Whether you’re a gardener or a foodie with a love of fresh herbs, you’re likely familiar with fresh basil in all its variations. But you might not know that the essential oil made from basil plants is also available to you, with both culinary and wellness benefits.
Here’s a closer look to this versatile herb.
Sweet basil oil comes from basil (Ocimum basilicum), a plant with a thick foliage and small white flowers. Fresh basil leaves taste sweet and pungent, and exudes a fresh and floral aroma, while the dried ones have a spicy and earthy scent.
The “dot-like” oil glands in fresh basil leaves produce the essential oil of the herb. Its dried leaves and stems are used in food flavorings and in the production of essential oil. However, it is believed that oil obtained from the flowers is superior in quality compared to the oil from the whole plant.
There are several types of basil oil such as European type or sweet basil, reunion type, methyl cinnamate type, and eugenol type.
The commonly used basil oils in aromatherapy are the sweet basil and the exotic type. Sweet basil oil is produced in the U.S., France, Italy, and Spain, while the exotic type is from Comoro Islands of Seychelles, off the east coast of Africa.
Basil plants are usually harvested during spring, summer, and early fall when they are most prolific. Basil essential oil is made by steam distillation.
Useful for healing fatigued or aching muscles, you can rub a few drops of basil essential oil along with coconut 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, lavender oil and basil oil.
You can find commercial brands of natural toothpaste and mouthwashes containing basil essential oil, but you can also simply make your own. Add a few drops of basil essential oil to a small amount of water for gargling, or mix a drop or two with your existing toothpaste or mouthwash for enhanced oral hygiene and great smelling breath.
Bugs will steer clear of you if you are wearing basil essential oil. You can easily add basil essential oil to any moisturizer or carrier oil to keep insects at bay. Also, the scent of basil added to linen spray and spritzed on bedding and curtains at night will help keep mosquitoes and other pests out of the bedroom.
Basil oil has shown antimicrobial activity against a wide range of foodborne bacteria, yeasts, and mold. When researchers evaluated the effects of basil oil against six forms of bacteria and three strains of fungi, they found positive inhibition of all strains.
You can use basil oil in your home to remove bacteria from kitchens and bathrooms, prevent contamination, and purify the air. Try diffusing or vaporizing basil oil or combining it with water in a spray bottle to rub down surfaces in your home.
The same wonderful properties that make basil essential oil so ideal to freshen your breath make it perfect for environmental aromatherapy too. In addition to diffusing basil essential oil, try using it with baking soda to get rid of stubborn, undesirable cooking odors or unpleasant smells in the trash bin.
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 of a carrier oil into your feet or over your adrenals nightly.
Because skin breakouts are mainly caused by built-up bacteria, excess oil and small areas of infections, basil oil can act as a home remedy for acne. 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.
Another ancient use of basil essential oil has been to improve digestion.
When taken in small amounts internally, such as by adding a few drops to a cup of tea, basil essential oil can prevent flatulence and eliminate constipation, as well as treat motion sickness and nausea.
Sweet basil oil is generally recognized as safe. Although it doesn’t have any known side effects, it may cause skin reactions to those who are sensitive to methyl chavicol. I advise you to always dilute it with a carrier oil before application. I also suggest conducting a skin patch test first to know if you are allergic to the essential oil.
Even though it is generally considered safe, I suggest that pregnant and nursing women avoid using this essential oil due to its potential carcinogenic component. If you have a terminal illness or any chronic ailment, consult first with a professional aromatherapist or licensed physician prior to using sweet basil oil.
One of the simplest ways to reap the benefits of basil essential oil is to use it for aromatherapy in a diffuser. (If you don’t have a diffuser, you can also use essential oils in a pan of warm water on the stovetop or on the top of a wood stove.) Here are some combinations you can try at home.
Basil provides great benefits to both the mind and body due to its high linalool content, making it an ideal application to help reduce feelings of tension when applied to the temples and back of the neck. This is also one of the best essential oils that is a household must have. As always, use Basil Oil sparingly and with caution. High doses may be carcinogenic especially for those basil varieties that contain a significant amount of methyl chavicol.