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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Avoid use in patients hypersensitive to any of the component of the plant species.Vieira 2000
None well documented.
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