We all know basil as a versatile herb used in recipes, but its uses extend far beyond the kitchen. While the potency of basil oil makes it perfect for flavoring dishes, it also gives it the properties for use in medicinal purposes.
The History of Basil
Basil originated in India, where it was considered holy to individuals of the Hindu faith. It was dedicated to the god Vishnu, believed to be an incarnation of his wife, Lakshmi. Because Lakshmi is the goddess of fortune and beauty, women wore basil in their hair to attract potential suitors.2 Due to its reputation as a sacred herb, the leaves were chewed before religious ceremonies. Basil was originally used in Ayurvedic medicine to treat skin conditions, indigestion, and coughs.
In the 16th century, the leaves were used to treat chest infections and migraines, and in the Middle Ages, basil was prescribed to treat melancholy. Ancient Romans used basil leaves to stimulate breast milk production and counteract the effects of poison, while in Jewish folklore, basil was said to offer strength when fasting.3
After its discovery, basil began to be grown across Europe and the Americas when its properties became known to the world.
- Basil oil’s healing properties come from the chemical compounds found in the oil, derived by steam distillation of the leaves and flowers of the basil plant. The resulting oil is clear and smells sweet, herbaceous, and licorice-like. While different types of basil plants have different chemical compounds, those commonly found in basil essential oil include:4
- Methyl Chavicol
- Methyl Cinnamate
Primary Uses for Basil Essential Oil
Basil essential oil is an anti-inflammatory, antifungal, antiviral, antibiotic, analgesic, and diuretic. From fixing minor skin problems to stimulating the nervous system, there are plenty of ways to incorporate this essential oil into your daily routine by using it internally, topically or through aromatherapy.
Soothe the Digestive System
Basil essential oil is commonly used to relieve digestive issues, including nausea, vomiting, indigestion, and constipation. A few drops of basil essential oil should be fixed into a carrier oil (almond, jojoba or coconut oil) and massaged onto the stomach to relieve these symptoms. Additionally, basil oil can be taken internally by adding one or two drops into a mug of tea or warm water.5
Stimulate the Nervous System
For individuals facing mental or emotional exhaustion, basil essential oil is said to bring energy and clarity back into thoughts. This can be done by placing a few drops into the palms of your hand, rubbing them together vigorously and inhaling slowly.
Inhaling the aroma of a few drops of basil essential oil can also help alleviate stress and anxiety. To reap the full benefits of this, place a few drops of the oil on your palms and hold them over your nose. Close your eyes and breathe in deeply while counting to five, focusing on the scent of the oil. Then release the breath slowly, counting to five again. This routine can be repeated a few times a day to help with relaxation.
When applied topically, basil essential oil can provide relief to tense, achy, or fatigued muscles. Simply add a few drops into a carrier oil and massage into the muscles. For additional relief, try soaking in a warm bath with a few drops of basil essential oil.6
Fix Minor Skin Problems
Because of its antibacterial properties, basil essential oil is especially effective at treating acne. It can also be used to brighten the skin. Applying this oil onto minor cuts, bites and scrapes can defend against bacterial and viral infections. For use on skin, dilute a few drops of basil essential oil into a carrier oil and dab onto the affected areas with your fingers or a cotton ball.
This oil’s analgesic properties make it an ideal choice for those who are looking for relief from the pain of minor sprains, burns, scrapes or bruises. Mix a few drops into a carrier oil and massage into the affected area for relief. Make sure not to apply the oil directly to open wounds.
Breathing in the scent of basil essential oil can help reduce the pain of headaches and migraines. Combine a few drops of the oil with a carrier oil, and massage gently into your temples, neck, and chest. Alternatively, apply a couple of drops to your palm and inhale slowly and deeply, or use an essential oil diffuser.
Additional Uses for Basil Essential Oil
The benefits of basil essential oil don’t end with its medicinal properties. With a bit of creativity, this oil can be used to clean surfaces, freshen your breath, add shine to your hair, and even repel mosquitoes.
Wash Produce and Clean Surfaces
The same antiviral and antibacterial properties that make basil essential oil effective at preventing infections also help kill harmful bacteria that may be present on produce. Add a few drops of the oil into a spray bottle with water, and use the solution to wash produce. This solution can also be used to clean surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom, killing mold or bacteria.
To eliminate odors in the home, use a diffuser to disperse the scent of basil throughout a room. Because basil essential oil is an antiviral, diffusing basil oil throughout the home can help purify the air and reduce the chances of getting sick.7
Adding a few drops of basil oil to toothpaste can help fight mouth odor. It can also protect gums, as well as prevent cold sores or toothaches. When added to shampoo, basil essential oil can help remove excess oils from hair. Alternatively, a mixture of basil essential oil, apple cider vinegar, and baking soda can be used to clean hair naturally.
A potent insect repellent, basil essential oil can be used to keep mosquitoes at bay. Massage into exposed skin with a carrier oil or spray onto the skin after diluting with water.
Perhaps the most common use for this essential oil is using it to add flavor to a range of dishes. Basil essential oil is more potent than fresh basil leaves, so only a couple of drops are needed to flavor food.
Safety and Precautions
Basil essential oil can be used topically, internally, and through aromatherapy with proper precautions.
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When basil essential oil is ingested, it’s important to ensure you are only purchasing 100% organic essential oil. When the oil is extracted from the plant into a concentrated form it can also extract any pesticides used while growing those plants. You don’t want to ingest those in concentrated form! 8
Because of its potency, one or two drops of the oil diluted in 8 oz or more of honey or warm water is enough. The oil should not be ingested in larger quantities than this. Consuming basil oil may significantly lower blood sugar, so it’s important to be mindful when ingesting the oil. Overdosing on basil essential oil may cause dizziness, convulsions, rapid heartbeat, or nausea.
If used topically, it’s important to dilute basil essential oil with a carrier oil and conduct a patch test before applying the solution over large areas of skin as it can cause adverse reactions on the, especially sensitive skin. Avoid using the oil in the eyes and ears.
Basil essential oil should be avoided if pregnant, breastfeeding, or suffering from epilepsy. It is also important to keep the essential oil away from children.
When used in moderation, basil essential oil can help relieve many common ailments. Whether you are looking to alleviate stress or simply want to increase the luster of your hair and skin, the uses for this essential oil go beyond the kitchen.
MONQ uses basil essential oil in their Vibrant personal aromatherapy diffuser, blended with a few other ingredients to give you an invigorating boost throughout your day. Try it out!