Basil essential oil, derived from the Ocimum basilicum plant, is commonly used to enhance the flavor of many recipes today. However, its uses extend far beyond the culinary world. Basil essential oil (sometimes called “sweet basil oil”) has been used for centuries to treat all kinds of health concerns.
As a natural anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibiotic and diuretic, basil has been used in traditional Asian Indian medicine practices for years. Today, basil is known for its use in cases of stomach spasms, loss of appetite, fluid retention, head colds, warts and even intestinal worm infections. (1)
Let’s look at more reason why you may want to consider adding basil essential oil to your medicine cabinet today!
Benefits of Basil Essential Oil
Ocimum basilicum L. (sweet basil) belongs to the Lamiaceae or mint plant family, which includes about 200 species of various basil botanical varieties and forms grown around the world. With a naturally sweet, warm, spicy and herbal smell, basil oil can be used in multiple ways both internally and topically.
Basil essential oil benefits include:
- 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
While fresh basil herbs are also beneficial and a great way to flavor recipes, basil essential oil is much more concentrated and potent. The compounds found in basil oil are steam-distilled from fresh basil leaves, stems and flowers to form an extract that contains high levels of antioxidants and other beneficial phytochemicals.
The aromatic character of each type of basil is determined by the plant’s exact genotype and major chemical compounds. Basil essential oil (from sweet basil) is known to contain 29 compounds with the three primary ones being 0xygenated monoterpenes (60.7–68.9 percent), followed by sesquiterpene hydrocarbons (16.0–24.3 percent) and oxygenated sesquiterpenes (12.0–14.4 percent). The reason why there is a range for each active component is due to the fact that the chemical composition of the oil changes according to the season. (2)
According to a 2014 review published by the Department of Phytochemistry at the Indian Council of Medical Research, basil oil has been effectively used as a traditional medicinal plant for the treatment of headaches, coughs, diarrhea, constipation, warts, worms, kidney malfunctions and more. (3) The benefits of basil also include the ability to fight bacteria and odors in foods and on skin which is why basil oil can be found in foods, beverages, dental and oral health products as well as fragrances.
Basil oil and holy basil oil (also called tulsi) are different in terms of chemical composition, although they do have some uses in common. Just like sweet basil, holy basil helps fight bacteria, fatigue, inflammation and infections.
13 Basil Essential Oil Uses
1. Potent Antibacterial
Basil oil has shown impressive antimicrobial activity against a wide range of food-borne bacteria, yeasts and mold. Researchers have shown that basil oil is effective against a common food born pathogen known as E. coli. (4)
Another study has shown that Ocimum basilicum oils can decrease bacteria due to spoilage and food-borne pathogens when it’s included in the water used to wash fresh organic produce. (5)
You can use basil oil in your home to remove bacteria from kitchens and bathrooms, prevent surface contamination and purify the air. Try diffusing or basil oil or combining it with water in a spray bottle to rub down surfaces in your home. You can also use the spray to clean produce.
2. Cold and Flu Treatment
Don’t be too surprised if you see basil on a list of essential oils that can help relieve cold and flu symptoms. Reader’s Digest, for example, recently included basil essential oil on that exact type of list and highlighted its “anti-spasmodic qualities that work best if you do a steam inhalation or drink tea made with this.” (6)
So how can basil oil help with a cold or flu case? Both the common cold as well as the flu are caused by viruses and research has shown that basil oil is a natural anti-viral. (7) So it may be surprising but true that basil oil can be used as a natural cold remedy.
If you’re sick, I recommend diffusing the oil throughout your home, add one to two drops to a steam bath, or make a homemade vapor rub using eucalyptus oil and basil oil that can massaged into the chest to open up your nasal passages.
3. Natural Odor Eliminator and Cleaner
Basil is capable of eliminating odor-causing bacteria and fungus from your home, car, appliances and furniture thanks to its antibacterial and antifungal properties. (8) In fact, the word basil is derived from the Greek sentence that means “to smell.”
Traditionally in India, it’s been used for many culinary applications, including to eliminate odors and clean kitchen equipment. Run several drops through your kitchen appliances; combine it with baking soda to remove stains and bacteria from pots or pans; or spray it inside your toilet, shower and garbage cans.
4. Flavor Enhancer
You’re probably familiar with how just a couple of fresh basil leaves can majorly enhance a dish. Basil oil can also infuse a wide variety of recipes with its signature aroma and flavor. All it takes is adding one or two drops to juices, smoothies, sauces or dressings in place of using fresh torn basil. In the process, you’ll make your kitchen smell great and reduce the risk for food contamination, too! Now, there’s a win-win situation.
5. Muscle Relaxant
Thanks to its anti-inflammatory properties, basil oil can help with aching muscles. (9) Useful as a natural muscle relaxer, you can rub a few drops of basil essential oil along with coconut oil into painful, swollen muscles or joints. To further help relax tense areas and feel immediate relief, try soaking in a warm bath with Epsom salts and a couple drops of lavender oil and basil oil.
6. Ear Infection Remedy
Basil oil is sometimes recommended as a natural ear infection remedy. A study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases used an animal model to look at the effects of putting basil oil into the ear canals of subjects with middle ear infections. What did they find? The basil oil “cured or healed” over half of the animal subjects with ear infections due to H. influenzae bacteria compared to about a six percent heal rate in the placebo group. (10)
Rubbing a a couple drops of antibacterial basil oil diluted in a carrier oil like coconut or almond behind the ears and on the bottoms of the feet may speed up the time it takes to recover from ear infections while also reducing pain and swelling.
7. Homemade Toothpaste and Mouthwash
To remove bacteria and odor from your mouth, you can add several drops of pure basil oil to your mouthwash or toothpaste. You can also include it in a homemade mouthwash or homemade toothpaste recipe. With its natural antioxidant and antibacterial abilities, I love basil oil as dental health boosting ingredient to help protect my teeth and gums.
8. Energizer and Mood Enhancer
Inhaling basil can help restore mental alertness and fight fatigue since it’s naturally a stimulant that works on the nervous system and adrenal cortex. Many people find it beneficial for reducing symptoms like sluggishness, brain fog and poor moods that accompany adrenal fatigue or chronic fatigue.
Diffuse basil essential oil throughout your home or inhale it directly from the bottle. You can also combine a couple drops of basil oil with a carrier oil like jojoba and put it on your wrists for an instant pick-me-up.
9. Insect Repellent
To make a homemade bug spray or lotion, dilute several drops of basil essential oils with carrier oil and massage into skin or swollen bites as needed.
10. Acne and Insect Bite Remedy
Since skin breakouts are mainly caused by a built-up bacteria, excess oil and small areas of infections, basil essential oil can act as a home remedy for acne. Basil essential oil is one of several essential oils that can effectively kill skin pathogens that lead to acne breakouts. When it come the skin, it’s also used for natural treatment of insect bites and wasp stings. (12)
Human research also demonstrates that basil essential oil can help to clear up acne lesions with little little discomfort or side effects after application. If there was any burning or redness, it disappeared within a few minutes of application. (13)
Using a clean cotton ball, apply one to two drops of basil oil along with coconut or jojoba oil to the affected area once or twice daily.
11. Digestive Booster
Basil essential oil is known for helping to stimulate digestion and naturally relieving constipation. Pure basil oil can be taken internally by adding one to two drops to warm water or tea, or you can inhale it and massage it directly into painful areas such as the abdomen and lower back.
Basil oil is known to be uplifting and renewing, which makes it useful for lowering symptoms of anxiety, fear or nervousness. Used for aromatherapy for centuries to help people deal with racing thoughts and overwhelming feelings, you can burn basil oil at home to relax and unwind. This can also work quickly for natural headache relief. Massage one or two drops with a carrier oil into your feet or over your adrenals nightly to reduce stress.
13. Hair Booster
To strip away excess grease or buildup on your hair while adding shine, add a drop or two of basil oil to your shampoo. You can also try mixing it with baking soda and apple cider vinegar to balance scalp pH while removing grease and residue from hair naturally.
Basil Essential Oil Use and Recipes
Here’s how you can start using basil essential oil at home today:
- Aromatically: Basil essential oil can be diffused throughout your home using an oil diffuser or vaporizer. You can also inhale it directly from the bottle or rub several drops into your palms and then place your hands over your face to inhale.
- Topically: Basil oil should be diluted with a carrier oil like coconut oil in a 1:1 ratio before applying to directly to your skin. Since it’s a potent oil, start very slowly and use several drops at a time. 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.
- Internally: The FDA recognizes pure basil oil as safe for consumption (by 21CFR182.20), but this is ONLY the case when using 100 percent therapeutic-grade, high-quality oil brands. Purchase your oil from a reputable seller and check the ingredient label carefully. You should only look for an oil that is made from the Ocimum basilicum. You can add a drop to water or take it as a dietary supplement by mixing it with raw honey or into a smoothie.
Basil oil blends well with many other essential oils, including bergamot oil, black pepper oil, cedarwood oil, fennel oil, ginger oil, geranium oil, grapefruit oil, lavender oil, lemon oil, marjoram oil and neroli oil.
For its cleansing and protective qualities, try these simple homemade recipes below using basil oil, or refer to my Essential Oils Guide for many more ideas.
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.
- Similar to the way that fresh basil and dried basil have so many uses in the kitchen, basil oil has such a wide range of possible medicinal uses including cold and flu relief, digestive aid, ear infection remedy and muscle relaxant.
- With its antibacterial properties, basil oil is a great natural ingredient for homemade toothpastes and mouthwashes as well as home cleaning products.
- Diffusing basil essential oil and using it around your home can help to naturally freshen the air while also boosting your mood.
- A drop or two of basil essential oil can be used in smoothies, juices, soups, sauces and dressings in place of fresh basil leaves.
- Basil essential oil can be used to boost skin and hair health.
- Always remember that basil oil, like all essential oils, is very potent so a little goes a long way.