Does Basil Leaf Relieve Itching from Insect Bites?

Does Basil Leaf Relieve Itching from Insect Bites?

Can basil leaves be used to treat itching proceeding insect bites? Today we’ll look at the science and recommendations from the Center of Disease Control.

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Basil Leaf, a Treatment for Insect Bites?

Basil is a herb, the flavorful leaves of which are dried, crumbled and often used for seasoning while cooking. There are also many reports that basil leaf has some medicinal properties. One of these alleged curative uses is the treatment of itching resulting from insect bites. A Google search reveals a profusion of web pages on the subject, many of which recommend rubbing dried basil leaves or basil oil on the affected area of skin. But what does science say on the subject?

Scientific Evidence on Using Basil Leaf to Treat Insect Bites

Credit: Paul Goyette / Flickr

Credit: Paul Goyette / Flickr

A New York University webpage on insect bites mentions that a number of essential oils, including that of hairy basil (Ocimum americanum), have been used to treat insect bites, yet the scientific evidence acknowledging any benefits is introductory. Correspondingly, the WebMD page on uses of basil declares there is currently insufficient scientific evidence to support its usage as a treatment for insect bites. However, there does seem to be some mixed evidence. Citing a 2008 science study which indicates that itching can be relieved by the compounds of camphor and thymol within basil, the Huffington Post included basil as one of 14 natural remedies for mosquito bites in a 2012 article.

Center of Disease Control Recommendations

According to the Center of Disease Control (CDC), one of the best ways to treat insect bites is prevention, and they recommend using a repellant that has been registered with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Their website claims that “EPA registration means that EPA does not expect the product to cause adverse effects to human health or the environment when used according to the label”. Repellants containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, some oil of lemon eucalyptus, and para-menthane-diol are stated to be the most efficient and long-lasting.

Bottom Line

Many websites claim that rubbing basil leaves or basil oil on insect bites will relieve itching. On the other hand, scientific evidence that basil is effective in this regard is scant with some mixed results. It certainly won’t hurt to try this questionable natural remedy, yet the CDC recommends using insect repellants registered with the EPA.

Have you used basil leaf or basil oil to treat insect bites? Gives us your reviews in the comments below.

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