Basil essential oil helps block the activity of the enzyme called cyclooxygenase (COX). Anti-inflammatory drugs (aspirin, ibuprofen) inhibit COX, but so does basil. Basil qualifies as an anti-inflammatory food that helps provide relief from inflammatory issues. It has anti-bacterial properties that protect against unwanted bacterial growth. Basil is also high in antioxidants which fight against free radicals that can attach onto cells and cause cancer, specifically phenolics which include vicenin, orientin, eugenol and anthocyanins. They work together protecting cells from damage.