Basil is a culinary herb with the scientific name Ocimum basilicum. It is one of the most popular and widely used herbs in cooking, being also known as the "royal herb" or the "king of herbs".
Basil is part of the Lamiaceae family, which also includes mint. It has a very long history of human use and has been cultivated for at least 5000 years. It is probably native to India but has spread around the world since ancient times and it was already mentioned in Europe by classical Greek authors like Theophrastus and Dioscorides. It is used in cooking all over the globe but plays a major role especially in the cuisine of Southeast Asia and Italy. Basil is very popular in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Taiwan, Indonesia, Thailand and Malaysia. The taste is strong and pungent and can sometimes be sweet or similar to anise. This depends on the exact species, since multiple cultivars exist.
Basil essential oil extracted from the plant is a key ingredient in Mediterranean cuisine, in pesto, salads or pasta. It is also extremely popular and widely used in Southeast and Central Asia. The taste of the essential oil is similar to the one of the fresh leaves, just a lot more powerful. This is why it is usually easier to choose it for cooking purposes. Due to the higher concentration, essential basil oil is used instead of the leaves for all for the plant's medicinal benefits.
Both the leaves and the seeds of the plant have medicinal properties. The basil essential oil is extracted by steam distilling leaves, flowers and stems, all harvested when the plant is fresh. The oil is a very concentrated extract, which is way more powerful than the fresh or dried leaves. It has a very high amount of phytochemicals that are good for human health, such as antioxidants.
The medicinal use of basil in Southeast Asia dates to ancient times, since it was already part of the Ayurvedic system described in the sacred Indian religious texts. It was used as a treatment for constipation, indigestion, cough and skin problems. Later, in the 16th century, the leaves were used against chest infections and headache, due to their strong diuretic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral and antibiotic effects. The antioxidant properties of essential basil oil are also well-known and very valuable against bronchitis and other breathing diseases, as well as chronic infections. It is especially strong against infections and other issues of the respiratory tract, in particular if it is used in combination with rosemary oil, eucalyptus oil, or other natural products. It can also improve cognitive function, cure heart diseases and maybe even fight cancer, due to its proven antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects.
The effective antiseptic, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of basil are almost legendary in India, where the plant is considered to be sacred as a result.
Basil oil is very rich in nutrients that provide benefits to human health, especially potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium and vitamin A. As a result, the essential oil of the plant can treat many conditions, such as motion sickness, nausea, respiratory problems, diabetes, skin problems, indigestion and constipation.
It is also an effective natural cosmetic agent and can be applied on the skin and massaged to penetrate it. Numerous commercial supplements designed to balance skin tone include basil oil as an ingredient. Its action at skin level is also strong enough to cure skin infections like acne and various other problems.
The effectiveness of basil essential oil against acne and similar infections has been known for a very long time. It has proven antibacterial properties, so it is able to fight outbreaks of acne, which are commonly caused by excessive production of sebum and growth of bacteria on the skin. While the basil oil is routinely included in various cosmetic products, you can take advantage of its benefits directly as well. You only need to mix it with a carrier oil, then massage it on the skin. Coconut or jojoba oil are very good choices of carrier oils. One or two drops of basil oil are enough for a powerful mixture, which can be applied on the skin using a clean cotton pad.
Another way to use basil oil is to add a few drops to your normal shampoo. It will make your hair more healthy and shiny, while removing any accumulation of grease. For a stronger effect against grease, dirt and bacteria you can prepare a mix of essential basil oil with apple cider vinegar and baking soda.
The oil's strong antiseptic properties are the most easily used when applied directly on the skin. It is effective against many infections, like wounds, cuts or bladder infections. It also kills viruses and can stop them from entering the body, when applied on wounds.
The proven antiseptic effects of basil essential oil are especially strong against various pathogens that infest food, such as yeasts, bacteria and molds. Multiple lab tests have concluded that the basil oil can destroy three different strains of fungi and six types of bacteria. This effect is very valuable when the basil oil is applied on the skin, since it can disinfect wounds and prevent a large number of viral infections by killing the pathogens before they can enter the body.
Basil oil also acts as an analgesic and is a good painkiller. It is effective against pain no matter the cause and can provide relief in wounds, injuries, burns, arthritis, sports injuries, surgical recovery, sprains, headaches or scars. It also has a calming effect on the skin and can be applied on honey bee stings, insect bites, areas of itchy skin and even snakebites.
Basil extracts consist of various volatile oils that repel mosquitoes and other insects that bite. The effect is similar to the one of thyme or citronella essential oils. You can easily prepare a bug repellent mixture at home, just put several drops of basil oil into a carrier oil and massage it on the skin to protect it from insect bites. You can also use the oil on the skin after you have been stung by an insect, in order to provide relief from the symptoms.
Dandruff can be eliminated with basil oil, reducing the risk of baldness. Prepare a warm mixture of coconut oil with a few drops of basil oil and apply it gently to your scalp and hair. For best results, let it work during the night and wash it off in the morning, with a quality shampoo. The basil oil will clear your scalp from grease, relieve itching and boost circulation. If you have a sever dandruff problem, a stronger counter is a mixture of basil leaves, henna and hibiscus leaves.
Since it is so effective against bacteria, basil oil is a good household cleaning product and it will kill mold and smelly bacteria that live on furniture or in your car. This is actually the root of the name basil, which comes from the Greek verb "to smell". It has a long history of home use, both around the Mediterranean Basin and in India, as a cleaning agent for kitchen tools and odour eliminator. You can easily benefit from its properties even today if you add a few drops of oil to your dishwashing solution in order to make it more powerful. Mix basil oil and baking soda to create a product that can kill bacteria and remove stains from kitchen equipment, shower, garbage can or even the toilet.
This essential oil can kill bacteria in any place inside your house. You can use it in both the kitchen and the bathroom to remove pathogens and freshen the air. A simple but very potent antiseptic spray can be made by diluting basil essential oil in water. Spay it around your house and wash various items with it in order to disinfect them.