Basil essential oil is derived from the leaves and seeds of Ocimum basilicum, commonly known as basil. The herb is typically used for culinary purposes, particularly in Mediterranean cuisine. Basil essential oil is also commonly used as a natural medicine in parts of Europe, India and Central and Southeast Asia.
Uses and benefits of basil essential oil
Basil is a fragrant herb in the mint family (Lamiaceae) whose leaves are typically used as a garnish. Fresh basil leaves are also commonly ground to make pesto. Food historians believe basil came from India. Today, the herb is also cultivated in several Asian and Mediterranean countries, as well as in the United States.
Basil comes in many varieties, but the most popular types include:
- Sweet basil – Sweet basil has a mild and fresh flavor with hints of black pepper, anise and mint.
- Thai basil – Thai basil has a strong black licorice flavor. It is often used to liven up dishes.
- Lemon basil – Lemon basil has an intense citrus aroma. It is also popular in many Asian cuisines.
- Holy basil – Holy basil, also known as tulsi, is used in India’s Ayurvedic medicine as a remedy for colds, coughs and asthma. It is frequently consumed as tea.
Beyond adding aroma and flavor to dishes, basil also supports optimal overall health. The herb contains plenty of active compounds with beneficial properties, like eugenol and estragole. Basil essential oil contains high concentrations of these compounds, allowing it to relieve certain health problems and ward off others.
For instance, basil essential oil can provide relief from colds and the flu. Due to its antispasmodic effect, the oil is also frequently used to relieve whooping cough, as well as symptoms of asthma, bronchitis and other respiratory conditions.
Basil essential oil is also used as a digestive tonic due to its carminative properties. It can alleviate constipation and stomach cramps, as well as flatulence. It can also be used to alleviate bowel pain.
Additionally, basil essential oil has been found to be effective against many harmful bacteria, including:
- Bacillus cereus – This foodborne pathogen produces toxins that trigger vomiting and diarrhea.
- Escherichia coli – E. coli is most commonly associated with diarrhea, urinary tract infections and respiratory illnesses.
- Enterococci – These bacteria are a common cause of urinary tract infections.
- Listeria monocytogenes – This bacteria causes a serious infection called listeriosis, which may cause stiff neck, loss of balance, muscle aches, confusion and convulsions.
- Staphylococcus aureus – This is the leading cause of skin and soft tissue infections, such as boils, furuncles and cellulitis.
Basil essential oil is also widely used in aromatherapy to relieve mental fatigue, headaches and depression because of its calming nature. Regularly using basil essential oil may also provide clarity and mental strength. It may also improve blood circulation when inhaled.
How to use basil essential oil
Like most essential oils, basil essential oil can either be inhaled or applied topically. Since essential oils are highly concentrated, you only need to use a few drops at a time to enjoy their benefits.
If you want to go the inhalation route, you can either open your bottle of basil essential oil and inhale deeply or add a few drops of the oil to a diffuser and inhale the vapor. You can also do steam inhalation, which involves adding a few drops of essential oil to a bowl of hot water. Place a towel over your head and lean over the bowl, putting your face as close to the water as you can stand. Close your eyes and inhale deeply.
Basil essential oil can also be diluted in a carrier oil, such as olive oil and jojoba oil, and applied topically. Most essential oils are too strong to apply directly to the skin and may cause skin irritation, so it’s important to dilute them first. (Related: Essential oils for good health: How to use them and when to avoid them.)
PlantMedicine.news has more articles about plants and herbs with medicinal uses.
Author: Divina Ramirez