When you purchase Basil essential oil, do you know which kind you are getting? Does the bottle provide you with the Latin name? Does it indicate which chemotype?
If you are not told any more information than just “Basil,” you are likely purchasing the most common – and potentially carcinogenic – Basil high in estragole.
Safety of Different Basil Essential Oils
Basil ct linalool – Ocimum basilicum ct linalool
Contains 53.7% – 58.3% linalool and 9.4% – 15.2% eugenol, and has a topical max level of 3.3% (source).
Basil – Ocimum basilicum ct estragole
Potentially carcinogenic (source) due to high levels of estragole and methyleugenol. This particular chemotype contains between 73.4% and 87.4% estragole and up to 4.2% methyleugenol. Due to this the max dermal use level is suggested to stay at 0.1%, and never taken orally.
Hairy Basil (Hoary Basil) – Ocimum americanum var pilosum
Only trace amounts of estragole. Its primary constituent is linalool, at 31.7 – 50.1%, with terpinen-4-ol as high as 26.8%. Max dermal use level of 30% (source).
Holy Basil – Ocimum tenuiflorum synonym Ocimum sanctum
Contains anywhere between 31.9% – 50.4% eugenol. It does contain estragole at a level of 9.7% – 12.9% and thus has a topical max level of 1.0% (source).
Lemon Basil – Ocimum x citriodorum
Key constituents of geranial (23.3% – 25.1%) and neral (16% – 17.1%) make this essential oil's topical max 1.4% (source).
Madagascan Basil – Osimum gratissimum synonym Ocimum viride
Contains 45% – 50% estragole and 24% – 30% camphor, and thus has a topical max of 0.2%, and should not be used orally (source).
Basil ct methyl cinnamate – Ocimum basilicum ct methyl cinnamate
Comprised of 58% – 63.1% methyl cinnamate and 17.3% – 27.3% linalool and has a topical max of 15% (source).
Pungent Basil (Shrubby/Tree/Russian/East Indian) – Ocimum gratissimum synonym Ocimum viride
Has 62.9% eugenol. Topical max is 0.8% (source).
Did you notice that they have widely varying max dermal use levels? Safe topical usage varies from 0.2% right up to 30%.
Did you also spot that Madagascan Basil and Pungent Basil have the same Latin name? This is where Latin names can sometimes not be enough information. In order to tell which one is high in estragole and which is high in eugenol we need access to the GC/MS report for that oil. It would be wonderful if each company listed these right on their websites.
If your bottle does not say, check out the website and see if they tell you there. If not, call them up and ask them! Unfortunately, they might not even know. It’s possible their supplier is selling it to them as “Basil” with no further information. Let your company know why you want to know.
So what kind of Basil do you have? Access full safety files for the Basils here.