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Amazonian Basil

Scientific Name(s): Ocimum campechianum P. Mill., Ocimum micranthum Willd.
Common Name(s): Albahaca de monte, Alfavaca, Alfavaca-do-campo, Amazonian basil, Estoraque, Least basil, Manjericao, Ocimum, Peruvian basil, Spice basil, Wild mosquito plant, Wild sweet basil, X'kakaltun

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Feb 1, 2022.

Clinical Overview


Amazonian basil has traditionally been used for various ethnomedicinal purposes. Most ethnopharmacologic and in vitro analyses have examined the antimicrobial, cardiovascular, and antioxidant activities of the essential oils. However, clinical trial data are lacking to recommend use for any indication.


Clinical data are lacking to provide dosing recommendations for Amazonian basil.


Contraindications have not been identified. Hypersensitivity to any components of the plant species should be considered a contraindication.


Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Emmenagogue and abortifacient effects have been reported with the related species Ocimum basilicum (sweet basil).


None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Clinical studies are lacking regarding associated adverse effects.


No data.

Scientific Family

  • Lamiaceae (mint)


Nearly 4,000 species worldwide belong to the Lamiaceae family, and there are approximately 200 species of the genus Ocimum.(Vieira 2014) O. campechianum is native to the lowlands of Central and South America and the West Indies. The plant is a strongly aromatic annual herb growing 40 to 58 cm in height. The wide leaf is light green, serrated, and ovate to ovate-lanceolate in shape. Its stamens are whitish pink, and its purplish to dark brown nutlets are ellipsoid in shape.(Castrillo 2001, Khosla 1980, Rosas 2005)

O. campechianum is synonymous with Ocimum micranthum Willd, and related plants include O. basilicum (sweet basil), Ocimum gratissimum (African basil), Ocimum sanctum (holy basil), and Ocimum canum (African mint, hoary basil).(USDA 2021)


Ocimum species (including O. campechianum/O. micranthum) were introduced in Brazil by Portuguese colonizers and other European immigrants (Italian, German, Polish), as well as from Africa via the slave trade. Basils were deeply linked to African cultural beliefs and traditional medicine. In Europe, uses included therapeutic and culinary purposes. Among the various species of the Lamiaceae family, Ocimum adapted well to the Brazilian environment and propagated at roadsides and in home gardens.(Vieira 2000)

In Brazil, Amazonian basil has been used as an emmenagogue, febrifuge, diuretic, and treatment for intestinal disturbances. In Puerto Rico, it has been used as a carminative to treat GI disorders and to increase lactation. In Central and South America and the West Indies, Amazonian basil has been used to treat colds, bronchitis, conjunctivitis, fever, GI disorders, and dysentery, as well as for screw-worm parasites in nasal passages; a remedy is also used to kill the larvae. Other traditional uses include treatment of epilepsy, nervous symptoms, earaches, influenza, colic, convulsions in children, and painful menstruation. Amazonian basil has also been used to flavor beverages and soups. The essential oils are of economic and pharmaceutical interest and have been used in the preparation of perfumes and cosmetics.(Charles 1990b, Sacchetti 2004, Vieira 2000)


Three major compound types are present in Ocimum spp.: phenylpropanoids, monoterpenes, and sesquiterpenes. In particular, the hydrocarbon terpenes vary widely among Ocimum spp. More than half of the whole terpenes in the leaves of plants from Brazilian soil are monoterpenes. Relative percentages are the inverse for plants from Peruvian soil. More than 31 compounds have been identified in the essential oil of O. campechianum. Upon hydrodistillation, O. campechianum produces a light-yellow viscous oil with a spicy odor. The main components in the essential oil are eugenol, beta-caryophyllene, and beta-elemene. However, composition of the essential oils varies with climate and region. The oil of O. micranthum plants from India contains mainly eugenol, 1,8-cineole, beta-caryophyllene, and gamma-elemene, while the oil from Brazilian plants contains mainly eugenol, beta-caryophyllene, and elemicin. Upon hydrodistillation, the essential oil content of O. micranthum was highest in the leaves and flowers, which is opposite of other species in the genus; some studies document O. micranthum as having the highest total oil content.(Charles 1990a, Jorge 1992, Khosla 1980, Rosas 2004, Sacchetti 2004, Vasconcelos Silva 1998, Vasconcelos Silva 2004a, Vasconcelos Silva 2004b, Viña 2003)

Uses and Pharmacology

Ethnopharmacologic and in vitro studies have been conducted to evaluate the pharmacology of Amazonian basil. Most analyses examine the pharmacologic activity of the essential oils. Analgesic activity with O. micranthum oil and anticonvulsant, antispasmodic, and antifungal activities associated with dichlormethane and methanol extracts of the plant have been documented.(Vasconcelos Silva 2004a)

Antimicrobial activity

The aromatic alcohols are primarily responsible for the antimicrobial activity of the Amazonian basil essential oils.(Sacchetti 2004)

In vitro data

When used in combination with fluconazole, the essential oil of O. campechianum led to a 32-fold and 2-fold lower inhibitory/fungicidal activity against 3 Candida species than fluconazole or O. campechianum essential oil alone, respectively.(Tacchini 2020)

According to results using the disk-diffusion method, O. micranthum essential oil has antimicrobial activity against gram-positive bacteria (Enterococcus faecalis), gram-negative bacteria (Escherichia coli, Pseudomonas aeruginosa), and fungi (Candida). The essential oil also has dose-dependent activity against food-related yeasts and contaminating bacteria. Extracts have antiprotozoal activity against Trypanosoma cruzi, possibly due to O. micranthum's polyphenolic compounds, flavonoids, and lignans.(Borges-Argaez 2000, Murillo 2002, Navarro 2003, Sacchetti 2004, Vieira 2014)

Antioxidant/Anti-inflammatory effects

In vitro data

In vitro analyses document antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.(Lino 2005, Navarro 2003, Pinho 2012, Sacchetti 2004)

In one study, a traditional aqueous preparation of O. campechianum had significant antioxidant activity, unlike the ethanolic extracts of the leaves, stems, or roots; the aqueous preparation's median effective concentration (EC50) was 150 mcg/mL (P<0.05) when tested against 2,2-diphenyl-1-picrylhydrazyl (DPPH). The EC50 of the positive control, vitamin C, was 51 mcg/mL. None of the 4 preparations showed significant antiglycation end-product activity.(Dzib-Guerra 2016) In another study assessing biological activity of several O. campechianum preparations, the essential oil showed the highest radical scavenging activity compared with the ethanolic and methanolic extracts. The EC50 of the essential oil was 7.7 mcg/mL against DPPH and 3.18 mcg/mL against 2,2′-azino-bis(3-ethylbenzothiazoline-6-sulfonic acid (ABTS), which were values close to those of the positive control Trolox (3.66 and 2.14 mcg/mL, respectively).(Tacchini 2020)

Cardiovascular activity

Animal and in vitro data

Methyl cinnamate extracted from O. campechianum showed vasorelaxant properties in isolated rat aortic smooth muscle tissue.(Slish 1999, Vasconcelos-Silva 2014)


Animal and in vitro data

Semipurified fractions of O. campechianum have demonstrated alpha-glucosidase inhibitory activity, as well as antihyperglycemic activity. While the leaf infusion of O. campechianum caused a moderate decrease in glucose levels in vivo, the semipurified fractions A through D produced a decrease in blood glucose similar to that produced by acarbose.(Ruiz-Vargas 2019)

Insecticidal/Larvicidal activity

In vitro data

The essential oil has insecticidal activity.(Murillo 2002, Navarro 2003) Larvicidal activity against Aedes aegypti (the yellow fever mosquito) has also been demonstrated with the essential oil of O. micranthum.(Ricarte 2020, Scalvenzi 2019)


Animal and in vitro data

O. micranthum may have antihemorrhagic properties; according to results of an animal and in vitro study, O. micranthum moderately neutralizes the hemorrhagic activity of venom of the Bothrops atrox pit viper species of northwestern Colombia.(Otero 2000)


Clinical data are lacking to provide dosing recommendations for Amazonian basil.

Pregnancy / Lactation

Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking. Emmenagogue and abortifacient effects have been reported for the related species O. basilicum.(Ernst 2002) Ethnopharmacologic data document O. campechianum's use as an emmenagogue in Brazil. In Puerto Rico, O. micranthum has been used to increase lactation.(Sacchetti 2004, Vieira 2000)


Although no clinical evidence exists, ethnopharmacologic data document use of O. campechianum as a diuretic in Brazil.(Sacchetti 2004, Vieira 2000) Individuals prescribed diuretic medications (eg, hydrochlorothiazide, furosemide) should be cautioned about potential additive effects when self-medicating with this herb.

Eugenol was observed to be hepatotoxic in glutathione-depleted mice, leading to a cautionary note by the World Health Organization on concomitant use with acetaminophen.(WHO 2002)

Adverse Reactions

Clinical studies are lacking regarding associated adverse effects.


None well documented. Ethanolic, methanolic, and essential oil preparations of O. campechianum were not considered potentially mutagenic based on Ames testing, but the essential oil was noted to be cytotoxic at the highest concentration tested (100%).(Tacchini 2020)

Index Terms

  • Ocimum basilicum (sweet basil)
  • Ocimum canum (African mint, hoary basil)
  • Ocimum gratissimum (African basil)
  • Ocimum sanctum (holy basil)



This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.

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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Further information

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