A Deeper Look Series: Basil Essential Oil

Basil is a kingly herb that has been used in the Mediterranean kitchen for millennia. Its healing powers have been known worldwide since the ancient times. As an essential oil, basil is both uplifting and deeply relaxing. It fights inflammation, stimulates digestion and increases menstrual flow. This versatile oil can also be used to calm harrowed nerves and to relax muscles after an athletic performance.

Basil Plant Description

Basil is an aromatic herb growing to a height of about 60 cm (23.6 inches). It has green, ovate leaves and pale pink flowers. The plant is characterised by the strong, fresh scent that it emits.

Basil is native to the tropical Asia and Africa but has found a home practically everywhere in the world. It is cultivated commercially in Europe, as well as the North and South Americas, Africa, the Pacific Ocean islands and, of course, Asia.

Big European producers of basil are France, Italy, Bulgaria and Hungary. Out of Africa, Egypt is known as a major producer of basil.

The Basil Name


Basil belongs to the Lamiaceae plant family (which also goes by the name Labiatae). The name “basil” comes from the Greek word “basileum”, the king.

According to the botanist John Parkinson (1567-1650), the smell of basil “is so excellent that it is fit for a king’s house.”

The basil variety most commonly used in essential oil production, Ocimum basilicum, goes by a few different names, including the common basil, joy of the mountain, true sweet basil, European basil and boy’s joy.

The European basil is closely related to the bush basil (Ocimum minimum) and holy basil (Ocimum sanctum), both grown in India.

It also shares a family tree with such African basil varieties as camphor basil (Ocimum kilimanjaricum) and the fever plant (Ocimum viride).

Basil Essential Oil Extraction

Basil Essential Oil is extracted by steam distillation from the leaves and the flowers of the basil plant. The resulting oil is either colourless or pale yellow.

Just like its source plant, the Basil Essential Oil has a pleasant herbal aroma. The oil blends agreeably with bergamot, clary sage, lime, opoponax, oakmoss, citronella, geranium and hyssop.

The general effect of Basil Essential Oil is stimulating. It acts as a tonic but only up to a point: excessive use may result in an opposite effect.

The main constituents of Basil Essential Oil are linalol (40-45%), methyl chavicol (23.8%), and trace amounts of eugenol, limonene and citronellol.

Traditional Uses of Basil Essential Oil


This versatile herb has been known for its healing properties since the ancient times.

Pliny used basil against jaundice and epilepsy.

The Indian herbal tradition of Ayurveda uses basil, or “tulsi”, combined with black pepper, as a remedy against malarial fever.

In India, tulsi is dedicated to Vishnu and is believed to be an incarnation of Lakshmi, his wife and the goddess of fortune and beauty. It was believed to protect its users from bad destiny and evil spirits.

European herbalists have understood the uplifting qualities of basil at least since the 16th century.

It was believed to be good for mental fatigue, and was made into a powder, then snorted like snuff.

According to the 16th century botanist John Gerrard, “the smell of basil taketh away sorrowfulness and maketh a man merry and glad.”

In the Western herbal tradition, again, Basil was seen as a cooling herb and used for a variety of ailments, including rheumatic pain, headaches, head cold, migraines, skin irritations and nervousness.

In Greece, where basil enjoys popularity as a medicinal and culinary herb, the Christian churches are often decorated with pots of this plant.

As an effective respiratory system healer, basil has traditionally been used to combat bronchitis, asthma, coughs, flu and emphysema, among others.

The Chinese medicinal knowledge has used basil to cure illnesses of the stomach and the kidneys.

Therapeutic Actions of Basil Essential Oil

Basil Essential Oil is analgesic (pain relieving), antiseptic, and anti-spasmodic (it relieves involuntary muscle spasms).

It is carminative (relieves flatulence), sudorific (it causes sweating), and a febrifuge (it reduces fever).

It is a digestive (it affects the digestion of food) as well as a cephalic (it relieves tension pain in the head).

Finally, basil is an expectorant (it acts to release sputum from the air passages), and an emmenagogue (it increases and stimulates menstrual flow).


Basil Essential Oil For Respiratory Illnesses

Basil Essential Oil is used for a variety of physical and mental ailments. It may heal diseases affecting the respiratory system. Its antiseptic and expectorant qualities make it a valuable weapon against bronchitis, coughs (including the whooping variety), sinusitis and fever. Basil Essential Oil can be used to treat earaches, and it has been known to restore a sense of smell.


Basil For Both Sexes

Basil eases abdominal cramps for women and increases sparse menstruation. For both purposes, massage diluted Basil Essential Oil on the stomach and abdomen. Basil relieves a congested uterus, and it helps to expel the afterbirth. For men, Basil Essential Oil acts to open up a congested prostate.


Basil For Digestion

Basil Essential Oil is a wonderful digestive aid. It works to stimulate appetite and to quell dyspepsia. It helps with vomiting, gastric spasms and nausea. It may also save its user from social embarrassment by reducing the amount of flatulence. For all kinds of digestive problems, massage Basil Essential Oil diluted on the stomach. Basil can be used for the inflammation of the liver (hepatitis) as well as the inflammation of the stomach lining (gastritis).


Inflammation and Infections

Basil fights colds, fevers and flu, and protects from infections. It regulates the heartbeat and reduces vertigo. Mouth ulcers and gum infections are cured by the inclusion of Basil Essential Oil in a mouthwash. For those suffering from gout, basil is good news. It reduces the amount of uric acid, the underlying cause of gout.


Basil Relaxes Muscles

Basil Essential Oil increases blood circulation and eases muscular as well as rheumatic pains. It can be used in massage to rejuvenate tired, exhausted muscles, and thus facilitate recovery from an an athletic performance.


Basil Calms Nerves

Basil Essential Oil is a wonderful antidote to mental imbalances. It helps with anxiety and depression, bringing with it clarity of mind. Fatigue and insomnia often lead to migraine, weakness and nervous tension. All these conditions are treated by basil. Use Basil Essential Oil when unexpected or uncontrolled life changes lead to feelings of helplessness, indecision and vulnerability.


Basil For Skin Care

Yet another use of Basil Essential Oil is for skin care. It is an antiseptic and, besides treating acne, helps skin to retain its tone and look. When applying Basil Essential Oil, remember to use low dilutions as basil may irritate the skin. Basil Essential Oil can also be used to treat insect bites and to dispel insects.

Basil Essential Oil Energetics

Energetically, Basil Essential Oil is warming and uplifting. In particular, it stimulates the yang, or the male principle.

Basil Essential Oil is recommended for physical and mental exhaustion, apathy and melancholy. It acts to awaken and clarify a person’s innate energies.

Modes of Application

Depending on the purpose of use, Basil Essential Oil may be used topically in massage and ointments, or inhaled directly from the bottle or from a diffuser. Care must be taken if using Basil Essential Oil in baths as it may irritate the skin.



Basil Essential Oil is generally non-irritating to the skin but should be used in low dilutions.

It should not be used during pregnancy.

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