Totally unlike the herbal basil oils normally seen, India’s Holy Basil has a rich, spicy aroma because it is high in eugenol, the phytochemical that gives cloves and our new cinnamon leaf their distinctive notes.
Because of its chemical content, this basil may be a strong irritant and should be used in very low dilutions.
Some sources indicate that it can be useful in relieving the pain of peripheral neuropathy and arthritis and other joint diseases (perhaps combined in a blend with an anti-inflammatory oil like Roman Chamomile or Helichrysum ). Jeanne Rose indicates that it may have hormonal-like action on the prostate gland. (I am a bit skeptical about that, but then again, I don’t honestly know.) Diluted in a massage base or used in a warm compress it may help calm gastric discomfort.
The oil is reported to possess anti-bacterial and insecticidal properties. It inhibits the in vitro growth of Mycobacterium tuberculosis and Micrococcus pyogenes var. aureus. It has marked insecticidal activity against mosquitos although it is not comparable to that of pyrethrum; the mosquito repellent activity lasts for about 2 hrs.
Emotionally, Holy Basil, through inhalation, may aid with anxiety, hysteria, and nervous depression. It is a stress reducer without being a sedative. Some sources indicate that, like other basils, it will enhance clarity of thought and aid memory retention.
This basil is considered a sacred herb in India, where it is planted around doorways to banish evil spirits. In various parts of the Orient it is planted around temples, and used in prayer beads.
A key ingredient in our Summer Sunshine Solstice blend, and an oil to consider if constructing your own blend to celebrate midsummer.
SAFETY: Robert Tisserand advises skin sensitization (moderate risk), mucous membrane irritation (low risk). May have drug interacts with pethidine, MAOIS, SSRIs, anticoagulant medications. Contraindicated in major surgery, peptic ulcer, hemophilia, other bleeding disorders. Maximum dermal use level of 0.7% – 1.0%
SHELF LIFE: Approximately 2 to 3 years after you open the bottle. Storing dark, refrigerated, and decanting half full bottles into smaller, full bottles will extend shelf life.
Photos courtesy of The Essential Herbal Magazine.