The common basil, originating from Asia, is widespread in all the hot regions as well as in countries with a Mediterranean climate.
It is a perennial (but annual in temperate climate), woody and bushy, aromatic, with fairly dense and green foliage ; the white flowers are in terminal panicles.
Basil is grown around the world and is subspontaneous in many warm countries but it cannot stand frost.
It grows easily indoors but need a good sunlight (or artificial light).
Ocimum micranthum = Ocimum campechianum is found the West Indies, greater antilles, parts of central and south america. "Petit framboisin" in French, albahaca del monte in spanish speaking countries.
Ocimum gratissimum is native to Africa, Madagascar and Southeast Asia but is found now in many tropical regions (included pacific islands).
It has many local names, for example : grand framboisin in French, scent leaves in Nigeria, nunu bush in Jamaica, ebe-amwonkho in Edo, tchayo in Fon, efirin in Yoruba, añyeba in Igala, daidoya in Hausa.
It is a perennial plant fairly invasive, a shrub up to 2-3 meters, very resistant to drought and non eaten by grazers.
The plant gives off a strong odor especially in full heat; the flowers are small, white, grouped in terminal panicles, the foliage very aromatic is green to gray-green.
CHEMICAL COMPOSITION AND PROPERTIES
Dried Ocimum basilicum (common basil) leaves contain a minimum of 0.25% essential oil, depending on the cultivation conditions the content varies and can reach 2% of the dry weight.
Basil essential oil composition :
- Indian Ocean basil contains mainly estragole with other terpenes in small quantities (cineole, fenchol, linalool and methyl eugenol);
- European basil contains more linalool or methyl eugenol.
Ocimum micranthum and gratissimum contains comparatively more essential oil, up to 5% of the dry weight, whose composition also varies according to the geographical origin or the cultivar:
- in Africa thymol dominates,
- in the Pacific regions and south-east Asia eugenol is predominant.
The properties of essential oils , are related to their chemical composition and therefore variables:
- Eugenol and methyl eugenol are anti-inflammatory, slow platelet aggregation , locally anesthetic and antibacterial ,
- the other terpenes regulate digestive functions: eupeptic, carminative, anti-gastralgic and antispasmodic.
In aromatherapy the basil essential oil is described as a sympathomimetic.
Some components of basil essantial oil are potentially toxic:
- estragole has been shown to be hepatocarcinogenic in mice,
- and some estragole derivatives are even more toxic.
As always, we should not consider essential oils as harmless drugs.
The common basil is mainly a spice used very fresh and not cooked.
Ocimum in general are used in perfumery (especially flowers), for example: " Miri Monoi" in Polynesia.
The basil tea ( infusion of fresh leaves) :
- calms gastric pains, digestive migraines, dyspepsia in general,
- it is a tonic by adrenal stimulation,
- slightly diuretic,
- useful in cases of viral fever ("flu-like" affections, common fevers),
- and post-infectious "fatigue".
The tea of ??Ocimum micranthum and gratissimum (infusion of fresh leaves and flowers) is also diuretic and anti-dyspeptic but the presence of eugenol in quantity makes it less pleasant.
Ocimum gratissimum essential oil in oral hygiene and in dentistry :
- application with a cotton pad , directly on the decayed or painful tooth (waiting for a proper treatment),
- mouthwash and gargle in case of gingivitis or angina, a few drops of essential oil in a glass of warm water.
More anecdotal, some therapists advocate:
- the concentrated decoction of basil in application to fight against hair loss and to calm the bites of insects,
- powder of dried basil leaves in case of chronic rhinitis, 1 pinch morning and evening,
- the juice obtained by the expression of 2 to 3 fresh and crushed leaves serves as eye drops, it is applied directly on the irritated eye (South America and West Indies),
- often in case of fever, Amazonian Indians use balneotherapy with an infusion of plants; they consider Ocimum gratissimum as the best febrifuge for external "washing", especially in children.
BASIL a digestive plant, tonic and anti-inflammatory
The common basil is cultivated worldwide .
Other related species are more specific to the tropics.
All basilics contain aromatic essential oil.
They are used as aromatics, in perfumery but also as medicinal plants, helping to digest and soothe digestive spasms.
Basil tea is diuretic, slightly tonic and can lower fever.
Ocimum gratissimum and micranthum essential oils contain a compound (eugenol) that soothes dental pain and inflammation of the mouth
Copyright 2019: Dr Jean-Michel Hurtel