Ocimum basilicum

Synonyms:  Sweet basil / Common basil

Family: Labiatae or Lamiaceae


Basil oil is steam distilled from the leaves and flowering tops of the plant. The two most commonly available Basil oils are:

  • The true Sweet Basil oil also known as European basil . This oil has a higher percentage of linalool and generally regarded as safe to use in aromatherapy.
  • Exotic or Reunion basil, which is distilled in the Comoro Islands, Malagasy Republic, Thailand and occasionally in the Seychelles. This oil has a higher percentage of mehtyl chavicol.

According to an extensive analysis of over 200 individual basil plants, five chemotypes of basil oil have been identified

  • linalool
  • methyl chavicol
  • methyl eugenol
  • (E)-methyl cinnamate
  • eugenol

Sweet basil oil is a pale-yellow or almost colourless mobile liquid with a sweet spicy, slightly green, fresh top note and a balsamic-woody undertone.

Exotic basil is a pale-yellow to pale-green mobile liquid with a slightly coarse-herbaceous, campheraceous top note and it displays an intense aniseed-like sweetness associated with the methyl chavicol content.

Chemical Composition

Estragole is also known as methyl chavicol.  There are some safety concerns with the estragole content of basil, therefore in aromatherapy it is preferable to use the linalool chemotype.  They methyl chavicol chemotype is preferred in the manufacture of expensive perfumes whereas the linalool chemotype is preferred in food flavouring.

The phenolic ethers found in basil confirm basil’s antispasmodic properties which make it ideal for the treatment of spasmodic abdominal pain and for asthmatic conditions.

[S.Battaglia: The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy Second Edition]

Basil always conjures up images of delicious Italian pastas! This delicious aromatic herb has many varieties which are cultivated all over the world. The essential oil is steam-distilled from the leaves and flowering tops. Ocimum basillicum is what we know as Sweet Basil and is heavenly when used in pasta dishes and salads. The oil is a pale yellow to colourless liquid and has an aniseed type sweetness to its herbaceous aroma.

Basil has an excellent reputation for helping to clear the head, relieve intellectual fatigue and give clarity to the mind. So if you’re up all night worrying about your problems, try adding a little Basil to your evening bath or massage treatment. It is often used as a remedy for headaches and migraines. Add a couple of drops to a diffuser  to help sharpen your focus whilst reading or studying.  Emotionally, Basil essential oil is helpful in dealing with feelings of anxiety, fear or nervousness. Add a drop to a tissue or shirt collar so that you can inhale the oil when needed.

Basil is very beneficial when used for issues with the respiratory tract and is often used for sinus congestion, asthma, bronchitis, flu and whooping cough. Here you could also add a drop or two onto a tissue and inhale. Or add a few drops to a cold humidifier or diffuser.  You could also heat a pot of water (not boiling), then add 1-3 drops off Basil essential oil.  Cover your head with a towel while leaning over the water, and inhale the steam.

Digestive disorders respond well to Basil.  Add a drop or two to a tablespoon of a carrier oil such as Sweet Almond or Grapeseed oil and massage into the abdomen for relief from gastric spasm, nausea, vomiting. It is also helpful in case of fevers.

Basil essential oil has also been used in massage blends to help with deep muscle spasm, as well as to relieve gout.

Basil blends well with Bergamot, Black Pepper, Geranium, Helichrysum, Lavender, Lemongrass, Marjoram and Rosemary.

Avoid use during pregnancy as it is an emmenagogue, which means it stimulates menstrual flow.