching muscles can be soothed by the anti-inflammatory properties of basil essential oil. Rub a few drops of diluted basil oil into painful and swollen muscles or joints.
9. Energizer and mood enhancer
By inhaling the oil you can energise yourself, restoring mental alertness and fighting fatigue. Basil essential oil is a stimulant that works directly on the nervous system and adrenal cortex, making it a potent tool to use when fighting adrenal fatigue.
10. Ear infections
By rubbing diluted basil essential oil behind and around the affected air, you can stop the infection and help manage the symptoms such as pain and swelling.
11. Insect repellent
Basil essential oil works in a similar way than citronella and thyme essential oil. The volatile oils present in the oil can repel mosquitoes, thus helping to prevent bites. By dabbing diluted oil on the bite you also decrease itching and swelling associated with mosquito bites.
12. Homemade toothpaste and mouthwash
Adding a few drops of basil essential oil to your mouthwash or toothpaste can assist in keeping your breath fresh and your mouth bacteria free. Being a natural antioxidant and antibacterial, the oil boosts your dental health, protecting your teeth and gums.
13. Treats asthma
Along with its function in relieving coughs, it can also be used to treat asthma, bronchitis, and sinus infections.
Here’s how you can start using basil essential oil at home today:
Diffuse throughout the house with the help of an oil diffuser or a vaporizer. It can also be inhaled directly from the essential oil’s bottle. For a quick fix, Basil oil can be dropped on the palm and then placed in front of the face, inhaling deeply.
Always use diluted for topical applications. Once mixed, apply it directly on the skin using your palms or fingers. Basil oil is potent hence it is advisable to start slowly, several drops at a time. Make sure to conduct a patch test before application and wait for at least 24-hours to test the reaction. Basil oil can sometimes cause skin reactions to people with sensitive skin, so avoid using it on your face, neck or chest before making sure you react positively.
The Food and Drug Administration has declared Basil Essential Oil safe for ingestion, but only the ones that are 100% tested, approved, and of therapeutic-grade. Make sure to make your purchase with a trusted and reputed seller and, read the ingredients carefully before intake. It can either be consumed directly or mixed with raw honey, water or a few drops in a smoothie. Remember, that essential oils are heavily concentrated versions of what you normally ingest as foods, so the dilutions need to be monitored by a trained aromatherapist.
• Methyl Chavicol
• Methyl Cinnamate
Basil oil blends well with many other essential oils, including bergamot, clary sage, clove, juniper berry, eucalyptus, Melissa, lavender, black pepper, cedarwood, fennel, ginger, geranium, grapefruit, lemon, marjoram and neroli.
Tips on using this essential oil safely:
Use Basil Oil sparingly and with caution. High doses may be carcinogenic especially for those oils derived from basil plants that contain a significant amount of methyl chavicol (Eugenole).
Interactions and side effects of basil essential oil
Basil essential oil should be avoided during pregnancy since it can have an impact on hormonal levels as well as muscle and nerve function. It’s also not appropriate for anyone with epilepsy.
As with all essential oils, especially those that are new to you, always test for skin sensitivity prior to using them on sensitive or widespread areas. Do a skin patch test first on your feet or forearm to make sure you don’t experience irritation like redness, burning, hives or allergic reactions. Also, keep basil oil away from your eyes and the insides of your ears or nose.
General safety information
Because essential oils are highly concentrated they should always be used with caution. Essential oils should not be used undiluted, and should never be applied to the eyes or mucous membranes. Toxicity can occur if too much of the oil is absorbed, hence always dilute. A skin patch test is always recommended prior to using any new essential oil, or after first time use after a long break. Although most essential oils have been proven by science to work as efficiently, or even more, as allopathic drugs, they are not a substitute for medical care. Chronic conditions should not be self-treated, and you should never avoid or delay getting standard medical care. Always consult with your doctor first. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should consult with their doctor before using any natural or alternative treatment, and also speak to your doctor first before using oils on your kids. People who are epileptic, have liver damage or issues, have cancer, are diabetic, or have any other medical problem, or who suspect they might have any of these conditions, should definitely consult with their doctor first.
Shelf life and care:
Although pure essential oils do not go rancid, they do gradually lose their therapeutic value and aroma as a result of oxidation. The lifespan varies according to the botanical, distillation process, storage and care as well as manufacturer and supplier. To maximize the shelf life, store the oils in dark glass bottles, tightly closed, in a cool and dry place. Keep out of the sun. If the aroma, thickness or colour has changed, discard.
Important information about essential oils:
The essential oil information provided on A life lead simply is intended for educational purposes only. The references to safety information, constituents and percentages is generalized information. The data is not necessary complete and is not guaranteed to be accurate. The essential oil photos are intended to represent the typical and approximate colour of each essential oil. However, essential oil colour can vary based on harvesting, distillation, age of the essential oil and other factors.
Essential oil book suggestions:
Wilson, R. 2002. Aromatherapy: Essential Oils for Vibrant Health and Beauty. This book covers the extraction of Essential oils.
Lawless, J. 2013. The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: The Complete Guide to the Use of Aromatic Oils in Aromatherapy, Herbalism, Health and Well Being. San Francisco: Conari Press.