The use of basil for its medicinal properties is not new. This aromatic herb was used in ancient India and Europe for its spiritual and healing properties.

Basil essential oil is a good source of vitamin A, calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium. It helps to treat nausea, motion sickness, stomach pains and cramps, respiratory problems, and diabetes.

What is basil oil?

Basil essential oil is extracted through the process of steam distillation from the leaves and the flowering tops of the Ocimum basilicum (sweet basil) plant. Sweet basil belongs to the Lamiaceae family. There are about 200 varieties of basil grown all around the world.

Basil originated in the Pacific Island and tropical Asia, but once its medicinal properties became well-known people began to grow it all over USA and Europe.

Basil oil is a pale straw colored essential oil which has a fresh, sweet, spicy, and herbaceous aroma.

Basil essential oil contains 29 compounds. The three primary compounds present in basil oil are oxygenated monoterpenes, sesquiterpene hydrocarbons, and oxygenated sesquiterpenes.

History of basil essential oil

Basil has a long history of use that dates back to thousands of years. Considered one of the oldest medicinal herbs, basil was used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat cold, cough, mucous discharge, diarrhea, constipation, indigestion, headaches, malaria, poisoning, and skin disease.

This herb is considered sacred in India because of its antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory compounds. It was consumed as juice or in teas, infused for massage and its leaves were applied to wounds.

Pliny (24 to 79 AD), a Roman naturalist, writer, and philosopher, used basil for treating flatulence and fainting fits and also considered it to be an aphrodisiac. Dioscorides, the Greek physician, prescribed basil for headaches.

 Benefits and uses of basil essential oil

1. Relieves anxiety

Basil oil has a warm and spicy aroma, which helps in healing of the mind. It has been used for centuries to reduce stress, fear, nervousness, and tension.

This oil has a positive and refreshing effect on the person’s nerves, which is why we often use it in aromatherapy. These traits of basil oil are especially helpful for people that have debilitating illnesses or are prone to mental fatigue due to work stress.

Basil essential oil also has adaptogenic properties, which help the body to adapt to conditions such as stress and depression.  It can even help a person to overcome addiction because using this essential oil provides mental strength and clarity.

Ways to use

  • Mix one or two drops of basil oil with a carrier oil and massage it on your feet every night.
  • Apply diluted basil oil to your temples and back of your neck.
  • Diffuse it in your home to relax.

2. Antibacterial and antifungal properties

Basil essential oil is extremely effective against food-borne bacteria, yeasts, and mold. Studies have found that basil essential oil can inhibit the growth of many strains of bacteria and fungi.

According to a study from Thailand, when basil oil is used to wash organic produce, it decreases bacteria and food-borne pathogens (1).

You can also use this oil to clean and treat wounds. Basil oil prevents viral infections that enter the body through cuts and bruises.

Ways to use

  • Diffuse basil oil in your home.
  • Add some drops of this oil to water and pour it into a spray bottle. You can use this spray to clean surfaces in your home.

3. Eases cramps and sore muscles

Basil essential oil has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that help to deal with sore muscles and leg cramps.

Strenuous activity or staying in a fixed position for long periods can lead to leg cramps. Basil essential oil provides fast relief from pain. Since it is a natural muscle relaxer, it can ease tired and sore muscles.

Painful and swollen muscles and joints can also benefit from basil essential oil treatment.

It also helps in the treatment of arthritis, sprains and sports injuries.

Ways to use

  • Soak in a warm bath with Epsom salts and a few drops of basil oil.
  • Mix some drops of basil oil with coconut oil and massage into your painful joints or muscles.

4. Treats cough and flu

Basil essential oil has antibacterial, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce the symptoms of cold and flu-like congestion, coughing, swollen glands, and body ache (2).

Basil oil also has antispasmodic properties that help in the treatment of whooping cough, asthma, bronchitis, and sinus infection.

Ways to use

  • Diffuse this oil in your home.
  • Add a few drops of this oil to a steam bath.
  • Mix eucalyptus oil with basil oil and dissolve it with a carrier oil. Massage this homemade vapor run on your chest for relief from congestion.

5. Treats ear infections

Basil essential oil can be used to cure minor ear infections and the pain associated with it.

A 2005 study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, studied the effect of basil oil when placed in the ear canals of rats with infection caused by pneumococci or Haemophilus influenzae.

The results showed that basil oil cured the infection of over half the rats with ear infections (3).

Ways to use

  • Dilute a few drops if basil oil with coconut oil and rub it behind the ears or on the soles of the feet.
  • Dab a cotton swab in diluted basil oil and place it on your ear.

6. Improves skin

Basil essential oil helps to treat acne and other skin infections. Acne occurs due to overactive sebaceous glands. Accumulation of sebum and dirt leads to the growth of bacteria, which leads to acne breakouts.

Basil oil can kill the pathogens responsible for acne breakouts. According to a 2012 study when essential oil formulations containing basil oil and orange oil were applied daily for eight weeks on volunteers with acne, it helped reduce acne lesions with few side effects (4).

Basil oil also helps to remove blackheads and whiteheads. Its antibacterial properties help treat ringworm infections. You can also relieve itchy skin with the help of basil essential oil.

Ways to use

  • Dilute basil oil with either coconut oil or jojoba oil. Dab this mixture on a cotton ball and apply it on the affected area once or twice a day.

7. Boosts oral health

Basil oil has natural antioxidant and antibacterial abilities that help protect teeth and gums. They also help remove bacteria from the mouth and prevent bad breath. It also protects the mouth from ulcers and sores.

In 2014 a clinical trial was designed to compare the anti-gingivitis and antiplaque effects of a mouthrinse containing basil essential oil, clove oil, tea tree oil with the effects of commercially available essential oil mouthrinse.

The results showed that the patients using herbal mouthrinse showed significant improvement in the gingival index and pappilary marginal attachment index (5).

Ways to use

  • Add some drops of basil oil to your toothpaste or mouthwash.

8. Insect repellent

Not only do synthetic insecticides kill insects, but they also contaminate food and cause air, water, and soil pollution. Essential oils like basil, citronella, and thyme are very useful in repelling mosquitoes and preventing bug bites (6).

Basil essential oil contains eugenol, citronella, and linalool, which are also useful in reducing inflammation and relieving itches caused by insect bites and stings.

Ways to use

  • Make a homemade bug lotion by diluting several drops of basil oil with coconut oil and massage it on your skin.

9. Boosts digestive health

Basil oil has been used to improve digesting and relieve constipation for years. Basil essential oil restores the body’s pH levels, which helps the good bacteria in the gut to flourish and improves the digestive process.

This oil is effecting in treating acid reflux, bloating, stomach cramps, loss of appetite and it also helps to kill intestinal parasites. The carminative properties of basil oil provide relief from constipation, indigestion, and flatulence.

Ways to use

  • Add one or two drops of basil oil to warm water or tea and drink it.
  • You can also massage diluted basil oil on your abdomen and lower back.

10. Nourishes hair

Basil essential oil nourishes the hair and helps to stimulate hair growth. It also helps to eliminate excess oil in the scalp, which can lead to dandruff. The antifungal properties of this oil help to get rid of dandruff and prevent it from reoccurring.

Ways to use

  • Massage your scalp with diluted basil oil.
  • You can add a few drops of basil essential oil to your shampoo.
  • You can mix a few drops of basil oil with baking soda and apple cider vinegar to get rid of grease and residue and to balance scalp pH.

11. Freshens air

The antiviral properties of basil essential oil help to purify the air and prevent you from getting sick. The word basil comes from a Greek term that means ‘to smell.’

This oil can eliminate the odor-causing bacteria and fungus from your home, car, appliances and furniture thanks to its antibacterial and antifungal qualities.

Ways to use

  • Dilute this oil with water and pour into a spray bottle. Spray it on the area of your home like the bathrooms and garbage cans.
  • Combine it with some baking soda and use it to clean your pots and pans.

12. Flavor enhancer

We’ve all used basil leaves to enhance the flavor of our recipes. Basil oil is much more potent than basil leaves, and it can add to the flavor of your smoothie, sauce or dressing with just a couple of drops. This oil also helps prevent the contamination of your food.

Side effects and precautions

Always use 100 percent pure organic essential oil. Always dilute this oil when you use this internally. Overdosing can cause dizziness, convulsions and rapid heartbeat.

Consuming basil oil can reduce blood sugar, so you must check with your doctor before using this oil.

You should also avoid this oil during pregnancy as it can impact hormonal levels and muscle and nerve function. People with epilepsy should also avoid using this oil.

Dilute this oil before you use it topically. Always do a skin patch test to ensure that you don’t develop an allergic reaction.

Avoid using it near your eyes, or on the inside of your nose or ears.

Final thoughts

Basil essential oil is steam distilled from the sweet basil plant. This oil contains antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory compounds, which provide many health benefits.

It helps relieve anxiety, improves digestion, keeps the skin and hair healthy, and treats flu and ear infections.

Always dilute this oil before using it topically or internally.

Basil essential oil helps relieve anxiety, improves digestion, keeps the skin and hair healthy, and treats flu and ear infections.