Basil use while Breastfeeding
Medically reviewed on April 2, 2018.
Basil Levels and Effects while Breastfeeding
Summary of Use during Lactation
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) contains linalool, 1,8 cineole (eucalyptol), methylchavicol, methylcinnamate and an essential oil with high estragole content. Estragole might be a procarcinogen. Basil is a purported galactogogue and has also been used to decrease breastmilk oversupply in Persian traditional medicine. No scientifically valid clinical trials support either of these uses. Galactogogues should never replace evaluation and counseling on modifiable factors that affect milk production. No data exist on the excretion of any components of basil into breastmilk or on the safety and efficacy of basil in nursing mothers or infants. Basil is "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) as a food by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Basil appears to be safe during breastfeeding in the amounts found in foods, but many sources recommend that medicinal doses of basil not be used during lactation because of its estragole content and lack of safety information.
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Maternal Levels. Twelve nursing mothers who were19 weeks to 19 months postpartum ingested 100 mg of 1,8 cineole (eucalyptol) in the form of delayed-release capsules (Soledum-Klosterfrau Vertriebs GmbH, Germany) that release the drug in the intestine. Then they pumped 1 to 4 milk samples at the time they perceived the smell of eucalyptus on their breath which had been previously shown to be approximately concurrent. A total of 21 milk samples were obtained. Odor was rated by a panel of 3 to 5 experts as either smelling like eucalyptus or not. Fourteen of the samples had a distinct eucalyptus-like odor. Chemical analysis of the positive odor tests found 1,8-cineole in concentrations from 70 to about 2090 mcg/kg of milk, most in the range of 100 to 500 mcg/kg of milk. Samples with negative odor tests contained concentrations in the range of 0.98 to about 20.23 mcg/kg of milk. In one woman who donated 3 samples, the highest concentration of 71 mcg/kg occurred at 1.5 hours after ingestion, with concentrations of 1 mcg/kg before ingestion and 15 mcg/kg at 9.5 hours after ingestion. Eight women had their milk analyzed for 1,8-cineole metabolites. Ten metabolites and several enantiomers of these metabolites were detected.
Infant Levels. Relevant published information was not found as of the revision date.
Effects in Breastfed Infants
Nursing mothers who were participating in an experiment on the excretion of 1,8-cineole (eucalyptol) in breastmilk took a 100 mg capsule of 1,8-cineole orally. Although instructed not to, 12 mothers breastfed their infants during the experiment. Mothers reported that none of their infants refused their milk or breastfed less than usual. Two mothers felt that their infants were more agitated a few hours after breastfeeding. A third mother reported that the infant stopped nursing from time to time and "looked puzzled", but resumed nursing. Upon repeating the experiment 6 weeks later, the infant did not react in an unusual way during breastfeeding.
Effects on Lactation and Breastmilk
Relevant published information was not found as of the revision date.
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7. Kirsch F, Horst K, Rohrig W et al. Tracing metabolite profiles in human milk: studies on the odorant 1,8-cineole transferred into breast milk after oral intake. Metabolomics. 2013;9:483-96. DOI: doi:10.1007/s11306-012-0466-9
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