Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a common fast-growing annual herb frequently found in many home gardens. It has a somewhat sweet and peppery flavor and is a common addition to many Italian dishes. Basil sprouts from a thick taproot, has a bushy growth habit with branches growing off the main stem, generally reaching a height of approximately 2 to 2 ½ feet.
Beyond its culinary uses, basil has a history of use as an anti-inflammatory and an analgesic and has been used to treat symptoms such as diarrhea, constipation, digestive issues, and cough.
Basil essential oil has a pleasant, warm, spicy scent and has a wide range of uses internally and topically. This remarkable oil has anti-edematogenic and anti-inflammatory activities in acute and chronic inflammation, is antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiseptic, antifungal and has uses as an insect repellent.
General usage guidelines
Always dilute with a vegetable, seed, or nut carrier oil like coconut, jojoba, or avocado oil. See dilution guidelines. With any internal use, we recommend consulting with an aromatherapist of other naturopathic healthcare provider. Since essential oils are processed by the liver, if you have a compromised liver or liver disease, we strongly recommend working with your healthcare provider before use.
Topical: Apply 1-2 diluted drops onto area of concern. Add 5-10 drops to 1 oz. of unscented body, skin or hair care products.
Internal: Dilute with carrier oil or add to milk to evenly disperse essential oil. Once diluted, can be added to beverage or food of your choice. Add 2-3 diluted drops to capsule and swallow. Gargle with 1-2 drops of diluted essential oil.
Aromatic: Diffuse in diffuser or nebulizer. Inhale from bottle directly or add a drop to tissue and inhale. Add a drop to palms of hands and cover nose and mouth and inhale. Add to bowl of steaming (not boiling) water and place head with towel over bowl and inhale. To make a room or cleaning spray, add 10-20 drops to water in a spray bottle and spritz on surfaces or in the air.
Culinary: Add 1-2 drops to foods, marinades, desserts, & drinks to taste. To preserve therapeutic benefits, do not add to boiling liquids.
Digestive issues are something every human being, at some point or another, will experience from time to time. Basil can offer help for these occasional issues by helping to prevent nausea, expel gas, ease stomach cramps, and help reduce indigestion. For those who suffer from water retention, basil can help increase urination which may ease that uncomfortable bloated feeling.
Basil may seem like an unlikely option for oral health, but in fact, basil is an antiseptic and a common ingredient found in toothpaste. In one study, it showed antibacterial activity comparable to commercial toothpaste against most resistant organisms, and as a mouthwash completely inhibited the growth of organisms at a concentration of 0.5%8. To boost the antibacterial power of your toothpaste or mouthwash, try adding a few drops of pure basil essential oil. This helps keep your mouth and gums healthy and free from bacterial infection.
Skin and Hair Care
Basil’s antifungal, antimicrobial, antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties make it an ideal option for skin and hair care. It can be added to your favorite lotions, washes, and soaps to enhance skin and help reduce the appearance of acne.5 Basil can also be added to shampoo or conditioner to add luster, shine, and sheen to your hair.
Energizing & Uplifting
Basil’s refreshing scent is bright and energetic. The lively aroma is a welcome uplift that energizes the mind and body, helping you be more productive and positive. Diffusing or inhaling basil can help you stay on task and get things done when you’re feeling distracted or mentally fatigued.
Repel Insects & Soothe Bites
Basil can be used to repel mosquitoes and other insects and is used in the manufacture of insect repellents particularly suitable for children.6 Using basil to help repel insects is very simple. Just dilute several drops in your favorite carrier oil and rub onto skin. You can comfort bites by rubbing a drop or two of diluted basil onto the bite whenever needed.
Hazards: skin sensitization (low risk)9
Our Recommendations: If pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have liver or kidney dysfunction, consult your physician before use. Avoid eyes, mucous membranes, and sensitive skin. Keep out of reach of children.
If applying an essential oil to your skin always perform a small patch test to an insensitive part of the body (If it is not already diluted, dilute with a carrier oil).
Store in a covered or dark, airtight container in the refrigerator or cool area for longest shelf life.
1) Rodrigues et al. (2017) Anti-inflammatory activity of the essential oil obtained from Ocimum basilicum complexed with β-cyclodextrin (β-CD) in mice. Food Chem Toxicol. 2017 Feb 22. pii: S0278-6915(17)30073-X. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2017.02.027.
2) Sakkas H., & Papadopoulou C. (2017) Antimicrobial Activity of Basil, Oregano, and Thyme Essential Oils. J Microbiol Biotechnol. Mar 28;27(3):429-438. doi: 10.4014/jmb.1608.08024. Retrieved from http://www.jmb.or.kr/journal/viewJournal.html?doi=10.4014/jmb.1608.08024
3) Kathirvel P, Ravi S. 2012. Chemical composition of the essential oil from basil (Ocimum basilicum Linn.) and its in vitro cytotoxicity against HeLa and HEp-2 human cancer cell lines and NIH 3T3 mouse embryonic fibroblasts. Nat. Prod. Res. 26: 1112-1128.
4) Trevisan MTS, Silva MGV, Pfundstein B, Spiegelhalder B, Owen RW. 2006. Characterization of the volatile pattern and antioxidant capacity of essential oils from different species of the genus Ocimum. J. Agric. Food Chem. 54: 4378-4382.
5) Matiz G, Osorio M, Camacho F, Atencia M, Herazo J. 2012. Effectiveness of antimicrobial formulations for acne based on orange (Citrus sinensis) and sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) essential oils. Biomedica 32: 125-133.
6) Karamaouna F, Kimbaris A, Michaelakis A, Papachristos D, Polissiou M, Papatsakona P, Tsora E. 2013. Insecticidal activity of plant essential oils against the Vine Mealybug, Planococcus ficus. J. Insect Sci. 13: 142.
7) El-Soud, N. H. A., Deabes, M., El-Kassem, L. A., & Khalil, M. (2015). Chemical Composition and Antifungal Activity of Ocimum basilicum L. Essential Oil. Open Access Macedonian Journal of Medical Sciences, 3(3), 374–379. http://doi.org/10.3889/oamjms.2015.082
8) Ahonkhai I1, Ba A, Edogun O, Mu U. (2009) Antimicrobial activities of the volatile oils of Ocimum bacilicum L. and Ocimum gratissimum L. (Lamiaceae) against some aerobic dental isolates. Pak J Pharm Sci. Oct;22(4):405-9.
9) Tisserand, R., & Young, R. (2014). Essential oil safety: a guide for health care professionals. Edinburgh: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.