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10 min read / 27 November 2023 / yasmin sharp

10 Benefits and Uses of Basil Oil

Basil essential oil can aid with cleaning, digestion and even ear infections.

Basil leaf on a wooden table.


Many people know basil for its culinary abilities, as the garden herb is one commonly used in a host of recipes and dishes.

Uses of basil oil go back thousands of years to ancient civilisations, where it was once a popular cure for treating melancholy, indigestion, skin conditions, colds and coughs.

Traditional medicine practitioners still believe in the herb’s healing powers today, and fans of aromatherapy will also testify to its calm, soothing abilities.

We wanted to get to the bottom of how beneficial basil could be in everyday life, so we’ve put together 10 benefits and uses that could help to treat a mild ailment or condition.

What is basil oil?

Basil essential oil is extracted from the leaves of common basil, otherwise known as Ocimum Canum.

It’s a woody oil that has a touch of spicy sweetness that creates a refreshing and lingering tone.

The basil tree is native to tropical Asia and Africa, although today it is grown all over the world, with more than 70 species to choose from.

Once extracted, basil essential oil is pale yellow to pale green in colour.

It blends extremely well with a variety of carrier oils and is also sometimes used in oral products, due to its antimicrobial properties.

How does basil oil work?

Basil oil benefits can be enjoyed through a variety of applications, giving people lots of different ways to experience its health properties.

Aromatherapy is a popular way to inhale and enjoy the unique scent of basil oil, which can also do wonders for the mind in terms of relaxation and creating a calm atmosphere.

Some candle and soap makers include basil essential oil in their recipes, allowing people to incorporate the oil’s properties into their daily routines.

You can dilute basil oil and add it to warm bath water before soaking, apply it as a hair mask or simply dilute and massage into the skin, as needed.

Potted basil plant

Benefits of basil oil

The benefits of basil essential oil:

1. Provide antimicrobial protection

Researchers have learned that basil oil contains antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties, allowing it to be used in a wide range of applications.

A study published in 2014 stated that basil oil demonstrated its effectiveness against the E.coli bacteria.

In another study, researchers found that when basil oil was included in the water fresh produce is washed in, food-borne pathogens and bacteria could be decreased.

Basil oil’s antiviral properties have also been shown the ability to combat colds and flu by directly attacking the source of the virus.

2. Calm inflammation and swelling

Basil oil benefits also include anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it ideal for use in massages to soothe sore and swollen muscles.

There have been numerous studies that have highlighted this, with two papers published in 2012 and 2017 demonstrating basil oil’s ability to ease acne inflammation, whilst also reducing its appearance on the skin.

The 2012 study also revealed that even if the oil left behind some redness on the skin, it would disappear within minutes, with no side effects present.

Suggestions have also been made that basil oil could help to cure ear infections. This is based on a 2005 study that found the infected ear canals of animals could be improved by applying basil oil to the affected area.

3. Work as an insect repellent

Not everyone is comfortable using chemical-based insect repellents, as some of the ingredients used in commercial products can cause irritation.

It is believed by some scientists that basil oil benefits the skin by providing protection against bugs and pests.

They suggested that its ability to work as a natural bug repellent could be due to the oil’s naturally volatile chemicals.

This is something you could try at home, by mixing a solution of water, basil essential oil and an emulsifier, such as dish soap.

Once combined in a glass spray bottle, spritz the solution in areas of the home you want to keep bug-free.

4. Support better digestion

For centuries, traditional medicine practitioners have used basil oil for its carminative properties, which helps to improve digestion and ease flatulence.

Some people apply a small amount of diluted basil essential oil on the stomach in the belief that it helps to cure gas and constipation, whilst also reducing any associated pain.

This is the safest way to try this method, as it is not advisable to consume basil essential oil, as it could cause unexpected health complications due to the high concentration levels.

5. Help to lift low moods

During the Middle Ages, basil oil was regularly used to treat signs of melancholy and stress. This association continues today, with many people using the oil in oil burners and diffusers to combat stress and anxiety.

Researchers looking into basil oil’s mood boosting abilities pushed the results of a study in 2017 confirming that when it was tested on mice, they saw a significant improvement.

An earlier study, published in 2012, concluded that mental fatigue and burnout could be reduced through the inhalation of basil oil, which helped to increase concentration and alertness over time.

overlapping basil leaves

6. Eliminate bad odours

Common uses of basil oil include applying it as a natural odour cleanser to eliminate unwanted smells around the home.

As we mentioned above, basil oil contains antifungal and antibacterial properties that can allow it to work as an effective cleanser.

So, using it to remove odour-causing fungus will leave behind a fresh, pleasant scent whilst also stopping the pathogens from spreading and creating further issues.

When basil essential oil is combined with baking soda, you can use it to remove stains and bacteria from pans and pots, and it can also be very effective if sprayed in showers, toilets and rubbish bins.

7. Improve oral health

Basil oil has long been used as a traditional remedy for tooth decay and headaches.

One study involving 40 children, found that antibiotic activity was present in the oil once it had been directly applied into the tooth root canal.

Other species of basil have also demonstrated similar qualities. For example, in a clinical trial involving 20 people, gum disease and plaque were effectively reduced after the application of clove basil.

The benefits of basil oil also suggest that the spasmodic effect of menthol as part of basil essential oil may be able to reduce migraine pain.

8. Lower blood sugar levels

According to a research paper published in 2015, the activity of two enzymes, amylase and glucosidase, that are responsible for raising blood sugar levels, could be reduced through the use of basil.

In another clinical trial that involved a group of people with diabetes, blood sugar levels were lowered before and after meals following the application of holy basil leaves.

Holy basil is not the same as basil, as it contains different properties, so whilst the results of the clinical trial are promising, more studies and research is required to further develop and confirm these findings.

9. Offer hair and skin support

Basil essential oil is also believed to offer support for hair and skin, helping to cleanse, refresh and rejuvenate its appearance.

It can easily be added to your skincare routine, by simply placing a few drops of the oil into a lotion or cream before application.

Alternatively, you can dilute with a carrier oil and apply directly to the skin.

Many believe basil essential oil can help to balance natural oil levels in the skin, even skin tone and also calm itchiness and irritation.

To test the benefits of basil oil on your hair, you can add it to your shampoo or conditioner, or use it as an ingredient in a hair mask recipe.

Make sure to perform a patch test before use.

10. Ease asthma symptoms

Many people believe that basil oil benefits the respiratory system when inhaled as part of a steam treatment.

This explains why the oil is often used to ease sinus, asthma and bronchitis symptoms, as the properties released through the vapours can open airways to make it easier to breathe.

When seen in conjunction with basil oil’s antiviral qualities (as mentioned earlier in this article), it could provide a natural remedy for anyone who wants to complement existing treatment methods.

Basil sprig on a wooden top

How to use basil oil

Basil oil uses change depending on your lifestyle and the type of benefit you want to experience.

Thanks to its many health properties, you could try it:

As a massage lotion

If you experience or regularly suffer from sore or swollen muscles, the anti-inflammatory benefits of basil oil may be able to help.

It can also prove useful for easing some mild digestive issues.

Simply dilute a few drops of basil essential oil with a carrier oil and apply to the affected area for gentle relief.

As a skincare cream

Basil oil’s anti-inflammatory benefits may be effective at reducing acne, irritation and other skin irritations.

The oil also contains antifungal and antibacterial qualities that can brighten and refresh dull skin.

As with the massage lotion, dilute a few drops of the oil with a carrier oil and apply where needed.

History of basil oil

Basil first came to light as a medicinal agent in India, where people of the Hindu faith considered it to be a holy herb.

However, its history goes back much further, as it was also deeply revered by the Ancient Greeks.

The word ‘basil’ is derived from the Latin and Greek words “royal herb” and “royal plant” and over time it has continued to gain significant traction as a ritualistic planet in many religious practices.

For example, it was once used by Jewish people to build strength whilst fasting, whilst it was also sprinkled into the holy water as preparation by Orthodox churches.

Some traditions also used basil as a protective oil against evil spirits, which can also be loosely linked to its ongoing association as a lifter of low moods and mental strains.

Black and white illustration of basil

Basil oil FAQs

What are the side effects of basil oil?

Basil leaves contain a high amount of vitamin K, which could interfere with blood-thinning drugs.

If you are considering using basil essential oil, you should first speak with a doctor so they can provide advice based on your specific circumstances.

What vitamins are found in basil essential oil?

Basil essential oil contains nutrients and vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, magnesium, potassium, and iron.

These can all be beneficial for the skin and hair, when either diluted with a carrier oil before application, or added directly to a skincare or haircare product.

How is basil different from holy basil?

Basil and holy basil share many of the same properties, including anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antimicrobial qualities.

However, they can be used in different ways to address various types of conditions and ailments, with holy basil also offering a stronger aroma compared to traditional basil.




[1] B. Mane et al. (2014) Effect of Natural Antimicrobials on Foodborne Pathogens and Shelf Life: A Review

[2] Phanida Phanthong et al. (2013) Antibacterial activity of essential oils and their active components from Thai spices against foodborne pathogens

[3] Lien-Chai Chiang et al. (2005) Antiviral activities of extracts and selected pure constituents of Ocimum basilicum

[4] Syeda Khair Ul Bariyah et al. (2012) Ocimum Basilicum: A Review on Phytochemical and Pharmacological Studies

[5] Ané Orchard et al. (2017) Commercial Essential Oils as Potential Antimicrobials to Treat Skin Diseases

[6] Karl G Kristinsson et al. (2005) Effective Treatment of Experimental Acute Otitis Media by Application of Volatile Fluids into the Ear Canal

[7] Nataya Sutthanont et al. (2022) Effectiveness of Herbal Essential Oils as Single and Combined Repellents against Aedes aegypti, Anopheles dirus and Culex quinquefasciatus (Diptera: Culicidae)

[8] S S Ali et al. (2017) The antidepressant-like effect of Ocimum basilicum in an animal model of depression

[9] Elizabeth Varney et al. (2012) Effect of inhaled essential oils on mental exhaustion and moderate burnout: a small pilot study

[10] N Megalaa et al. (2018) A comparative evaluation of the anticaries efficacy of herbal extracts (Tulsi and Black myrobalans) and sodium fluoride as mouthrinses in children: A randomized controlled trial

[11] Sérgio Luís da Silva Pereira et al. (2011) Clinical effect of a mouth rinse containing Ocimum gratissimum on plaque and gingivitis control

[12] Mahdieh Ahmadifard et al. (2020) The Efficacy of Topical Basil Essential Oil on Relieving Migraine Headaches: A Randomized Triple-Blind Study

[13] Adedayo O. Ademiluyi et al. (2015) Biological activities, antioxidant properties and phytoconstituents of essential oil from sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) leaves

[14] P Agrawal et al. (1996) Randomized placebo-controlled, single blind trial of holy basil leaves in patients with noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus

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