Basil has been used all over the world because of its medicinal properties. It is a common household remedy for various ailments, and used in Ayurveda for respiratory conditions like colds, coughs, and bronchitis. Basil has also been used since centuries as a remedy against epilepsy. Dioscorides, the Greek physician, used to prescribe it for a headache, while according to Pliny, basil was an aphrodisiac. Basil's popularity soared during World War II, when spices became scarce.
Basil oil is extracted by steam distillation of the entire flowering herb, producing a transparent, thin fluid that is light-lemony or yellowish-green in color. Its aroma is sweet and fresh, slightly spicy, with an undertone that is lightly balsamic.
The elements that impart the characteristic flavor and aroma eugenol, which also occurs in allspice and clove; methyl chavicol, which also occurs in tarragon; and linalool, which also occurs in clary sage and lavender. In the aromatherapy of today, basil essential oil is used for cheering the mind and heart. It is thought that the energizing and sweet aroma helps in relieving depression.
As a matter of fact, the properties of this essential oil as a neuro-regulator make it very good as a remedy against anxiety, stress, and nervous disorders. It is highly regarded as a natural tonic for the nerves, with the capability of being either a restorative or a stimulant, according to the requirements of the body.
It also blends very well with other essential oils like lavender, clove bud, bergamot, clary sage, lime, lemon, geranium, rosemary, neroli, juniper, black pepper, hyssop, marjoram, verbena, sandalwood, melissa, and eucalyptus. People who use it find its aroma both balancing and enlivening, similar to lavender oil, except that basil is more energizing.
Basil oil is also known to be an emmenagogue, which means that, it helps in inducing menstruation, and is also an antispasmodic. The combination of these properties can make it an effective remedy against menstrual cramps, either used in a bath or as a compress. Its stimulating and anti-spasmodic characteristics also make it a very good ingredient in massage oil blends, used as a relief against fatigue, especially when combined with black pepper oil.
Basil essential oil can be an irritant for some people who are sensitive to it, especially to the methyl chavicol that it contains, which can cause burning or redness on the skin if it is applied without diluting it properly. A recommended dilution for such people is two parts mixed with 98 parts of a carrier oil like vegetable oil.
It is also suggested that before using it, a small amount of basil oil should be tried in order to test for an allergic reaction or sensitivity. Pregnant women are advised not to use this oil. Do consult a professional in aromatherapy before using this oil.