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Amazonian Basil

Scientific Name(s): Ocimum campechianum P. Mill.
Common Name(s): Alfavaca, Alfavaca-do-campo, Amazonian basil, Estoraque, Least basil, Manjericao, Ocimum, Peruvian basil, Spice basil, Wild mosquito plant, Wild sweet basil

Clinical Overview

Use

The Ocimum plant species has traditionally been used for various ethnomedicinal purposes. Most ethnopharmacologic and in vitro study analyses have examined the antimicrobial, cardiovascular, and antioxidant activity of the essential oils; however, no clinical trials are available.

Dosing

No clinical data exist to provide dosing recommendations for Amazonian basil. Other plant species within the genus are commercially available in capsule and tablet forms.

Contraindications

Hypersensitivity to any of the components in the plant species.

Pregnancy/Lactation

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

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Avoid use in patients hypersensitive to any components of the plant.

Toxicology

None well documented.

Botany

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 (hoary basil).USDA 2016

History

The Ocimum species was introduced in Brazil by Portuguese colonizers and other European immigrants (Italian, German, Polish). In Europe, the plant species was used for 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. The species was also introduced to Brazil from Africa via the slave trade. Basils were deeply linked to African cultural beliefs and traditional medicine.Vieira 2000

In Brazil, the plant has been used as an emmenagogue, febrifuge, diuretic, and treatment for intestinal disturbances. In Puerto Rico, the plant has been used as a carminative to treat GI disorders and to increase lactation in women. In Central and South America as well as the West Indies, the plant 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 indications include treatment of epilepsy, nervous symptoms, earaches, influenza, colic, convulsions in children, and painful menstruation. The plant 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 1990, Sacchetti 2004, Vieira 2000

Chemistry

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. These relative percentages are inverse for plants from Peruvian soil. More than 31 compounds have been identified in the essential oil of O. campechianum. Upon hydrodistillation, the plant 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 plants from India contains eugenol, 1,8-cineole, beta-caryophyllene, and gamma-elemene. The oil from Brazilian plants contains eugenol, beta-caryophyllene, and elemicin as main components. Upon hydrodistillation, the essential oil content of O. micranthum was highest in the leaves and flowers, which is opposite for other species in the genus; some studies document the species as having the highest total oil content.Charles 1990, Jorge 1992, Khosla 1980, Maia 1998, Rosas 2004, Sacchetti 2004, Vasconcelos 1998, Vasconcelos 2004, Viña 2003

Uses and Pharmacology

Ethnopharmacologic and in vitro studies on the plant's pharmacology have been conducted. 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 2004

Cardiovascular activity

In vitro and animal data

Methyl cinnamate extracted from O. campechianum was shown to possess vasorelaxant properties in isolated rat aortic smooth muscle tissue.Vasconcelos-Silva 2014 In addition, the species may have antihemorrhagic properties. According to the results of an animal and in vitro study, the species moderately neutralizes the hemorrhagic activity of the venom of Bothrops atrox pit viper of northwestern Colombia.Otero 2000, Slish 1999

Chemotherapeutic activity

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

In vitro data

According to results using the disk-diffusion method, O. micranthum essential oil has antimicrobial activity against gram-positive bacteria (Enterococcus foecalis), 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 the plant's polyphenolic compounds, flavonoids, and lignans. The essential oil has insecticidal activity.Borges-Argaez 2000, Murillo 2002, Navarro 2003, Sacchetti 2004, Vieira 2014

Other uses

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

Dosing

No clinical data exist to provide dosing recommendations for Amazonian basil. Other plant species within the genus are commercially available in capsule and tablet forms.

Pregnancy / Lactation

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

Interactions

Although no clinical evidence exists, ethnopharmacologic data document the plant's use as a diuretic in Brazil.Sacchetti 2004 Patients prescribed diuretic medications (eg, hydrochlorothiazide, furosemide) should be cautioned about the potential additive effects when self-medicating with this herb.

Eugenol was observed to be hepatotoxic in glutathione-depleted mice, leading to a cautionary note on the concomitant use of acetaminophen.WHO 2002

Adverse Reactions

Avoid use in patients hypersensitive to any of the component of the plant species.Vieira 2000

Toxicology

None well documented.

References

Amazonian Basil. In: WHO Monographs on Selected Medicinal Plants. Vol. 2. Salerno-paestum, Italy: World Health Organization; 2002.
Borges-Argaez R, Escalante-Erosa F, May-Pat F, et al. Bioactive metabolites from Yucatecan medicinal plants. Phytochem Phytopharm. 2000:332-341.
Castrillo M, Vizcaino D, Moreno E, Latorraca Z. Chlorophyll content in some cultivated and wild species of the family Lamiaceae. Biol Plant. 2001;44:423-425.
Charles DJ, Simon JE. Comparison of extraction methods for the rapid determination of essential oil content and composition of Basil. J Amer Soc Hortic Sci. 1990;115:458-462.
Charles DJ, Simon JE, Wood KV. Essential oil constituents of Ocimum micranthum Willd. J Agric Food Chem. 1990;38:120-122.
Ernst E. Herbal medicinal products during pregnancy: are they safe? BJOG. 2002;109(3):227-235.11950176
Jorge LI, Roque NF, Ferro VO. Ocimum micranthum Willd-Manjericao of Brazil. Histological and chemical characterizations. Rev Inst Adolfo Lutz. 1992;52:47-50.
Khosla MK, Pushpangadan P, Thappa RK, Sobti SN. Search for new aroma chemicals from Ocimum species, III. Studies on genetic variability for essential oil and other allied characters of South American species O. micranthum Willd. Indian Perfumer. 1980;3:148-152.
Lino CS, Gomes PB, Lucetti DL, et al. Evaluation of antinociceptive and antiinflammatory activities of the essential oil (EO) of Ocimum micranthum Willd. from Northeastern Brazil. Phytother Res. 2005;19(8):708-712.16177975
Maia JG, Ramos LS, Luz AI, et al. Uncommon Brazilian essential oils of the Labiatae and Compositae. In: Lawrence BM, Mookherjee BD, Willis BJ, eds. Flavors and Fragrances: A World Perspective: Proceedings of the 10th International Congress of Essential Oils, Fragrances and Flavors, Washington, DC, 16-20 November 1986. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science Publishers; 1998.
Murillo E, Vina A, Linares M. Chemical composition, insecticidal and antifungal activity of Ocimum micranthum Willd. Rev Colomb Entomol. 2002;28:109-113.
Navarro MC, Montilla MP, Cabo MM, et al. Antibacterial, antiprotozoal and antioxidant activity of five plants used in Izabal for infectious diseases. Phytother Res. 2003;17(4):325-329.12722133
Ocimum campechianum. USDA, NRCS. 2016. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov, July 2016). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA. Accessed July 2016.
Otero R, Nuñez V, Barona J, et al. Snakebites and ethnobotany in the northwest region of Colombia. Part III: neutralization of the haemorrhagic effect of Bothrops atrox venom. J Ethnopharmacol. 2000;73(1-2):233-241.11025161
Pinho JP, Silva AS, Pinheiro BG, et al. Antinociceptive and antispasmodic effects of the essential oil of Ocimum micranthum: potential anti-inflammatory properties. Planta Med. 2012;78(7):681-685.22411723
Rosas JF, das Graças B, Zoghbi M, Andrade EH, van den Berg ME. Chemical composition of a methyl-(E)-cinnamate Ocimum micranthum Willd from the Amazon. Flavour Fragrance J. 2005;20:161-163.
Rosas JF, da Silva AC, Zoghbi MG, Andrade EH. The comparison of the volatiles of the Ocimum micranthum Willd. leaves obtained by hydrodistillation and simultaneous distillation and extraction. Revista Brasileira Plant Med. 2004;7:26-29.
Sacchetti G, Medici A, Maietti S, et al. Composition and functional properties of the essential oil of amazonian basil, Ocimum micranthum Willd., Labiatae in comparison with commercial essential oils. J Agric Food Chem. 2004;52(11):3486-3491.15161220
Slish DF, Ueda H, Arvigo R, Balick MJ. Ethnobotany in the search for vasoactive herbal medicines. J Ethnopharmacol. 1999;66(2):159-165.10433472
Vasconcelos-Silva AA, Lima FJ, Brito TS, Lahlou S, Magalhães PJ. Vasorelaxation induced by methyl cinnamate, the major constituent of the essential oil of Ocimum micranthum, in rat isolated aorta. Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 2014;41(10):755-762.25115734
Vasconcelos Silva MG, Craveiro AA, Machado MI, Alencar JW, de Abreu Matos FJ, Aurelio FK. Essential oils from leaves and inflorescences of Ocimum micranthum Willd. from Northeastern Brazil. J Essent Oil Res. 1998;10:77-78.
Vasconcelos Silva MG, de Abreu Matos FJ, Lopes PR, de Oliveira Silva F, Holanda MT. Composition of essential oils from three Ocimum species obtained by steam and microwave distillation and supercritical CO2 extraction. ARKIVOC. 2004;4:66-71.
Vasconcelos Silva MG, de Abreu Matos FJ, Machado MI, de Oliveira Silva F. Essential oil composition of the leaves of Ocimum micranthum Willd. J Essent Oil Res. 2004;16:189-190.
Vieira PRN, de Morais SM, Bezerra FHQ, 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, Simon JE. Chemical characterization of basil (Ocimum spp.) found in the markets and used in traditional medicine in Brazil. Econ Bot. 2000;54:207-216.
Viña A, Murillo E. Essential oil composition from twelve varieties of Basil (Ocimum spp.) grown in Columbia. J Braz Chem Soc. 2003;14:744-749.

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