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African Basil

Scientific Name(s): Ocimum gratissimum L.
Common Name(s): African basil, Clove basil, East Indian basil, Nchanwu leaf, Russian basil, Shrubby basil, Tree basil, Wild basil (Hawaii)

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Nov 22, 2021.

Clinical Overview


There are limited clinical data to support a place in therapy for O. gratissimum; however, antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory activity has been demonstrated in vitro and in animal models. Potential applications in diabetes and hepatic and cardiovascular disease have been suggested, but there is no evidence to support these uses.


Clinical trials are lacking to provide dosing recommendations for African basil.


Contraindications have not been identified.


Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. O. gratissimum may have abortifacient effects.


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

None documented.


No data.

Scientific Family

  • Lamiaceae (mint)


O. gratissimum is an aromatic, perennial plant native to Africa, Madagascar, and southern Asia. It grows up to 1 m in height, with multiple branches arising from its base. It has elliptic-lanceolate leaves that taper at both ends, and long, pale, white to pinkish flower spikes. Recognized synonyms for African basil include Ocimum suave and Ocimum viride Willd.Plants 2016, USDA 2016, Nweze 2009

Related plants include Ocimum basilicum (sweet basil), Ocimum canum (African mint), Ocimum campechianum (Amazonian basil), and Ocimum tenuiflorum or Ocimum sanctum (holy basil).


Dried leaves of the plant are used for flavoring food and have traditionally been used to alleviate headache and fever, among other uses.Nweze 2009 The plant has traditionally been used in some African countries to induce abortion,Nikolajsen 2011 facilitate childbirth, and reduce associated pain.Attah 2012 It has also been used in the management of diabetes.Ejike 2013


Similar to other members of the Ocimum genus, O. gratissimum contains an essential oil, alkaloids, glycosides, tannins, and other chemical constituents. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry has been used to elucidate the constituents of the essential oil: eugenol and methyl eugenol, alpha and beta-caryophyllene, 1,8 cineole, methyl chavicol, carvacrol, linalool, thymol, limonene, gamma-terpinene, camphor, germacrene A, beta-ocimene, and cinnamyl acetate. Chemical composition varies with geographical location and environmental and genetic factors.Pandey 2014, Mahajan 2013

Uses and Pharmacology

Anti-inflammatory activity

In vitro and animal data

In models of respiratory allergy (in vitro experiments evaluating effects on airway epithelial cells, in vivo studies in rodents), O. gratissimum demonstrated effects on markers of inflammation, including interleukins, protein kinases, and leukocytes/eosinophils.Costa 2012, Jiao 2013

In mouse paw edema studies, ethanol and aqueous extracts of O. suave demonstrated anti-inflammatory activity.Masresha 2012 Limited studies in rodents suggest antinociceptive activity of O. gratissimum extracts and essential oil, which may be mediated through the opioid and endocannabinoid systems.Paula-Freire 2013, Paula-Freire 2014

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of O. gratissimum as an anti-inflammatory agent.

Antimicrobial activity

In vitro and animal data

Antimicrobial activity against relevant human pathogens (including Escherichia coli, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Staphylococcus aureus, Enterococcus faecalis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Enterobacter spp., Vibrio spp., and periodontopathic organisms) has been demonstrated.Nweze 2009, Tibyangye 2015, Ocheng 2015, Adesina 2015, Igbinosa 2016 Antifungal activity of the essential oil has also been observed in vitro.Nweze 2009, Prakash 2011 O. gratissimum extracts have been used in topical preparations as a mosquito repellant.Keziah 2015

Clinical data

A small clinical study evaluated the effect of an O. gratissimum mouthwash in reducing gingivitis. Plaque and bleeding were reduced in both the test and control groups, with O. gratissimum demonstrating equivalence to the chlorhexidine used in control subjects.Pereira 2011

Cardiovascular effects

Animal data

In a study in rats, O. gratissimum essential oil demonstrated endothelium-dependent, vasorelaxant effects and decreased perfusion pressure in isolated mesenteric vascular beds.Pires 2012

An extract of O. gratissimum attenuated induced cardiac abnormalities associated with liver fibrosis in rats, possibly by influencing the interleukin-6 signaling pathwayLi 2012 or by inducing antioxidant effects.Chiu 2014

In Wistar rats, O. gratissimum extracts reversed toxicity and blood pressure changes associated with cobalt-chloride exposure, indicating a protective effect.Akinrinde 2016

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding the use of O. gratissimum as a cardiovascular agent.


In vitro and animal data

Limited reports in rodents suggest glucose-lowering effects of O. gratissimum extracts, which indicates a propensity of O. gratissimum to reverse impairment of nutrient digestion and absorption in diabetes mellitus.Okon 2015, Shittu 2016 In vivo and in vitro studies evaluating the constituent eugenol showed reductions in blood glucose levels, possibly due to the inhibition of alpha-glucosidase (insulin and glycated hemoglobin levels remained unchanged).Singh 2016

Clinical data

A small study (N = 27) evaluated the effect of O. gratissimum decoctions, given singly or as a combination decoction, on oral glucose tolerance. Neither the peak time of the oral glucose tolerance test nor the area under the curve changed relative to baseline with O. gratissimum alone.Ejike 2013

Other uses

In rats with induced gastric ulcers, the aqueous leaves extract of O. gratissimum decreased gastric acid secretion and ulceration.Ofem 2012

Activity against certain cancer cell linesNangia-Makker 2013, Pandey 2015 and antisickling activity of ursolic acid isolated from O. gratissimum have been demonstrated.Tshilanda 2015

O. gratissimum essential oil exhibited larvicidal activity against the Aedes albopictus mosquito, an important and proven viral disease vector.Sumitha 2016


Clinical trials are lacking to provide dosing recommendations for African basil.

Pregnancy / Lactation

Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Women in Africa reportedly use O. gratissimum to induce abortion,Nikolajsen 2011 facilitate childbirth, and reduce associated pain.Attah 2012


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

None documented.


Equivocal findings regarding toxic effects of orally administered O. gratissimum on hematological parameters (eg, red blood cell count, hemoglobin, platelet and neutrophil counts) have been reported in animal studies; the effects on human blood are unknown.Ofem 2012, Obianime 2011

The essential oil was reportedly nontoxic in mice, with a high acute median lethal dose of 11,622.67 mcL/kg.Prakash 2011

Index Terms

  • Ocimum basilicum
  • Ocimum campechianum
  • Ocimum canum
  • Ocimum sanctum
  • Ocimum suave
  • Ocimum tenuiflorum
  • Ocimum viride Willd.
  • African mint
  • Amazonian basil
  • Holy basil
  • Sweet basil


Adesina TD, Nwinyi OC, Olugbuyiro JA. Prevention of bacterial biofilms formation on urinary catheter by selected plant extracts. Pak J Biol Sci. 2015;18(2):67-73.26364356
Akinrinde AS, Oyagbemi AA, Omobowale TO, Asenuga ER, Ajibade TO. Alterations in blood pressure, antioxidant status and caspase 8 expression in cobalt chloride-induced cardio-renal dysfunction are reversed by Ocimum gratissimum and gallic acid in Wistar rats. J Trace Elem Med Biol. 2016;36:27-37.27259349
Attah AF, O'Brien M, Koehbach J, et al. Uterine contractility of plants used to facilitate childbirth in Nigerian ethnomedicine. J Ethnopharmacol. 2012;143(1):377-382.22766472
Chiu YW, Chao PY, Tsai CC, et al. Ocimum gratissimum is effective in prevention against liver fibrosis in vivo and in vitro. Am J Chin Med. 2014;42(4):833-852.25004878
Costa RS, Carneiro TC, Cerqueira-Lima AT, et al. Ocimum gratissimum Linn. and rosmarinic acid, attenuate eosinophilic airway inflammation in an experimental model of respiratory allergy to Blomia tropicalis. Int Immunopharmacol. 2012;13(1):126-134.22465960
Ejike CE, Awazie SO, Nwangozi PA, Godwin CD. Synergistic postprandial blood glucose modulatory properties of Vernonia amygdalina (Del.), Gongronema latifolium (Benth.) and Occimum gratissimum (Linn.) aqueous decoctions. J Ethnopharmacol. 2013;149(1):111-116.23770031
Igbinosa EO, Idemudia OG. Anti-vibrio potentials of acetone and aqueous leaf extracts of Ocimum gratissumum (Linn). Trop J Pharm Res. 2016;15(4):743-750.
Jiao ZL, Li L, Zhao ZG, Liu D, Lin BW, Li HJ. Aqueous extracts of Ocimum grasstimum inhibits lipopolysaccharide-induced interleukin-6 and interleukin-8 expression in airway epithelial cell BEAS-2B. Chin J Integr Med. 2013;19(10):741-748.23212574
Keziah EA, Nukenine EN, Danga SP, Younoussa L, Esimone CO. Creams formulated with Ocimum gratissimum L. and Lantana camara L. crude extracts and fractions as mosquito repellents against Aedes aegypti L. (Diptera: Culicidae). J Insect Sci. 2015;15.25881633
Li PC, Chiu YW, Lin YM, et al. Herbal supplement ameliorates cardiac hypertrophy in rats with CCl(4)-induced liver cirrhosis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:139045.23243427
Mahajan N, Rawal S, Verma M, Poddar M, Alok S. A phytopharmacological overview on Ocimum species with special emphasis on Ocimum sanctum. Biomed Prev Nutr. 2013;3(2):185-192.
Masresha B, Makonnen E, Debella A. In vivo anti-inflammatory activities of Ocimum suave in mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 2012;142(1):201-205.22561892
Nangia-Makker P, Raz T, Tait L, et al. Ocimum gratissimum retards breast cancer growth and progression and is a natural inhibitor of matrix metalloproteases. Cancer Biol Ther. 2013;14(5):417-427.23380593
Nikolajsen T, Nielsen F, Rasch V, et al. Uterine contraction induced by Tanzanian plants used to induce abortion. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011;137(1):921-925.21645605
Nweze EI, Eze EE. Justification for the use of Ocimum gratissimum L in herbal medicine and its interaction with disc antibiotics. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2009;9:37.19785729
Obianime A, Aprioku J, Esomonu C. The effects of aqueous Ocimum gratissimum leaf extract on some biochemical and hematological parameters in male mice. Asian J Biol Sci. 2011;4(1):44-52.
Ocheng F, Bwanga F, Joloba M, et al. Essential oils from Ugandan aromatic medicinal plants: chemical composition and growth inhibitory effects on oral pathogens. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:230832.26120574
Ocimum gratissimum. USDA, NRCS. 2016. The PLANTS Database ( 2016). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA.
Ofem O, Ani E, Eno A. Effect of aqueous leaves extract of Ocimum gratissimum on hematological parameters in rats. Int J Appl Basic Med Res. 2012;2(1):38-42.23776807
Ofem OE, Eno AE, Antai AB. Gastric acid anti-secretory, anti-ulcerogenic and mucogenic effects of aqueous leaves' extract of Ocimum gratissimum in rats. Niger J Physiol Sci. 2012;27(1):41-47.23235307
Okon UA, Davies KG, Olubobokun TH. Improvement in nutrient handling in STZ induced diabetic rats treated with Ocimum gratissimum. Int J Appl Basic Med Res. 2015;5(1):49-53.25664269
Pandey H, Pandey P, Singh S, Gupta R, Banerjee S. Production of anti-cancer triterpene (betulinic acid) from callus cultures of different Ocimum species and its elicitation. Protoplasma. 2015;252(2):647-655.25308098
Pandey AK, Singh P, Tripathi NN. Chemistry and bioactivities of essential oils of some Ocimum species: an overview. Asian Pac J Trop Biomed. 2014;4(9):682-694.
Paula-Freire LI, Andersen ML, Gama VS, Molska GR, Carlini EL. The oral administration of trans-caryophyllene attenuates acute and chronic pain in mice. Phytomedicine. 2014;21(3):356-362.24055516
Paula-Freire LI, Andersen ML, Molska GR, Köhn DO, Carlini EL. Evaluation of the antinociceptive activity of Ocimum gratissimum L. (Lamiaceae) essential oil and its isolated active principles in mice. Phytother Res. 2013;27(8):1220-1224.23055260
Pereira SL, de Oliveira JW, Angelo KK, da Costa AM, Costa F. Clinical effect of a mouth rinse containing Ocimum gratissimum on plaque and gingivitis control. J Contemp Dent Pract. 2011;12(5):350-355.22269195
Pires AF, Madeira SV, Soares PM, et al. The role of endothelium in the vasorelaxant effects of the essential oil of Ocimum gratissimum in aorta and mesenteric vascular bed of rats. Can J Physiol Pharmacol. 2012;90(10):1380-1385.22716233
Prakash B, Shukla R, Singh P, Mishra PK, Dubey NK, Kharwar RN. Efficacy of chemically characterized Ocimum gratissimum L. essential oil as an antioxidant and a safe plant based antimicrobial against fungal and aflatoxin B1 contamination of spices. Food Res Int. 2011;44(1):385-390.
United States Department of Agriculture. Ocimum gratissimum. National Plant Germplasm System website. Accessed June 7, 2016.
Shittu ST, Oyeyemi WA, Lasisi TJ, Shittu SA, Lawal TT, Olujobi ST. Aqueous leaf extract of Ocimum gratissimum improves hematological parameters in alloxan-induced diabetic rats via its antioxidant properties. Int J Appl Basic Med Res. 2016;6(2):96-100.27127737
Singh P, Jayaramaiah RH, Agawane SB, et al. Potential dual role of eugenol in inhibiting advanced glycation end products in diabetes: proteomic and mechanistic insights. Sci Rep. 2016;6:18798.26739611
Sumitha KV, Thoppil JE. Larvicidal efficacy and chemical constituents of O. gratissumum L. (Lamiaceae) essential oil against Aedes albopictus Skuse (Diptera: Culicidae). Parasitol Res. 2016;115(2):673-680.26351101
Tibyangye J, Okech MA, Nyabayo JM, Nakavuma JL. In vitro antibacterial activity of Ocimum suave essential oils against uropathogens isolated from patients in selected hospitals in Bushenyi District, Uganda. Br Microbiol Res J. 2015;8(3):489-498.26120574
Tshilanda DD, Onyamboko DN, Babady-Bila P, et al. Anti-sickling activity of ursolic acid isolated from the leaves of Ocimum gratissimum L. (Lamiaceae). Nat Prod Bioprospect. 2015;5(4):215-221.26351101


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This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

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