Traditionally, the herb basil has been used in cooking and as a herbal medicine for centuries and there are many different varieties of it grown around the world. In Ayurvedic medicine, developed many years ago by sages in the Himalayas, basil is an important treatment for respiratory ailments and is also used as an antidote to poisonous snake bites. In Western herbal medicine, it is used as nerve tonic and a cooling herb. The production of this essential oil mainly occurs in Egypt, France, the U.S.A. and eastern Europe. Steam distillation from the flowering plant is the method of extraction of this herb. The resulting oil has a slightly balsamic, spicy, sweet and green odour, it can be pale yellow or colourless. It is non-irritant in dilution but has possible carcinogenic components- use in moderation. Do not use in concentrations of more than 2% and avoid using in therapeutic doses in pregnancy.
Whilst basil is a very useful essential oil there are concerns about its possible toxicity. It should only be used in moderation and for short periods of time, no more than three weeks. This oil may be used in small amounts in massage and bath oil blends and as a steam inhalation. Basil combines well with rose, clary sage, lavender, geranium and lemongrass.
The nervous system is where the main action of basil occurs, it has a strengthening and reviving effect and makes an excellent nerve tonic. As it is a balancing oil it is both uplifting and relaxing which leads to an overall restorative result. The use of this oil will help to alleviate nervous insomnia, depression, tension headaches, anxiety and fatigue.
If overwork, tension and debility result in sexual problems then the toning and restorative action of basil can help. For this, use in an oil burner, as a massage oil or in the bath. It may also be used to treat very scanty or even absent periods where the cause is from stress or debility. The antispasmodic properties of this herb make it ideal to relieve menstrual cramps, the diluted oil should be massaged over the abdomen.
Another action of basil is on the digestive system and in particular the small intestine. It relieves flatulence and is good where nervous tension results in digestive disorders, for example nervous indigestion. It may be used to treat intestinal infections and gastro-enteritis as it has antiseptic and antispasmodic properties. Again, dilute in a base oil and massage over the abdomen.
Used as a steam inhalation, this oil will treat spasmodic respiratory conditions such as coughs. It is useful for debility following prolonged colds and catarrh. It is effective in the treatment of rheumatism and gout and may be used as a rubbing oil or compress to alleviate muscular aches and pains.
Finally, as a first aid treatment the use of basil will relieve insect bite and wasp stings. This is an extremely versatile oil which must be used with respect.