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African Mint

Scientific Name(s): Ocimum canum Sims., L.
Common Name(s): African mint, American basil, Asian basil, Hairy/Hoary basil, Wild basil

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Jan 1, 2019.

Clinical Overview

Use

Anti-inflammatory, chemotherapeutic, and blood glucose–lowering activity is documented in the scientific literature; however, clinical trials are lacking to support these uses. Most research examines the plant's use against vector-borne diseases and as an insect repellent.

Dosing

Numerous dosage forms (ie, tablets, pellets, granules) are available commercially. However, clinical trials are lacking to provide dosing recommendations for African mint.

Contraindications

Hypersensitivity to any of the chemical components of O. canum.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

A small clinical study reported abdominal discomfort, flatulence, and constipation in patients consuming 15 g/day of O. canum seeds.

Toxicology

Information is limited. The estragole constituent of O. canum is carcinogenic.

Scientific Family

  • Lamiaceae

Botany

The aromatic O. canum is a semiperennial plant species found in Africa and Asia. The plant grows up to 60 cm in height, with multiple branches originating from its base. It has elliptic-lanceolate leaves that are slightly pointed at both ends, and long pale white to pinkish flower spikes.Naghibi 2005, Ngassoum 2004, Vieira 2003, USDA 2016

O. canum is synonymous with Ocimum americanum Auct., and related plants include Ocimum basilicum (sweet basil), Ocimum gratissimum (African basil), Ocimum campechianum (Amazonian basil), and Ocimum tenuiflorum/sanctum (holy basil).

History

The plant is used medicinally in Africa to treat conjunctivitis, malaria, and headache, and has been used as an analgesic and rubefacient.Ngassoum 2004, Nyarko 2002 It also has been used to manage diabetes mellitus in Ghana.Nyarko 2002 Ethnopharmacology studies document its use in treating dysuria in Iran.Naghibi 2005 The essential oils of the plant species have been used mainly for antipyretic purposes and for treating respiratory diseases on the eastern coast of Africa.Martins 1999, Ngassoum 2004

The aerial plant parts have been used with other spices for culinary purposes. The essential leaf and flower oils have been used as flavoring in foods, chewing gums, sweets, teas, soft drinks, energy drinks, and milk products. The oils are also used in cosmetics, shampoos, soaps, shower gels, body lotions, and toothpastes.Ngassoum 2004

Chemistry

An essential oil present in the aerial parts of the plant is rich in camphor and linalool, and includes varying amounts of methyl cinnamate, citronella and citral derivatives, and eugenol, among others. Dipentene, terpinolene, crithmene, limonene, pinene, sabinene, camphene, and caryophyllene have been identified, and polysaccharides (including xylose, arabinose, rhamnose, and galactose) have been described. Content varies according to geographical location and harvesting times, with resultant various chemical constituents such as methyl cinnamate, citral, eugenol, camphor being the most prominent.Berhow 2012, Duke 2016, Nascimento 2011, Pandey 2014, Vieira 2003, Vieira 2014, Vyry 2014, Xaasan 1981

Uses and Pharmacology

Anti-inflammatory activity

In vitro and animal data

O. canum showed significant anti-inflammatory activity against carrageenan, prostaglandin E2, leukotriene, and arachidonic acid–induced paw edema.Singh 1998 Anti-inflammatory activity may be associated with the essential oils and linolenic acid content, which can block both the cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase pathways of arachidonate metabolism.Setty 2005, Singh 1998 In vitro antioxidant activity has also been demonstrated.George 2009, Saeio 2011

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding anti-inflammatory use of O. canum.

Antimicrobial activity

In vitro and animal data

In vitro, the oil from O. canum leaves, but not the flowers, was active against some gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria,Bassole 2005, Cimanga 2002, Tajo 1999, Vyry 2014 and also possessed antifungal activity.Yadav 1994 The essential oil of O. canum possesses activity against mosquito and tick larvae.Cavalcanti 2004, Inbaneson 2012, Jayaseelan 2012, Murugan 2016 The plant and essential oil are used in Africa to protect agricultural crops from insect damage,Belmain 2001, Khanom 2000, Lehman 2007, Pandey 1994 and as a mosquito repellent.Pålsson 1999, Seyoum 2002, Seyoum 2002, Tawatsin 2001

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding antimicrobial use of O. canum.

Diabetes

Animal data

Limited studies conducted in rodents suggest constituents of the plant (especially eugenol and rosmarinic acid) may exert effects in lowering blood glucose, possibly by increasing insulin release.Berhow 2012, Nyarko 2002, Singh 2016

Clinical data

Research reveals no clinical data regarding use of O. canum for diabetes.

Dyslipidemia

Animal data

In a study in mice, O. canum decreased serum total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and increased high-density lipoprotein cholesterol.Nyarko 2002

Clinical data

One small (N=30), 12-week clinical study examined the clinical outcome of nutrition counseling with O. canum seed supplementation (15 g daily) on serum lipid levels, finding no benefit to the lipid profile.Kangsadalampai 2007

Other uses

Limited studies in mice suggest extracts of O. canum reduce tumor volume and increase survival.Monga 2011 Protective effects against irradiation were also reportedMonga 2011; however, the chemical constituent estragole is considered carcinogenic.De Vincenzi 2000

Dosing

Numerous dosage forms (ie, tablets, pellets, granules) are available commercially. However, clinical trials are lacking to provide dosing recommendations for African mint.

Pregnancy / Lactation

Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Information is limited, despite the traditional use of O. canum. A 12-week clinical trial documented abdominal discomfort, flatulence, and constipation in patients consuming 15 g/day of O. canum seeds.Kangsadalampai 2007

Toxicology

Information is limited. The chemical constituent estragole is considered carcinogenic.De Vincenzi 2000

Index Terms

  • Ocimum americanum Auct.
  • Ocimum basilicum (sweet basil)
  • Ocimum campechianum (Amazonian basil)
  • Ocimum gratissimum (African basil)
  • Ocimum tenuiflorum/sanctum (holy basil)

References

Bassole IH, Nebie R, Savadogo A, Ouattara CT, Barro N, Traore SA. Composition and antimicrobial activities of the leaf and flower essential oils of Lippia chevalieri and Ocimum canum from Burkina Faso. Afr J Biotechnol. 2005;4(10):1156-1160.
Belmain SR, Neal GE, Ray DE, Golob P. Insecticidal and vertebrate toxicity associated with ethnobotanicals used as post-harvest protectants in Ghana. Food Chem Toxicol. 2001;39(3):287-291.11278061
Berhow MA, Affum AO, Gyan BA. Rosmarinic acid content in antidiabetic aqueous extract of Ocimum canum sims grown in ghana. J Med Food. 2012;15(7):611-620.22663161
Cavalcanti ES, Morais SM, Lima MA, Santana EW. Larvicidal activity of essential oils from Brazilian plants against Aedes aegypti L. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz. 2004;99(5):541-544.15543421
Cimanga K, Kambu K, Tona L, et al. Correlation between chemical composition and antibacterial activity of essential oils of some aromatic medicinal plants growing in the Democratic Republic of Congo. J Ethnopharmacol. 2002;79(2):213-220.11801384
De Vincenzi M, Silano M, Maialetti F, Scazzocchio B. Constituents of aromatic plants: II. Estragole. Fitoterapia. 2000;71(6):725-729.11077188
Duke J. Dr. Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases. Agricultural Research Service website. http://www.ars-grin.gov/duke. Accessed November 30, 2016.
George S, Chaturvedi P. A comparative study of the antioxidant properties of two different species of Ocimum of southern Africa on alcohol-induced oxidative stress. J Med Food. 2009;12(5):1154-1158.19857083
Inbaneson SJ, Sundaram R, Suganthi P. In vitro antiplasmodial effect of ethanolic extracts of traditional medicinal plant Ocimum species against plasmodium falciparum. Asian Pac J Trop Med. 2012;5(2):103-106.22221750
Jayaseelan C, Rahuman AA. Acaricidal efficacy of synthesized silver nanoparticles using aqueous leaf extract of Ocimum canum against Hyalomma anatolicum anatolicum and Hyalomma marginatum isaaci (Acari: Ixodidae). Parasitol Res. 2012;111(3):1369-1378.21789583
Kangsadalampai O, Meksawan K, Buranaprapruk N. Ocimum canum seed supplementation did not influence serum lipid levels in hypercholesterolemic patients. Nutr Res. 2007;27(4):206-211.
Khanom F, Kayahara H, Tadasa K. Tyrosinase inhibitory activity of Bangladeshi indigenous medicinal plants. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2000;64(9):1967-1969.11055404
Lehman AD, Dunkel FV, Klein RA, et al. Insect management products from Malian traditional medicine—establishing systematic criteria for their identification. J Ethnopharmacol. 2007;110(2):235-249.17125944
Martins AP, Salgueiro LR, Vila R, et al. Composition of the essential oils of Ocimum canum, O. gratissimum and O. minimum. Planta Med. 1999;65(2):187-189.17260257
Monga J, Sharma M, Tailor N, Ganesh N. Antimelanoma and radioprotective activity of alcoholic aqueous extract of different species of Ocimumin C(57)BL mice. Pharm Biol. 2011;49(4):428-436.21428866
Murugan JM, Ramkumar G, Shivakumar MS. Insecticidal potential of Ocimum canum plant extracts against Anopheles stephensi, Aedes aegypti and Culex quinquefasciatus larval and adult mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae). Nat Prod Res. 2016;30(10):1193-1196.26135241
Naghibi F, Mosaddegh M, Motamed SM, Ghorbani A. Labiatae family in folk medicine in Iran: from ethnobotany to pharmacology. Iran J Pharmaceutical Res. 2005;4(2):63-79.
Nascimento JC, Barbosa LC, Paula VF, et al. Chemical composition and antimicrobial activity of essential oils of Ocimum canum Sims. and Ocimum selloi Benth. An Acad Bras Cienc. 2011;83(3):787-799.21969960
Ngassoum MB, Ousmaila H, Ngamo LT, Maponmetsem PM, Jirovetz L, Buchbauer G. Aroma compounds of essential oils of two varieties of the spice plant Ocimum canum Sims from northern Cameroon. J Food Compost Anal. 2004;17(2):197-204.
Nyarko AK, Asare-Anane H, Ofosuhene M, Addy ME. Extract of Ocimum canum lowers blood glucose and facilitates insulin release by isolated pancreatic β-islet cells. Phytomedicine. 2002;9(4):346-351.12120816
Nyarko AK, Asare-Anane H, Ofosuhene M, Addy ME, Teye K, Addo P. Aqueous extract of Ocimum canum decreases levels of fasting blood glucose and free radicals and increases antiatherogenic lipid levels in mice. Vascul Pharmacol. 2002;39(6):273-279.14567064
Ocimum canum. USDA, NRCS. 2016. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, 19 May 2016). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA. Accessed May 2016.
Pålsson K, Jaenson TG. Plant products used as mosquito repellents in Guinea Bissau, West Africa. Acta Trop. 1999;72(1):39-52.9924960
Pandey VN, Dubey NK. Antifungal potential of leaves and essential oils from higher plants against soil phytopathogens. Soil Biol Biochem. 1994;26(10):1417-1421.
Pandey AK, Singh P, Tripathi NN. Chemistry and bioactivities of essential oils of some Ocimum species: An overview. Asian Pac J TropBiomed. 2014;4(9):682-694.
Saeio K, Chaiyana W, Okonogi S. Antityrosinase and antioxidant activities of essential oils of edible Thai plants. Drug Discov Ther. 2011;5(3):144-149.22466244
Setty AR, Sigal LH. Herbal medications commonly used in the practice of rheumatology: mechanisms of action, efficacy, and side effects. Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2005;34(6):773-784.15942912
Seyoum A, Kabiru EW, Lwande W, Killeen GF, Hassanali A, Knols BG. Repellency of live potted plants against Anopheles gambiae from human baits in semi-field experimental huts. Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2002;67(2):191-195.12389946
Seyoum A, Pålsson K, Kung'a S, et al. Traditional use of mosquito-repellent plants in western Kenya and their evaluation in semi-field experimental huts against Anopheles gambiae: ethnobotanical studies and application by thermal expulsion and direct burning. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 2002;96(3):225-231.12174767
Singh S. Comparative evaluation of antiinflammatory potential of fixed oil of different species of Ocimum and its possible mechanism of action. Indian J Exp Biol. 1998;36(10):1028-1031.10356964
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
Tajo A, Thoppil J. Antimicrobial activities of Ocimum americanum L. essential oil. Indian J Pharm Sci. 1999;61(6):377-378.
Tawatsin A, Wratten SD, Scott RR, Thavara U, Techadamrongsin Y. Repellency of volatile oils from plants against three mosquito vectors. J Vector Ecol. 2001;26(1):76-82.
Vieira PR, de Morais SM, Bezerra FH, Travassos Ferreira PA, Oliveira R, Silva MGV. Chemical composition and antifungal activity of essential oils from Ocimum species. Industrial Crops and Products. 2014;55:267-271.
Vieira RF, Grayer RJ, Paton AJ. Chemical profiling of Ocimum americanum using external flavonoids. Phytochemistry. 2003;63(5):555-567.12809716
Vyry Wouatsa NA, Misra L, Venkatesh Kumar R. Antibacterial activity of essential oils of edible spices, Ocimum canum and Xylopia aethiopica. J Food Sci. 2014;79(5):M972-M977.24758511
Xaasan CC, Cabdulraxmaan AD, Passannanti S, Piozzi F, Schmid JP. Constituents of the essential oil of Ocimum canum. J Nat Prod. 1981;44(6):752-753.
Yadav P, Dubey NK. Screening of some essential oils against ringworm fungi. Indian J Pharm Sci. 1994;56(6):227-230.

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