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Basil Essential Oil

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Basil Essential Oil - General Description

A prominent culinary herb in Mediterranean and Italian dishes as well as in Southeast Asian cuisines (e.g., Indonesian, Thai) owing to its sweet but strong aroma and flavor, basil, or Ocimum basilicum, is an annual plant with ovate, toothed, or entire green leaves (although few varieties have partly red or entirely purple leaves) and white or purple-tinged flowers. Basil was originally cultivated in India and the Middle East and was highly valued by ancient Greek and Roman healers. In fact, the word “basil” comes from the Greek word “basileus,” meaning “king.” Presently, this herb is highly valued worldwide not only for its culinary use but also for its health benefits and now comes in a wide range of varieties or cultivars, such as sweet basil, Thai basil, lemon basil, and holy basil. [1]



Basil essential oil is derived from the leaves and flowers or buds of the herb through steam distillation. This essential oil has a strong, warm, herbaceous, aromatic scent with a sweet and minty odor. [2] It appears pale yellow to amber in color, with a thin consistency, top perfumery note, and medium strength of initial aroma. [3] The following essential oils work well with basil essential oil: bergamot, clary sage, clove bud, lime, eucalyptus, juniper, lemon, neroli, and rosemary, among others. [2]

Basil Essential Oil - Uses and Reported Benefits

Basil essential oil relieves sore muscles and provides alleviation from respiratory congestion, especially from bronchitis, colds, and cough. Its antibacterial property can be put into good use for skin hygiene and respiratory health. [2] Basil essential also proves helpful in remedying flatulence, flu, gout, insect bites, and rheumatism. [3]

In Ayurveda, the traditional medicinal system of India, basil essential oil is thought to strengthen compassion and faith and bring forth clarity. It is used to clear the sinuses, promote normal digestion, and stimulate circulation. [4]

Basil Essential Oil - Contraindications and Safety

Like other essential oils, it is recommended that basil essential oil be diluted for topical and internal use, particularly when applied on sensitive areas such as the face and genitals. Use this essential oil topically at a maximum of 0.1%. [2] Moreover, it is best to avoid the use of basil essential oil during pregnancy. [4]

Basil Essential Oil - Scientific Studies and Research

Basil Essential Oil As antimicrobial: A wide array of research data scientifically support the centuries-old medicinal utility of basil essential oil for its beneficial antimicrobial activities, especially as an effective agent against multidrug-resistant bacterial strains. In a 2001 study from the Food Safety Center, University of Tennessee, which investigated the effectiveness of herbs and spice essential oils with respect to the control of growth and survival of a few microorganisms, basil essential oil was evidenced to be highly inhibitory (with a minimum lethal concentration approximately of 25 to 50 ppm) against Escherichia coli O:157:H7 particularly and against other bacteria and fungi tested, namely Listeria monocytogenes, Staphylococcus aureus, Yersinia enterocolitica, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Lactobacillus plantarum, Aspergillus niger, Geotrichum, and Rhodotorula. [5] A detailed analysis from the Medical and Sanitary Microbiology Department, Medical University of Lodz, Poland, further demonstrated the inhibitory action of basil essential oil against E. coli and its other clinical strains. In this 2013 study, E. coli strains were collected from patients suffering from respiratory tract, abdominal cavity, urinary tract, and skin infections, and the results revealed the high inhibitory activity of basil essential oil against all of the clinical strains from E. coli, including extended-spectrum beta-lactamase positive bacteria. [6] In another study from Deakin University, Australia, five varieties of basil essential oil, namely ‘Anise’, ‘Bush’, ‘Cinnamon’, ‘Dark Opal’, and a certain commercial sample of dried basil, showed significant antimicrobial effect against various foodborne Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacteria, yeasts, and molds, as examined through an agar well diffusion method. Furthermore, ‘Anise’ basil essential oil completely inhibited the growth of L. curvatus and Saccharomyces cerevisiae in a tomato juice medium. [7]



Basil Essential Oil As Antifungal: As illustrated previously, basil essential oil is not only antibacterial but also antifungal. A 2003 Egyptian study demonstrated a dose-dependent antifungal activity of basil essential oil, with its constituent, linalool, showing moderate inhibitory action against the growth of fungi tested (Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, Rhizopus stolonifer, and Mucor sp.). [8] A 2011 study from Sultan Qaboos University, Oman, presented high antifungal values for basil essential oil against pathogenic fungi, namely A. niger, A. fumigatus, Penicillium italicum, and R. stolonifer. [9]

Basil Essential Oil As Anti-cancer: The potential of basil essential oil to prevent or limit the growth and spread of cancer cells was also evaluated in some studies. For instance, Kathirvel and Ravi (2012) performed an investigation on the in vitro anticancer activity of basil essential oil using methyl thiazol tetrazolium assay. Screening was implemented against human cervical cancer cell line (HeLa), human laryngeal epithelial carcinoma cell line (HEp-2), and NIH 3T3 mouse embryonic fibroblasts, and the results revealed the potent cytotoxic effect of basil essential oil against these. [10] In the study of Bozin, Mimica-Dukic, Simin, and Anackov (2006), basil essential oil exhibited significant antioxidant activity, as reflected through its strong free radical scavenging capacity and inhibition of lipid peroxidation. [11] Orientin and vicenin, two water-soluble flavonoids found in basil, have been suggested by studies on human white blood cells to protect cellular structures and chromosomes from harmful radiation and assault from oxygen-based radicals. [12]

Basil Essential Oil As Fatigue Remedy: A randomized, controlled, double-blind pilot study was conducted to verify the helpfulness of a mixture of essential oils (peppermint, helichrysum, and basil essential oils) on mental exhaustion or moderate burnout. In this pilot study, the subjects used a personal inhaler at home or at work. The results of this small study demonstrated that the perceived level of mental fatigue or burnout of participants decreased upon essential oil mixture inhalation. [13]

Basil Essential Oil - Molecular Components and Chemistry

In terms of chemical composition, basil essential oil comprises L-linalool (26.5–56.3%), geraniol (12.1–16.5%), 1,8-cineole (2.5–15.1%), p-allylanisole (0.2–13.8%), and DL-limonene (0.2–10.4%) as its principal components. [9] As analyzed through gas chromatography–mass spectrometry, the essential oil derived from O. basilicum L. (i.e., sweet basil oil) contains methyl chavicol (93.0%) as its chief compound, whereas the essential oil of O. sanctum L. (i.e., holy basil oil) has eugenol (41.5%), gamma-caryophyllene (23.7%), and methyl eugenol (11.8%) as its major constituents. Hoary basil essential oil (O. americanum L.) comprises on the other hand geraniol (32.0%) and neral (27.2%) and small amounts of methyl chavicol (0.8%). [14]

Basil Essential Oil - References

[1] Ocimum basilicum: Basil. Encyclopedia of Life. Retrieved from http://eol.org/pages/579364/hierarchy_entries/57258674/details

[2] Basil Essential Oil. 10 ml. 100% Pure, Undiluted, Therapeutic Grade. Amazon. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Basil-Essential-Undiluted-Therapeutic-Grade/dp/B005V4ZM4Y

[3] Basil Essential Oil. AromaWeb. Retrieved from http://www.aromaweb.com/essential-oils/basil-oil.asp

[4] Basil 100% Pure Therapeutic Grade Essential Oil- 30 ml. Amazon. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Basil-100-Therapeutic-Grade-Essential/dp/B002RT9PP8

[5] Elgayyar M., Draughon F. A., Golden D. A., Mount J. R. (2001). Antimicrobial activity of essential oils from plants against selected pathogenic and saprophytic microorganisms. Journal of Food Protection. 64(7): 1019–1024. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11456186

[6] Sienkiewicz M. et al. (2013). The potential of use basil and rosemary essential oils as effective antibacterial agents. Molecules. 18(8): 9334–9351. doi: 10.3390/molecules18089334. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23921795

[7] Lachowicz K. J. et al. (1998). The synergistic preservative effects of the essential oils of sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) against acid-tolerant food microflora. Letters in Applied Microbiology. 26(3): 209–214. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9569711

[8] Edris A. E., Farrag E. S. (2003). Antifungal activity of peppermint and sweet basil essential oils and their major aroma constituents on some plant pathogenic fungi from the vapor phase. Nahrung. 47(2): 117–121. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12744290

[9] Al-Maskri A. Y. et al. (2011). Essential oil from Ocimum basilicum (Omani basil): a desert crop. Natural Product Communications. 6(10): 1487–1490. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22164790

[10] Kathirvel P., Ravi S. (2012). Chemical composition of the essential oil from basil (Ocimum basilicum Linn.) and its in vitro cytotoxicity against HeLa and HEp-2 human cancer cell lines and NIH 3T3 mouse embryonic fibroblasts. Natural Product Research. 26(12): 1112–1118. doi: 10.1080/14786419.2010.545357. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21939371

[11] Bozin B., Mimica-Dukic N., Simin N., Anackov G. (2006). Characterization of the volatile composition of essential oils of some lamiaceae spices and the antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of the entire oils. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 54(5): 1822–1828. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16506839

[12] Basil. The World's Healthiest Foods, The George Mateljan Foundation. Retrieved from http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=85

[13] Varney E., Buckle J. (2013). Effect of inhaled essential oils on mental exhaustion and moderate burnout: a small pilot study. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 19(1): 69–71. doi: 10.1089/acm.2012.0089. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23140115

[14] Viyoch J. et al. (2006). Evaluation of in vitro antimicrobial activity of Thai basil oils and their micro-emulsion formulas against Propionibacterium acnes. International Journal of Cosmetic Science. 28(2): 125–133. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-2494.2006.00308.x. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18492147

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