Botanical name Ocimum basilicum, ct. Estragole
INCI Name Ocimum sanctum leaf extract
Crop Season November - February
Plant/part used Leaves
Method of extraction Steam distillation
Appearance Colourless to Pale yellow liquid
Bergamot, Clary Sage, Clove Bud, Lime, Eucalyptus, Juniper, Neroli and Rosemary.
Basil has a sweet, spicy, fresh scent with a faint balsamic woody back note and a lasting sweetness that makes for a strong top note.
Holy Basil, also known as Tulsi or as the botanical Ocimum basilicum, ct. Estragole and Ocimum basilicum, ct. Estragole is native to parts of Southern India and South East Asia. It is used extensively across India in the practice of Ayurvedic medicine and for spiritual purposes.
In Ayurvedic medicine it is know to help treat colds, headaches, stomach disorders, inflammation, heart disease, various forms of poisoning, and malaria.
As a food ingredient the dried herb is very popular in Thai cuisine where it is often called 'Thai Holy Basil' (known locally as kaphrao). You will find it in many traditional Thai dishes so look out for it when you next indulge in your favourite Thai dishes!
In aromatherapy Holy Basil purifies and cleanses the air and is thought to support our respiratory, nervous and digestive systems.
It can also be used as an 'energiser' in room diffusers it is thought to stimulate the creative receptors in the brain when working (a good one to sneak into the office!).
Although basil grows best outdoors, it can be grown indoors in a pot and, like most herbs, will do best on a sun-facing windowsill. It should be kept away from extremely cold drafts, and grows best in strong sunlight, therefore a greenhouse or row cover is ideal if available. It can, however, be grown even in a basement, under fluorescent lights.
If its leaves have wilted from lack of water, it will recover if watered thoroughly and placed in a sunny location. Yellow leaves towards the bottom of the plant are an indication that the plant has been stressed; usually this means that it needs less water, or less or more fertilizer.
Basil is possibly native to India and has been cultivated there for more than 5,000 years. It was thoroughly familiar to the Greek authors Theophrastus and Discords. It is a tender plant, best known as a culinary herb prominently featured Italian cuisine, and also plays a major role in Southeast Asian cuisines of Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Taiwan. Depending on the species and cultivar, the leaves may taste somewhat like anise, with a strong, pungent, often sweet smell.
Due to the presence of thujone in this oil, please consult a physician prior to using it. Dilute before use; for external use only. May cause skin irritation in some individuals; a skin test is recommended prior to use. Contact with eyes should be avoided.
Bornyl acetate 0–1.1%
Quality May be adulterated with added estragole.
Hazards Potentially carcinogenic, based on estragole and methyleugenol content; may inhibit blood clotting.
Contraindications Should not be taken in oral doses.
Maximum dermal use level
Tisserand & Young 0.1%
Our safety advice
We recommend a dermal maximum of 0.1% based on 87.4% estragole and 4.2% methyleugenol content, and dermal limits of 0.12% for estragole and 0.02% for methyleugenol.
The Commission E Monograph for basil oil includes the following: ‘Due to the high estragole content, basil oil preparations should not be used during pregnancy, nursing, by infants and small children, or over extended periods of time’ (Blumenthal et al 1998). IFRA recommends a maximum dermal use level for estragole of 0.01% in leave-on or wash-off preparations for body and face (IFRA 2009). IFRA also recommends a maximum concentration of 0.0004% of methyleugenol for leave-on products such as body lotion (IFRA 2009). The equivalent SCCNFP maximum for methyleugenol is 0.0002%.
Adverse skin reactions Undiluted basil oil was mildly irritating to mice; tested at 4% on 25 volunteers it was neither irritating nor sensitizing. It is non-phototoxic. A 65-year-old aromatherapist with multiple essential oil sensitivities reacted to both 1% and 5% basil oil.
Cardiovascular effects Estragole inhibits platelet aggregation, an essential step in the blood clotting cascade.
Acute toxicity Basil oil (estragole CT) acute oral LD50 in rats 1.4 mL/kg; acute dermal LD50 in rabbits >5 mL/kg.
Carcinogenic/anticarcinogenic potential A basil oil consisting of 88.2% estragole showed a very similar degree of genotoxicity to estragole in a rat liver DNA repair test. Basil oil showed moderate chemopreventive activity against human mouth epidermal carcinoma cells and significant activity against mouse leukemia cells, with respective IC50 values of 303 and 36 mg/mL. Estragole and methyleugenol are rodent carcinogens when oral exposure is sufficiently high.
Comments The Mu¨ller et al data show that the other constituents of basil oil have no effect on the genotoxicity of the estragole in the oil.