What Is Sweet Basil Oil?
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 or sweet basil, reunion, methyl cinnamate and eugenol.1 The commonly used basil oils in aromatherapy are the sweet basil and the exotic types. Sweet basil oil is produced in the U.S., France, Italy and Spain, while the exotic type is from Comoro Islands or Seychelles.2
Uses of Sweet Basil Oil
However, the essential oil from sweet basil is also often added in various foods such as spiced meats, sausages, tomato pastes, ketchups, pickles, and fancy vinegars. Dental creams and mouthwashes also use sweet basil oil as one of their ingredients.3 Sweet basil oil is used in making perfumes and can act as an insect repellent in your home as it possesses insecticidal agents that can repel flies and mosquitoes.
Composition of Sweet Basil Oil
Sweet basil oil is made up of d-linalool (methyl chavicol) of varying quantities depending on the source. A major component f sweet basil essential oil is methyl cinnamate. Other properties of the oil include 1,8-cineole, eugenol, borneol, ocimene, geraniol, anethol, 10-cadinols, B-caryophyllene, a-terpineol, camphor, 3-octanone, methyleugenol, safrole, sesquithujene and 1-epibicyclosesqui-phellandrene.
It also contains juvocimene 1 and juvocimene 2. Take note that variations of these chemical properties may exist depending on the source of the plant.4
Benefits of Sweet Basil Oil
Sweet basil oil has diaphoretic, stimulant, carminative, and expectorant properties. It is effective in revitalizing dull hair and skin and is also used in treating acne and skin infections. Sweet basil oil also offers health benefits for your:
• Immune system. The herbal oil works great in relieving sinus congestion, asthma, bronchitis and emphysema. It also helps prevent infections in wounds or cuts.
• Nervous system. Sweet basil oil is known to alleviate mental fatigue, migraine and depression. It is commonly used in aromatherapy for its calming effect. Basil oil clears the mind and provides mental strength.
How to Make Sweet Basil Oil
Basil is harvested from mid-February until the end of September. The essential oil is produced through steam distilling the flowers or the whole basil plant. Hydro-distillation can also be used, but the former is much preferred as it saves time and produces better oil quality. Steam distillation takes about one to one-and-a-half hours. The oil obtained from the flowers is 0.4 percent while the whole plant yields 0.10 to 0.25 percent oil.
How Does Sweet Basil Oil Work?
Applying a few drops of sweet basil oil to strained muscles can alleviate the pain. You can rub two to three drops of the essential oil on your forehead to promote alertness. Add sweet basil oil to your shampoo to reduce excessive hair oiliness.6
Receiving a massage using this oil may help stimulate blood flow and soothe muscle pain and spasms. In case of earache, dilute sweet basil with three drops of a carrier oil then massage it over and around your ear.7 Sweet basil oil can be added to baths when combined with other essential oils such as jojoba, sweet almond, or avocado oil. The herbal oil can also be inhaled using a diffuser or vaporizer.8
Is Sweet Basil Oil Safe?
Sweet basil oil is generally recognized as safe (GRAS). Although it doesn't have any known side effects when used in small quantities, it may cause skin reactions to those who are sensitive to methyl chavicol.9 I advise you to always dilute it with a carrier oil before application.10 I also suggest conducting a skin patch test first to know if you are allergic to the essential oil. Also, studies show that an overdose of sweet basil oil can cause diarrhea, nausea, convulsions, dizziness or rapid heartbeat.11
Be aware that while sweet basil oil can be a healthful addition to your essential oil collection, the estragole content in it was found to produce tumors in mice when administered in dosages of 2 grams per kilogram of weight (0.07 ounces to 2.2 pounds).12 As a result, the German Commission E prohibited the use of basil herb for therapeutic purposes due to its estragole content and possible risks it may pose.13 However, it also was determined that short time use by adults does not pose a significant risk.14
Side Effects of Sweet Basil Oil
Even though it is generally considered safe, I suggest that young children, pregnant and nursing women avoid using this essential oil due to the fact that its potential toxigenic and carcinogenic components have not been clearly established. If you have a terminal illness or any chronic ailment, consult first with a professional aromatherapist or licensed physician before using sweet basil oil.