Ocimum basilicum

scientific name: 
Ocimum basilicum L.
Botanical family: 

Botanical description

Erect annual herb 30-60 cm high. Stems pubescent, leaves elliptic, ovate or sub-rhombic, 2-4 cm x 1-2 cm, tip acute, base narrow, margins lightly dentate or entire, glabrous except on veins; inflorescence verticillate ca. 20 cm long; corolla white to mauve, 4-5 mm long; fruit an oblong, black, minutely verrucose, nutlet.





  pellet of mashed leaf, applied locally1

stomach pain:

  leaf, infusion, orally1


  leaf, infusion, orally2

The leaf of Ocimum basilicum is widely used for human consumption.

For stomach pain and vomiting:

Prepare an infusion: add 500 mL (2 cups) of boiling water to 5-7 grams (2 spoonfuls) of fresh leaf.  Cover pot, leave to settle for 5-10 minutes, and filter.  Drink 1 cup 3 times per day, or as needed depending on symptomatic condition24.

For earache:

There is no available information establishing a means of preparation and dosage other than that referred to by traditional use.

Any medicinal preparation must be preserved cold and used within the 24 hours.

According to published and other information:

Use for stomach pain and vomiting is classified as REC, based on the significant traditional use documented in the TRAMIL surveys, and on available published scientific information.

Use for earache is classified as REC, based on the significant traditional use (OMS/WHO)3 documented in the TRAMIL surveys.

Due to the health risks involved with earache, an initial medical evaluation is recommended.  Use is contraindicated when there are secretions through the ear and / or eventual tympanum perforation.

For application in the ear, strict hygiene measures should be observed in order to avoid contamination or additional infection.

Should there be a notable worsening of the patient’s condition, or should earache or vomiting last more than 2 days or should stomach pain persist for more than 3 days, seek medical attention.

Not for use during pregnancy, during lactation or by children under 5 years old.

Trabajo TRAMIL23

La decocción de partes aéreas frescas al 30%, se aplicó tópicamente sobre la piel (0,6 mL, equivalente a 0,18 g de material vegetal fresco, en un área de aproximadamente 6 cm2), en conejo macho Nueva Zelanda. A las 4 horas se retiró el parche y se hicieron observaciones para las lecturas de eritema y edema a las 24, 48 y 72 horas, no evidenciándose ningún signo clínico, por lo que la decocción de hoja fresca se encuentra en la categoría no irritante.

The methanolic extract (80%) from the fresh aerial parts was not mutagenic in Salmonella typhimurium TM67718.

The fluid extract from the aerial parts with a hydroalcoholic (70%) solvent proved to be mutagenic, in vitro, in Ames test on Salmonella typhymurium TA98 with metabolic activation (1500 and 5000 mg of total solids/ plate), and on TA1535 without metabolic activation (50, 150, 500 and 1500 mg/ plate).  It was moderately cytotoxic in the mitotic segregation test, without showing genetic damage on Aspergillus nidulans (0.005 to 1 mg/mL).  In the in vivo assay of mouse bone marrow micronuclei (500, 1000 and 2000 mg/kg), no genotoxic response was observed at the studied doses19.

The LD50 of the plant powder in rat was higher than 6 g/kg9.

The LD50 of the methanolic extract (80%) from the fresh aerial parts administered orally to mice was higher than 2 g/kg18.

El extracto etanolico (3:1) de hoja seca administrado por vía oral al ratón Swiss albino (peso 18 a 22 g)mostró una DL50 = 956.50 mg/kg, según el método OECD-198720.

The essential oil is claimed to have spermicidal effects in vitro4.

The essential oil has been described as having carcinogenic principles: safrol and estragole21.  Estragole orally administered to rats is partially metabolized in 1’-hydroxy-estragole, considered a carcinogenic.  In humans, only a small portion is hydrolyzed, so no limits have been set on ingestion22.

Due to the possible risk associated with estragole, therapeutic use is discouraged during pregnancy, during lactation or by children; if prescribed, however, it should be prescribed only for short periods of time22.

The leaf has been extensively studied and contains, among other components,

essential oil: citronellol (24%), estragole (56%), limonene, linalool, α-humulene, ß-caryophyllene, camphor, trans-anethole4, cineol, methylcinnamate, eugenol, terpinen-4-ol5; coumarins:aesculetin, aesculin; phenylpropanoids: r-coumaric acid, caffeic acid6;flavonoids: campherol, quercetin, iso-quercetin, rutin, eriodictyol, vicenin6.

Proximate analysis of 100 g of fresh leaf7: calories: 43; water: 86.5%; proteins: 3.3%; fat: 1.2%; carbohydrates: 7%; fiber: 2%; ash: 2%; calcium: 320 mg; phosphorus: 38 mg; iron: 4.8 mg; sodium: 12 mg; potassium: 429 mg; carotene: 4500 µg; thiamine: 0.08 mg; riboflavin: 0.35 mg; niacin: 0.80 mg; ascorbic acid: 27 mg.

The leaf and flower in a guinea pig isolated ileum test showed antispasmodic properties, while in a carrageenan-induced pain test, it caused analgesic effects8.

The aqueous extract from the leaf administered orally to rats (4 g/kg) in an aspirin-induced gastric ulcer test inhibited gastric secretion and showed antiulcerogenic activity9.  Antiulcerogenic effects have been compared to the effects of ranitidine, and attributed to the flavonoid heterosides present in the aqueous extract from the aerial parts10.

The essential oil is claimed to have antibacterial activity in vitro against gram + and gram - organisms and miscellaneous antimycotic activity11-15, as well as insecticidal activity in vitro (0.002%) on Culex fatigans andAllacophora foveicollis larvae11.  It is described as inhibitor of glutathione S-transferase on the small intestine and liver of mice, but not on the stomach (30 mg/animal)16.

The essential oil is claimed to exert a relaxant activity on the isolated smooth muscle of guinea pig, at a mean effective dose of ED50 = 19 mg/L on trachea and ED50 = 32 mg/L on ileum17.


1 GIRON L, 1988 Encuesta TRAMIL (Costa atlántica). Centro Mesoamericano de Tecnología CEMAT, Guatemala, Guatemala.

2 CHARLES C, 1988 TRAMIL survey. Movement for Cultural Awareness MCA, Roseau, Dominica.

3 WHO, 1991 Guidelines for the assessment of herbal medicines. WHO/TRM/91.4. Programme on Traditional Medicines, WHO, Geneva, Switzerland.

4 BUCH JG, DIKSHIT RK, MANSURI SM, 1988 Effect of certain volatile oils on ejaculated human spermatozoa. Indian J Med Res 87(4):361-363.

5 RODRIGUES R, ODETE L, 1991 Composition of the Ocimum basilicum oil. Bol Fac Farm Coimbra 15(1):47-51.

6 SKALTSA H, PHILIANOS S, 1990 Contribution to the chemical study of Ocimum basilicum L.: 2nd communication. Plant Med Phytother 24(3):193-196.

7 DUKE JA, ATCHLEY AA, 1986 Handbook of proximate analysis tables of higher plants. Boca Raton, USA: CRC Press. p114.

8 QUEIROZ I, REIS S, 1989 Antispasmodic and analgesic effects of some medicinal plants (conference). Brasil: Simpósio Brasil-China de Química e Farmacologia de Produtos Naturais, Abstr. Nº 180.

9 AKHTAR MS, MUNIR M, 1989 Evaluation of the gastric antiulcerogenic effects of Solanum nigrum, Brassica oleracea and Ocimum basilicum in rats. J Ethnopharmacol 27(1/2):163-176.

10 AKHTAR MSA, AKHTAR AH, KHAN A, 1992 Antiulcerogenic effects ofOcimum basilicum extracts, volatile oils and flavonoid glycosides in albino rats. Int J Pharmacognosy 30(2):97-104.

11 DUBE S, UPADHYAY PD, TRIPATHI SC, 1989 Antifungal, physicochemical, and insect-repelling activity of the essential oil of Ocimum basilicum. Can J Bot 67(7):2085-2087.

12 JANSSEN AM, CHIN NL, SCHEFFER JJ, BAERHEIM-SVENDSEN A, 1986 Screening for antimicrobial activity of some essential oils by the agar overlay technique. Pharm Weekbl (Sci Ed) 8(6):289-292.

13 DIKSHIT A, HUSAIN A, 1984 Antifungal action of some essential oils against animal pathogens. Fitoterapia 55(3):171-176.

14 EL KELTAWI NEM, MEGALLA SE, ROSS S, 1980 Antimicrobial activity of some Egyptian aromatic plants. Herbal Pol 26(4):245-250.

15 MARUZZELLA JC, SCRANDIS DA, SCRANDIS JB, GRABON G, 1960 Action of odoriferous organic chemicals and essential oils on wood-destroying fungi. Plant Dis Rept 44:789-792.

16 LAM L, ZHENG B, 1991 Effects of essential oils on glutathione S-transferase activity in mice. J Agric Food Chem 39(4):660-662.

17 REITER M, BRANDT W, 1985 Relaxant effects of terpenoid on tracheal and ileal smooth muscles of the guinea pig. Arzneim-Forsch 35(1):408-414.

18 HUSSAIN RA, POVEDA LJ, PEZZUTO JM, SOEJARTO DD, KINGHORN AD, 1990 Sweetening agents of plant origin: Phenylpropanoid constituents of seven sweet-tasting plants. Econ Bot 44(2):174-182.

19 GARCIA LOPEZ A, VIZOSO PARRA A, RAMOS RUIZ A, PILOTO J, 2000 Estudio toxicogenético de un extracto fluido de Ocimun basilicum L. (albahaca blanca). Rev Cubana Planta Med 5(3):78-83.

20 LOGARTO PARRA A, SILVA YHEBRA R, GUERRA SARDINAS I, IGLESIAS BUELA L, 2001 Comparative study of the assay of Artemia salina L. and the estimate of the medium lethal dose (LD50 value) in mice, to determine oral acute toxicity of plant extracts. Phytomedicine 8(5):395-400.

21 DUKE JA, 1985 Handbook of medicinal herbs. Boca Raton, USA: CRC Press.

22 CANIGUERAL S, VILA R, RISCO E, PEREZ F, PORTILLO A, FREIXA B, MILO B, VANACLOCHA B, RIOS JL, MORALES MA, ALONSO JR, BACHILLER LI, PERIS JB, STUBING G, 2002 Albahaca (Ocimum basilicum L.). Vademecum de Fitoterapia, Editorial Masson, Barcelona, España, Nov. 20, 2003. URL: http://www.masson.es/book/fitoterapia.html

23 LOPEZ M, MARTINEZ MJ, MOREJON Z, BOUCOURT E, FERRADA C, FUENTES V, MORON F, 2005 Irritabilidad dérmica primaria de una decocción de partes aéreas frescas de Ocimum basilicum L. Informe TRAMIL. Laboratorio Central de Farmacología, Facultad de Medicina “Dr. Salvador Allende”, Cerro, C. Habana, Cuba.

24 POUSSET J, 1989 Plantes médicinales africaines. Paris, France: ACCT.


The information provided is for educational purposes only for the benefit of the general public and health professionals. It is not intended to take the place of either the written law or regulations. Since some parts of plants could be toxic, might induce side effects, or might have interactions with certain drugs, anyone intending to use them or their products must first consult with a physician or another qualified health care professional. TRAMIL has no responsibility whatsoever towards the user for any decision, action or omission made in relation to the information contained in this Pharmacopoeia.