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Basil Essential Oil

What Should You Know About Basil Essential Oil?

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Updated August 28, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Basil essential oil is a type of essential oil commonly used in aromatherapy. Sourced from the Ocimum basilicum plant, basil essential oil is said to offer a variety of health benefits.

Basil essential oil contains a number of compounds thought to enhance health. These compounds include linalool, a substance shown to reduce stress in several scientific studies.

How Does Basil Essential Oil Work?

In aromatherapy, inhaling the aroma of basil essential oil (or absorbing basil essential oil through the skin) is thought to transmit messages to a brain region involved in controlling emotions. Known as the limbic system, this brain region also influences the nervous system. Aromatherapy proponents suggest that essential oils may affect a number of biological factors, including heart rate, stress levels, blood pressure, breathing, and immune function.

Health Benefits of Basil Essential Oil

While preliminary research suggests that basil essential oil may offer certain health benefits, there is currently a lack of research testing the health effects of aromatherapeutic use of geranium essential oil. For example, several laboratory studies published in the past decade indicate that basil essential oil may possess anti-cancer, antifungal, and antibacterial properties.

In addition, a study published in the journal Biomedica suggests that basil essential oil may aid in the treatment of acne. For the study, 28 people with acne were assigned to eight weeks of treatment with one of four formulations: a blend of orange and basil essential oils, keratolytic medication (a type of medicine designed to remove lesions from the skin), essential oils mixed with acetic acid (a compound sometimes used as an ingredient in skincare products), or keratolytic medication with acetic acid. By the study's end, all groups showed improvements in acne. The greatest improvements were seen in patients treated with the acetic acid mixtures.

It's important to note that none of these studies tested the aromatherapeutic use of basil essential oil, and that more research is needed before basil essential oil can be recommended in treatment of any health condition.

Uses for Basil Essential Oil

In aromatherapy, basil essential oil is typically used to treat the following health problems:

In addition, basil essential oil is said to enhance mood, improve digestion, increase alertness, and soothe muscle aches.

Basil essential oil is also sometimes used as an insect repellent.

How to Use Basil Essential Oil

When combined with a carrier oil (such as jojoba, sweet almond, or avocado), basil essential oil can be applied directly to the skin or added to baths.

Basil essential oil also can be inhaled after sprinkling a few drops of the oil onto a cloth or tissue, or through use of an aromatherapy diffuser or vaporizer.

Is It Safe?

Basil essential oil should not be taken internally without the supervision of a health professional. Internal use of basil essential oil may have toxic effects.

Additionally, some individuals may experience irritation when applying basil essential oil to the skin.

It's also important to note that self-treating a chronic condition with basil essential oil and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Learn more about how to use essential oils safely.

Alternatives

A number of essential oils may possess health effects similar to the purported benefits of basil essential oil. For example, lavender essential oil, bergamot essential oil, and rose essential oil have all been found to promote relaxation in scientific studies.

Where To Find Basil Essential Oil

Here are some tips on purchasing essential oils.

Widely available for purchase online, basil essential oil is sold in many natural-foods stores and in stores specializing in self-care products.

Sources

Edris AE, Farrag ES. "Antifungal activity of peppermint and sweet basil essential oils and their major aroma constituents on some plant pathogenic fungi from the vapor phase." Nahrung. 2003 Apr;47(2):117-21.

Hossain MA, Kabir MJ, Salehuddin SM, Rahman SM, Das AK, Singha SK, Alam MK, Rahman A. "Antibacterial properties of essential oils and methanol extracts of sweet basil Ocimum basilicum occurring in Bangladesh." Pharm Biol. 2010 May;48(5):504-11.

Kathirvel P, Ravi S. "Chemical composition of the essential oil from basil (Ocimum basilicum Linn.) and its in vitro cytotoxicity against HeLa and HEp-2 human cancer cell lines and NIH 3T3 mouse embryonic fibroblasts." Nat Prod Res. 2012;26(12):1112-8.

Matiz G, Osorio MR, Camacho F, Atencia M, Herazo J. "Effectiveness of antimicrobial formulations for acne based on orange (Citrus sinensis) and sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum L) essential oils." Biomedica. 2012 Jan-Mar;32(1):125-33.

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