Basil, Sweet (Ocimum basilicum) Essential Oil

Basil, Sweet (Ocimum basilicum) Essential Oil

basil essential oil profile
Quick Facts:
Note: Not the same as Holy Basil; several chemotypes

Color: Pale yellow
Viscosity: Thin
Method of Extraction: Steam distilled, CO2
Plant parts: Leaves, flowering tops
Countries: Europe, US, Madagascar, Thailand, Nepal
Scent: Fresh, sweet, spicy, green, anise
Odor Intensity: Moderate-High
Blending Note: Top
Blends well with: bergamot, geranium
Fragrance Family: Herbal
Chemical Notes: phenylpropane; terpene alcohols. There are several chemotypes.

Summary of Benefits & Cautions

Physical Uses and benefits
Properties: antiseptic, stimulant, cephalic, antispasmodic, stomachic, mental stimulant, nervous tonic, adrenal stimulant

Physical Uses: Fatigue, aches, sinus, bronchitis, colds, nausea, antimicrobial, menstruation, digestion, headaches, migraines, digestive issues especially intestinal
Emotional uses and benefits
Emotional Uses: Mental alertness, stress, uplifting, memory, mental fatigue, long history of use with conditions of the nervous system
Skin and Hair
Skin and Hair Care: Oily hair and skin, wounds, acne, antiviral (cold sores), bacterial infections, fungal infections
Safety: Avoid if pregnant. Do you use with small children. Avoid large doses as it can cause stupor and become dangerous to operate vehicles or machinery. Avoid if pregnant and with estrogenic cancers.
Generally, use in low dilutions (<1%) topically but maximum dermal dilution varies by chemotype.

Full Profile

Note: There are several chemotypes of basil.  A chemotype refers to variations in the chemical makeup of an oil from the same species.  Chemotypes are usually labelled for the chemical component that is prominent in them. Different chemotypes of basil include linalool, methyl chavicol, eugenol, methyl eugenol, and methyl cinnamate. The linalool chemotype is one of the gentlest and is not only the most commonly recommended, but also the most commonly available.

Exotic Basil (also called Reunion Basil) is high in methyl chavicol, which was found to be carcinogenic when given in high doses to rodents. As a measure of caution, most aromatherapists recommend limiting use of oils high in methyl chavicol.

Holy Basil is also known as Tulsi, and comes from a different species.

This profile refers to Sweet Basil (Ocinum basilicum) with a focus on the linalool chemotype.

History: Basil has been used in many parts of the world for centuries. In herbal form, it was used for headaches in both ancient India and Greece. In India it was also used for a host of digestive system complaints, something the Chinese also found it good for.  (Quinessence, Lawless).

Key benefits

  • Mental fatigue and exhaustion, clears the mind
  • Coughs and respiratory complaints
  • Muscle aches and pains


Chemical Families: Primarily monoterpenols and sesquiterpenes

In general, in order from least to greatest, the components are typically:

Linalool (roughly half), eugenol, 1,8 cineole, methyl chavicol.  Some batches may have limonene and citronellol. There may also be traces of methyl eugenol, β-Caryophyllene, and fenchol. (Lis-Balchin, Peace-Rhind, Schnaubelt, Amrita, Lawless). Basil is a great example of why it is important to pay attention to chemotypes, and to have batch specific GC/MS test results so you know what specifically is in the oil you are getting.

Properties: analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-spasmodic, carminative, anti-depressant, cephalic, emmenagogue, neurotonic

Skin Care:

Basil’s effectiveness for skin care is uncertain. Lis-Balchin states there is little evidence for its use in skin care. Yet, she and Rosemary Caddy both suggest it can help with acne. It should be used in a maximum dilution of 3%.

Hair Care:

Basil oil may stimulate hair growth.  To use, it should be diluted in a carrier oil. Both Jeanne Rose and Lora Cantele recommend blending basil with lavender and rosemary verbonene. This blend can then be diluted in jojoba oil and applied to the scalp.

Hair Tonic
  • 2 oz. Jojoba Oil
  • 7 drops Basil
  • 8 drops Lavender
  • 7 drops Rosemary Verbenone

Apply a small amount to the hair and scalp. Leave for at least 30 minutes before washing hair. You could also wear this overnight with your head wrapped in a towel to protect your pillow.

Respiratory System

Respiratory conditions that may benefit from sweet basil include sinusitis, bronchitis, and coughs.  Its expectorant qualities can help to loosen mucus, allowing the body to clear it. Basil oils with 1,8 cineole are considered best for this clearing effect. (Lis-Balchin, Caddy, Cantele)

Cough Cream
  • 1 oz. unscented cream*
  • 4 drops basil
  • 2 drops niaouli
  • 5 drops mandarin

Blend the oils into the cream and apply a small amount to your chest.

*If you do not have an unscented cream, you can heat a little shea butter or coconut oil and blend the oils in. To use, scoop out a dollop and warm it in your hands to make it easier to apply. Alternately, you can use the above essential oil blend in a diffuser.

Muscles, Joints, and Pain

Basil is known for its ability to help reduce pain. Headaches of all types can benefit from basil, but it can be especially useful for migraines and tension headaches.

Basil can also be massaged (diluted in a carrier) into skin to ease sore muscles and bring some relief from muscle spasms. (Aromatics Intl, Plant Therapy, Lis-Balchin, Peace-Rhind)

Digestive System

As an herb, basil was traditionally used for digestive disorders. The essential oil may be useful for nausea, gas, and indigestion.

For stomach complaints, try basil diluted into a carrier oil and rub into the abdomen.

Endocrine System

Rosemary Caddy finds Basil has quite some influence on the endocrine system. She states it is estrogen like, influences milk production, and stimulates the adrenal cortex. 

Jeanne Rose quotes Robert Tisserand when she too claims that basil stimulates the adrenal cortex. The adrenal cortex is important in the body’s response to stress as well as regulation of blood pressure.

It is important to note that adrenal insufficiency can not be cured by aromatherapy. If you suspect adrenal insufficiency you should see your doctor.

Nervous System

One of the fascinating things about essential oils is how they can have two seemingly opposite effects on the body. Basil with a significant linalool content can be calming. This means it can be used for anxiety, insomnia, and nervous tension.

Yet, there is evidence that basil can be stimulating to the brain. This combination of easing tension yet stimulating is probably why almost every author extols its virtues in relieving mental fatigue and clearing the mind. (Lis-Balchin, Plant Therapy, Lawless, Caddy). Marcel Lavabre calls basil a nerve tonic, meaning it can help to strengthen the nervous system.

Clear the Head Diffuser Blend
  • 2 drops Basil
  • 1 drop Rosemary
  • 3 drops Grapefruit

Place 5-6 drops in an ultrasonic diffuser and fill with water as directed by the manufacturer.


Basil may have some effectiveness against fungal infections. One study found that the combination of linalool and eugenol in basil oil had a synergistic effect against fungi.  This effect was greater than either component alone.


As previously mentioned, it is important to know what chemotype you have, as safety will depend on the chemical composition of the particular oil you are using. The linalool chemotype is generally safe, but should not be applied topically in dilutions above 3%. This is due to the eugenol content. Basil can be a skin sensitizer for some.

Basil oil can be stimulating in low doses, but may have an opposite effect in higher doses. High doses should be avoided.

Small children (under 6) and babies should not use basil oil. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should avoid basil. This is in part due to the potential of passing methyl chavicol to the baby but also as a precaution since basil has caused spontaneous uterine contractions in rats.

Basil oils with methyl chavicol should be used with caution, as there is evidence in animal studies of it being a carcinogen. If applied to skin, it should only be used on intact skin.

If you have an estrogenic cancer, you should avoid basil oil.

(Rose, Lis-Balchin, Aromatics Intl, Tisserand & Young)


Jeanne Rose. Aromatherapy: Applications and Inhalations

Kurt Schnaubelt. Advanced Aromatherapy

Marcel Lavabre. Aromatherapy Workbook

Julia Lawless. The Complete Essential Oils Sourcebook

Maria Lis-Balchin. Aromatherapy Science

Robert Tisserand & Rodney Young. Essential Oil Safety 2nd ed.

Jennifer Peace-Rhind. Aromatherapeutic Blending

Rosemary Caddy. Essential Oils in Colour and The Essential Blending Guide

Lora Cantele & Nerys Perchon. The Complete Aromatherapy and Essential Oils Handbook for Everyday Wellness



Plant Therapy

Aromatics International


Journal Articles as linked in the text above.

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