Basil is best known for its culinary uses. It is the primary ingredient of pesto, a sauce used for breads and pasta dishes throughout the Mediterranean. However, fresh basil leaves may also offer medicinal benefits. Check with your physician before using fresh basil leaves for any medicinal purpose.
Basil may help prevent acne outbreaks and speed the healing of acne lesions. The oil in fresh basil leaves may help clear bacteria from the skin that contribute to clogged pores, according to Michael Castleman, author of "The New Healing Herbs." However, consuming fresh basil may not help clear or prevent acne -- it must be applied to affected areas of the skin to help destroy bacteria.
Fresh basil may be soaked in olive or almond oil and inhaled as a treatment for depression, according to Gill Farrer-Halls, author of "The Aromatherapy Bible." The aroma of basil may help relieve sadness, fatigue and lack of mental clarity associated with depression. However, basil should not be used in place of traditional medical or psychological treatment for depression. Depression is a serious condition that requires the supervision of a doctor or mental health professional.
Consuming fresh basil leaves may boost immune system function. The chemical compounds in basil may improve production of infection-fighting antibodies by up to 20 percent, according to Castleman. Basil may also help destroy viral cells that cause flu and the common cold.
Fresh basil may offer stronger benefits than dried versions. The dehydration process used to produce dried basil may destroy some of the chemical compounds and oils found in the leaves of this herb.
Basil has been used in folk remedies around the world as a labor inducer; however, no uterine stimulant exists in fresh basil leaves, according to Castleman. The FDA considers basil safe for consumption and external use. In rare cases, however, it may cause stomach upset.