Ocimum basilicum L.

Last updated: 10 March 2015

Scientific Name

Ocimum basilicum L.


Ocimum anisatum Benth., Ocimum barrelieri Roth, Ocimum bullatum Lam., Ocimum caryophyllatum Roxb., Ocimum ciliare B.Heyne exHook.f., Ocimum ciliatum Hornem., Ocimum citrodorum Blanco, Ocimum dentatum Moench, Ocimum integerrimum Willd., Ocimum lanceolatum Schumach. & Thonn., Ocimum laxum Vahl exBenth, Ocimum medium Mill., Ocimum nigrum Thouars exBenth., Ocimum scabrum Wight exHook.f., Ocimum simile N.E.Br., Ocimum thyrsiflorum L., Plectranthus barrelieri (Roth) Spreng. [1]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Ruku-ruku, selasih antan, selasih hijau, kemangi [2]
English Sweet basil, French basil, Réunion basil [3]
China Luo le [2]
India Bisva tulasi, varavara, manjariki (Sanskrit); babui tulsi, babul, bahari, barbar, kali tulsi, rihan (Hindi); baburi (Punjabi); dhala-tulasi (Uriya); bharbari (Santal); tiru-nitru (Malay); kukkatulas, bhu-tulasi, vebudipatri (Telegu); tirunirupachai, karandai, tirnut-patchi (Tamil); sabja, sada tulasi, tirnirupachai, tirunitru, tirunirrippachai, tirunutpatchi , tiviragandam, damaro, damro, nasabo, sabje (Gujarati); kama kasturi, kamkusturi, ramkasturi, sajjebiya, tulasigidda, tulasiya sasyajati (Kannada); ajaganothika, manjarika, munjariki, surabhi, tulasidevesha, tungi (Sanskrit) [2]
Indonesia Solasih (Sunda); telasih (Jawa); amping, kukuru (Minahasa) [3]
Philippines Solasi (Tagalong); bonak (Visaya) [2]
Thailand Horapha [2]
Laos Phak bua la pha, phak bua la phe, phak i tou [2]
Cambodia Chi sa [2]
Burma Pinsein, ziya apyu [2]
Sri Lanka Hintala, sawandalata, suwandutala [2]
Bangladesh Babuitulsi, baburi tulsi, debunsha, khubkalam [2]
Nepal Baavarii phuul, tulasii [2]
Japan Bajiru, mebouki, suiito bajiru [2]
United Arab Emirates Shahasfaram, habaq, haabaq nabati, alrihan, rihan [2]
Iran Firanj mushk, deban-shab, rayáahn, reyhan [2]
Israel Rehan [2]
Turkey Feslien [2]
Africa Basilie, basilikum [2]
France Basilic cultive, basilic, framboisin (Antilles); herbe royale, oranger des savetiers, pistou [2]
Germany Basilien-kraut, basilienkraut, basilikum, echtes basilienkraut, gartenhirnkraut, gewöhnliches basilienkraut [2] [3]
Croatia Bosiljak [2]
Czech Republic Bazalka pravá [2]
Netherlands Baziel, bazielkruid, koningskruid [2]
Finland Basilika [2]
Italy Basilico [3]
Norway Basilikum [2]
Portugal Alfavaca, alfavacao, basílico, hierba de vaquero, manjericão, manjerico [2]
Spain Albalaca, albahaca común , albahaca silvestre, ahábega, acimo [2][3]
Sweden Basilica [2]
Russia Bazilik, bazilik obyknovennyi, dushistye vasilki, dushki [2][3]
Serbia Bosiljak, bosiok, bosilje, faslidjan, maslidjan [2]
Slovakia Bazalka pravá, bazalky pravej [2].

Geographical Distributions

Ocimum basilicum probably originates from Africa (Madagascar) or Northwestern India [4]. This plant naturalised throughout the tropics, subtropics and warm temperate areas [5]. It have been cultivated and distributed throughout the world including Egypt, Greece, Italy [5], Southern France, tropical Africa, tropical America and former Soviet Union [4][6].

Botanical Description

O. basilicum is a member of Lamiaceae family. It is an annual herb, aromatic, erect up to 1 m height. It also characterised by a thick with brown taproot up to 6 mm in diametre. [5][7]

The stem erect, quadrangular, much branched, about 6 mm thick, the apex retrorse and puberulent, glabrous base, light green to dark purple in colour. The leaves simple with decussately opposite leaf, petiole 1-2(-4.5) cm long and narrowly winged at the apex. The leaf blade shape is ovate to elliptical, 1-5(-8) cm x 0.5-2(-4) cm in dimension, acuminate apex, base attenuate, the margin is sometimes dentate or subentire, the leaf smooth to slightly pilose, light green to purplish-green in colour. [5][7]

The inflorescence terminal, loosely arrange, up to 30 cm long, 3-flowered cymes, appear in verticilis form; 1-3 cm apart, bract oblonceolate to rhombic shaped, measures 3-11 mm x 1-3 mm, pilose. Pedicel 3-4 mm long, recurved at top, densely pilose with white colour. The calyx bilobed, tubular, upper lobe with a flat suborbicular 3.5 mm in diametre and canaliculate lower lobe measuring 3.4 mm long and sharply 4-toothed at top, densely glandular dotted, the tube located above ovary with a dense long-hair inside. The corolla tubular, two-lipped with 5-8 mm long, pilose outside of the corolla, white, whitish-purplish or creamy yellow in colour, 4-lobed at the upper of the lip with strong recurved at top, lower lip entire. Stamen 4, didynamous, slightly exserted, the stamen exceeding corolla by 2-4 mm, puberulent base. Pistil with a 4-lobed ovary, gynobasic style up to 9 mm long. [5] [7]

The fruit contain 4 distinct nutlets enclosed with the tube of persistent calyx. The nutlet ovoid, 1-2 mm x 1 mm in dimension, black to dark brown in colour. [5]



Figure 1: O. basilicum flowers are purplish and borne on terminal spikes.


Soil Suitability and Climatic Requirement

O. basilicum is suitable to be cultivated on most soils in Malaysia, preferably light textured soils such as loam and sandy loam or other soils of good drainage. It is not suitable on clayey or poorly drained soils. Bright day with longer sunshine hours is required for high essential oil production. [8]



Figure 2: O. basilicum crop on bris soils.


Field Preparation

Land Preparation

Land clearing, disc ploughing at 25-30 cm deep and followed by rotovation at 1-2 weeks later are needed. Christmas Island Rock Phosphate (CIRP) at the rate of 280 kg/ha is to be applied as a basal fertiliser. Field drainage system is required for areas that are easily waterlogged. [8]

Production of Planting Materials

O. basilicum is usually propagated by seedlings raised from seeds. About 200-300 g of seeds is required for one hectare planting. The seeds need to be sown in sowing trays and placed under in nursery house. The seedlings are ready for field planting after 6-7 weeks in the sowing tray or at 4 to 5-leaf stage. Using seedlings raised from shoot cuttings is also possible and the seedlings are ready for field plantings after four weeks. [8]


Figure 3: O. basilicum seedlings in planting tray ready for field planting.

Field Planting

The recommended spacing is 60 cm (between rows) x 30 cm (within a row), which is equivalent to 55,556 plants/ha. Planting should be done at the start of rainy season. [8][9]




Figure 4: Field planting at the planting distance of 60 cm and 30 cm between and within row respectively.

Field Maintenance


Fertiliser recommendation vary with soil types. On mineral soil, NPK (15:15:15) at 1.67 t/ha and N fertiliser at 240 kg/ha are recommended. Whereas on bris soil, chicken manure at 5 t/ha and NPK (12:12:17:2) at 2.5 t/ha fertilisers are recommended. The fertilisers are to be split-applied into several applications throughout its growing period. [8][9][10]

Weed Control

Weed control is done at 1-2 months intervals depending on weed population. It can be done by tillage operation during the early growth stage and then by careful herbicide sprays at later stages. Usually, the weed population becomes less as the crop foliage grows thicker.[8]

Water Management

Sufficient water supply throughout the growth period is required for good crop growth. Thus, supplementary irrigation is needed in providing water at the early growth stage and during dry days. Sprinkler irrigation system is recommended for that purpose. [8][10]

Pest and Disease Control

Leaf rollers can cause a serious damage to a O. basilicum crop. Under very severe conditions, the leaves will fall off. The pests can be controlled by practising good sanitary practices especially during the preparation of planting materials. Diseases that are recorded to infest O. basilicum are leaf blight and wilts. These diseases can be avoided by not planting during the wet season. [8]


Harvesting for the essential oil production is carried out at 50% flowering stage or at 12 weeks after planting. It is done by cutting the plants at 15-20 cm above ground so that the remaining stems will produce new shoots and branches which again can be harvested after the next 12-14 weeks. A good O. basilicum crop can be harvested up to four times. Crop yield varies depending on variety and soil types. On mineral soil, line BM14 can produce four harvests at 50 t/ha of biomass or 182 kg/ha of essential oil with 0.35% oil recovery. However, on bris soil a local line can produce two harvests at 24.3 t/ha biomass or 36-48 litres/ha essential oil with 0.15-0.20% (volume/weight) oil recovery. [8][9][10]11][12]


Figure 5: The O. basilicum crop ready for harvesting.

Postharvest Handling

Due to its essential oil volatility, the harvested biomass has to be quickly transported to a collection centre for immediate oil distillation process. Before distillation, the leaves are normally dried for 4-5 hours under the sunlight to reduce water content in the leaves and stems. [8]

Estimated Cost of Production

In Malaysia, the total production cost for a hectare of O. basilicum crop which can be harvested 4 times/year is estimated at RM32,000. It is made up of RM1,200, RM18,400 and RM9,500 of contract work, materials and labour costs respectively plus RM2,910 of unexpected cost (10%). Thus, for a crop with a yield of 182 kg/ha of essential oil, the production cost is RM176 per kg. The production cost was estimated based on the cost of current inputs during writing of this article. [8]

Chemical Constituent

Methanol extract of O. basilicum leaves has been reported to contain flavone aglycones (e.g. salvigenin, nevadensin, cirsileol, cirsilineol, eupatorin, apigenin, acacetin, genkwanin, apigenin 7,4'-dimethyl ether, cirsimaritin, ladanein and gardenin B) [13]. O. basilicum leaves also has been reported to contain enzyme phenylalanine ammonia-lyase [14].

Essential oil of O. basilicum leaves has been reported to contain linalool, methyl cinnamate, methyl cinnamate/linalool, methyl eugenol, citral, methyl chavicol (estragol), methyl chavicol/citral, 1,8-cineole, L-linalool, camphor, α-terpineol, geraniol, β-elemene, (E)-α-bergamotene, α-guaiene, β-humulene, germacrene D, (E)-β-guaiene, γ-cadinene, and δ-cadinene. [15][16]

Essential oil of O. basilicum flowers has been reported to contain myrcene, 1,8-cineole, L-linalool, (E)- linalool oxide, β-Elemene, and (E)-α-bergamotene. [16]

Essential oils of O. basilicum also has been reported to contain α-thujene, α-pinene, camphene, sabinene, β-pinene, myrcene, α-phellandrene, α-terpinene, p-cymene, limonene, β-phellandrene, 1,8-cineole, Z-β-ocimene, γ-terpinene, fenchone, linalool, camphor, citronellal, borneol terpinen-4-ol, myrtenal, myrtenol, citronellol, neral, geraniol, geranial, α-cubenene, β-elemene, E-caryophyllen, aromadendrene, α-humulene, aromadendrene (allo), cadinol tau, methyl eugenol, 1,8-cineol, ρ-cymene, limonene, β-ocimene, camphor, α-terpineol, cis-geraniol, linalyl acetate, bornyl acetate, α-copaene, β-cubebene, β-caryophyllene, α-bergamotene, γ-muurolene, germacrene D, β-selinene, bicyclogermacrene, and γ-cardinene. [17][18]

O. basilicum leaves and flowering tops has been reported to contain oxygenated monoterpenes (e.g. 1,8-cineole, linalool, camphor, terpinene-4-ol, α-terpineol, geraniol, and bornylacetate), aromatic oxygenated monoterpenes (e.g. eugenol and methylchavicol), sesquiterpene hydrocarbons (e.g. β-cubebene, β-elemene, trans-caryophyllen, α-bergamotene, α-humulene, germacrene, germacrene D, γ-cardinene , δ-cadinene, α-selinene, β-selinene, and γ-elemene) and oxygenated sesquiterpenes (e.g. spathulenol). Its essential oil has been reported to contain β-pinene, myrcene, (+)-limonene, and trans-β-ocimene. [19]

O. basilicum roots have been reported to contain rosmarinic acid. [20]

Plant Part Used

Seeds, leaves, flowers. [21][22][23][24]

Traditional Use

O. basilicum which also known as ‘selasih’ or sweet basil is well known medicinal herbs in traditional chinese medicine preparation. The sweet basil has been traditionally recommended to be given in steam to stimulate the paralyzed parts [21]. The whole plant was taken for treatment from worms, stomach complaints, fever, cough and gout [22]. When the leaves are left underneath the pillow or bed sheet, it was said to improve insomnia, as well as tonic and vermifuge in general [25].

In particular, the leaves are effective for treatment of any common digestive problems. This can be done through decoction, juice or infusion. The decoction of 30 g of dried leaves help to settle the stomach and stimulates the production of milk in nursing, even used to bath the children who always cry at night [26]. A decoction of the leaves shall be given to an empty stomach to reduce throat pain and cough [27]. Boiling eight tea spoons of decoction from fresh leaves of sweet basil in two glasses of water for 15 minutes until the liquid is halved, take one part three times a day to treat cough. In cases of common cold, mix 1 tea spoon honey and ginger juice in a cup of decoction to help relief cold, asthma, influenza, bronchitis [28]. The decoction can also be part of hot boil basil tea used for heart diseases, hiccups, vomiting, nausea, and as a wash for ulcers. The tea, when cardamom powder to prevent malaria and dengue, reducing high body temperature [29]. To treat skin diseases, the leaves are pounded and the paste is applied to skin affected by fungus infection [30]. Other than that, infusions are said to be acting as a digestive-stomach spasms preventer, strengthen the nervous system by improving the blood circulation [26]. On the other hand, the ancestors in Italy made use of the leaves by crushing and sniffing them to calm dizziness [31]. The fresh leaves can also be rubbed or crushed in lime juices prior to application on laceration to indirectly heal the wound and gives minor pain relieving effects. In Bangladesh, where the sweet basil is named Ram Tulshi, the leaf juice has been traditionally applied on cuts and wounds 2 to 3 times daily [32]. In Andhra Pradesh of India, the juice of the leaves could be mixed with little amount of honey or can be directly poured into ear hole to cure ear ache [22][33]. The leaves are known to be good for diabetes whereby the juice from macerated leaves are taken to control diabetes [34].

The flowers of O. basilicum were used to reduce the pain in migraine. [23]

The seeds are said to give refreshing and sedative properties [22]. The seeds taken at times of menopause relieve disturbances due to menopause [35]. It was also said that the infusion of the seeds elevates treats gonorrhoea, infertility and sexual organs infection, other that used in cases of dysentery, diarrhoea, and haemorrhoids as a result of hard constipation [36]. The seeds, when soaked in water, they will become demulcent for digestive and genito-urinary tracts [37]. The seeds are crushed, decocted and drunk three times a day for 3-5 consecutive days to treat urinary disorders [30]. The mucilaginous seeds give off a cooling effect when given through infusion to ease gonorrhoea [38].

The roots are pounded with water to prepare decoction. 1 teaspoon of this decoction is taken thrice a day up to 7 days, gives relief for respiratory problem [24]. In Maharashtra of India, about two spoonful extract of root is mixed in one spoonful honey and it is given twice a day for eight days to control asthma [39].

Besides the medicinal value, various uses can be applied from this plant, especially its fresh and dried leaves that are used to impart a fragrant. The leaves can be used in a cooking and compliment to many soups and salads. It also have a special affinity with tomatoes to process as a paste or sauce.  It is also planted as an ornamental plant. The flowers are also sold fresh as well as dried for potpourri. [5]

Other than that, the leaves of these plant contains essential oil and oleoresin that are commonly used in food industry to flavour baked goods, pickles, sauces, vinegar and meat product. Essential oil from this plant also had been used to modify the flavour of chartreuse liqueurs. The oil mostly used in cosmetics, dental and oral product. [5]

Preclinical Data


Antihypertensive activity

Extract of O. basilicum administered to renovascular hypertensive Wistar rats lowered both systolic and diastolic blood pressure (by 20 and 15 mm Hg respectively), cardiac hypertrophy and endothelin. [40]

Hepatoprotective activity

Dichloromethane extract of O. basilicum hairy roots culture administered to albino rats and in liver homogenate in vitro demonstrated hepatoprotective activity compared to oleanolic and ursolic acids. Six triterpene acids isolated from the extract (betulinic, oleanolic, ursolic, 3-epimaslinic, alphitolic and euscaphic acids) individually showed hepatoprotective activity through their antioxidant activities. [41]

Ethanol extract of O. basilicum leaves administered to H2O2-and CCl4-induced hepatotoxicity in goat’s liver decreased the levels of antioxidant enzymes (enzymatic and non-enzymatic). The extract also showed significant antilipid peroxidation effects., [42]

Hypolipidaemic activity

Aqueous extract of O. basilicum administered to Triton WR-1339-induced hyperlipidaemic rats showed reduction of plasma cholesterol, triglycerides and low density lipoprotein (LDL)-cholesterol at a much higher rate than fenofibrate. [43]

Ethanol extract of O. basilicum increased LDL-resistance to oxidation of copper (II) ion whilst decreased the accumulation of macrophage lipid droplets, newly synthesized esterified cholesterol (60%) and scavenger receptors activity (20-30%) in human macrophages. [44]

Antiplatelet aggregation activity

Aqueous extract of O. basilicum administered orally to rats inhibited the platelet aggregation which induced by ADP and thrombin in an arteriovenous thrombosis (AVT) model. This effect was found to develop progressively over 7 days and disappears over 3-7 days. [45]

Extract of O. basilicum also could suppress the elevated contractions induced by high cholesterol diet in thoracic aorta of rats. [46]

Antiproliferative activity

Essential oil of O. basilicum inhibited the growth of human murine leukemia (P388) cells lines (inhibition concentration at 50% of growth (IC50) of 0.0362 mg/mL) and showed the highest antiproliferative activity compared to the rest of 17 Thai medicinal plants using MTT assay. The extract also showed antiproliferative activity on human mouth epidermal carcinoma (KB). [47]

Hydroalcoholic extract of O. basilicum fresh leaves inhibited carcinogen-induced tumour incidence in both tumour models studied at peri-initiational stage. [48]

Antioxidant activity

Water and ethanol extract of O. basilicum showed antioxidant activity [49] as well as crude extract of the leaves in maceration of methanol: water: acetic acid [80:20:1] and the fractions [50]. Fractions of methanol extract of O. basilicum also showed antioxidant activity with the presence of rosmarinic acid was found to be responsible for the potent antioxidant activity [51]. Essential oil of the plants was also found to inhibit lipid peroxidation [52].

This antioxidant activity has been found to have antigenotoxic potential which was shown by essential oils of the plants and its major constituents, Linalool. [53].

O. basilicum also has been reported to exhibit significant activity in superoxide radical and nitric oxide radical scavenging, indicating their potent antioxidant effects. [42]

Anti-inflammatory activity

Fixed oil (non-volatile oil) of O. basilicum dried seeds showed significant anti-inflammatory activity by blocking both cyclo-oxygenase and lipo-oxygenase pathways of arachidonic acid metabolism. [54]

Tincture of O. basilicum reduced the total leukocyte count and monocyte percentage; activated the circulating phagocytes by significantly inhibited nitric oxide (NO) synthesis. [55]

Antiulcerogenic activity

Powder, aqueous and methanol extract of O. basilicum fresh aerial partsadministered to aspirin-induced gastric ulcers in Sprague-Dawley male albino rats (170-200 g) showed anti-ulcerogenic activity by decreased in productions of acid and pepsin which enhances gastric mucosal strength. [56]

Essential oil of O. basilicum dried seeds administered to aspirin (500 mg/kg, po), indomethacin (20 mg/kg, po), 50% ethanol (500 mg/kg, po), reserpine (5 mg/kg, im), serotonin (10 mg/kg, sc), and stress-induced ulceration in Wistar albino rats (140-200 g) and histamine-induced (500 mg base ip) ulceration in guinea pigs (300-400 g) showed significant antiulcer activity by inhibiting the lipoxygenase, histamine antagonistic and antisecretory activities. [57]

Chemomodulatory activity

Ethanol:water (80:20) extract of O. basilicum fresh leaves (200 or 400 mg/kg bw) administered orally to Random-bred Swiss albino mice (8–9 weeks old) for duration of 15 days has been studied on the inducibility of detoxifying parameters in hepatic and extrahepatic organs and influence of O. basilicum on DMBA-induced mouse skin papillomagenesis. The results showed the extract increased the activity of phase II enzyme (which associated with detoxification of xenobiotics) whilst inhibited the activity of phase I enzyme. It also protects against oxidative stress via the elevation of antioxidative defense enzyme, while significantly reduced the specific activity of LDH and the level of lipid peroxidation, thus significantly reduced the DMBA and B(a)P-induced papillomagenesis. [48]

inducing drug detoxification enzymes such as GST and DTD, as well as in blocking carcinogen-activating phase I enzymes (Henderson et al. 2000). It also protects against oxidative stress via the elevation of antioxidative defense enzyme, while significantly reducing the specific activity of LDH and the level of lipid peroxidation. All these effects considered together might result in

Anticonvulsant activity

Essential oil of O. basilicum fresh aerial parts administered intraperitoneally to pentylenetetrazole, picrotoxin, and strychnine-induced seizures in Swiss Albino mice showed anticonvulsant activity with ED50 values of 0.615 mL/kg, 0.436 mL/kg, and 1.27 mL/kg, respectively. [58]

Antimicrobial activity


Essential oil of O. basilicum showed antibacterial activity against several Gram positive and Gram negative bacteria. Compounds isolated from the essential oil such as linalool, methylchavikol, methylcinnamat, linolen, methyl chavicol, gitoxigenin, trimethoquinol, beta-guaiene, aciphyllene, alizarin, naphthaline, (-)-caryophyllene, and mequinol also showed antibacterial activity. [59][60][61][62][63][64][65]


Essential oil of O. basilicum fresh plant materials showed antifungal activity against the activities of Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, Rhizopus stolonifer and Mucor sp. with minimum inhibitory dose was 30.0 µL/400 mL air space, compared to control that contains water instead the oil. [66]

Antiviral activity

Crude aqueous, ethanol extracts and selected purified components (apigenin, linalool and ursolic acid) of O. basilicum whole plant showed active antiviral activity against DNA viruses of Herpes viruses (HSV), adenoviruses (ADV) and Hepatitis B virus as well as RNA viruses (Coxsackie B1 (CBV1) and enterovirus 71 (EV71). Ursolic acid showed the strongest activity against HSV-1 (EC50 = 6.6 mg/L; selectivity index (SI) = 15.2), ADV-8 (EC50 = 4.2 mg/L; SI = 23.8), CVB1 (EC50 = 0.4 mg/L; SI = 251.3) and EV71 (EC50 = 0.5 mg/L; SI = 201), whereas apigenin showed the highest activity against HSV-2 (EC50 = 9.7 mg/L; SI = 6.2), ADV-3 (EC50 = 11.1 mg/L; SI = 5.4), hepatitis B surface antigen (EC50 = 7.1 mg/L; SI = 2.3) and hepatitis B e antigen (EC50 = 12.8 mg/L; SI = 1.3) and linalool showed strongest activity against AVD-II (EC50 = 16.9 mg/L; SI = 10.5). [67]


Essential oil and linalool isolated from the essential oil of O. basilicum dried leaves (2 mg/mL and 300 µg/mL, respectively) showed potent antiparasitic activity against Giardia lamblia cultured in TYI-S-33 medium with 100% inhibition of the parasite growth after one hour incubation of linalool. [68]

Insecticidal activity

Essential oil of O. basilicum caused 80% mortality of adult beetles (Callosobruchus maaculatus) after 12 hours fumigation and reduced the egg hatch rate to 3% and adult emergence to 0%. Its aromatized powder inhibited the growth of beetles after 48 hours application with LC50 of 65 µL/g. [69]


No documentation.

Clinical Data

No documentation.


No documentation.

Line drawing

No documentation.


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