Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum)
Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2013 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions.
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.
Alpha-cadinol, alpha-terpineol, alphitolic acid, anise, anthocyanins, apigenin, basil, basil oil, basilimoside, basilol, benzyl ether, bergamotene, beta-carotene, beta-cryptoxanthin, beta-cubene, beta-guaiene, betulinic acid, bush, cadinene, caffeic acid, calcium, cassia, cinnamic acid methyl ester, citral, common basil, cyclohexene, dark opal, dried basil, epimaslinic acid, estragol, estragole, eugenol, euscaphic acid, genovese, geraniol, green basil, guaia-1(10),11-diene, hydroxy phenyl ferulate, Lamiaceae (family), lemon basil, linalol, linalool, linoleic acid, linolen, lutein, magnesium, methoxycinnamate, methyl chavicol, methyl eugenol, methylchavicol, methylchavikol, methylcinnamate, methyleugenol, monoterpenes, nepetoidin, Nepetoideae, ocimol, Ocimum, Ocimum basilicum, Ocimum basilicum 'cinnamon,' Ocimum basilicum 'Genovese Gigante,' Ocimum basilicum L. var. Genovese, Ocimum basilicum Linn. var. pilosum (Willd.) Benth., Ocimum basilicum var. citratum, Ocimum basilicum var. minimum, Ocimum basilicum var. purpurascens Benth., Ocimum campechianum Mill., Ocimum gratissimum L., Ocimum micranthum Willd., oleanolic acid, oleic acid, phenylpropane derivatives, purple basil, quinone radicals, rosmarinic acid, sesquiterpenes, sterols, sugar-bound monoterpenes, sweet dani cultivar, sweet Thai, Thai basil, triterpene acids, triterpenes, tulsi, ursolic acid, vaccenic acid, vinylcyclohexane, Wild Amazonian basil, xyloglucans, zeaxanthin.
Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a commonly used spice. The constituent estragole is naturally found in sweet basil and is used in fragrances and flavorings. Although laboratory study has found that estragole may be associated with cancer, human study is lacking.
Laboratory studies have investigated sweet basil for its antiviral, anticancer, and antibacterial effects. However, currently, there is not enough evidence in humans to support the use of sweet basil for any indication.
These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
No available studies qualify for inclusion in the evidence table.
*Key to grades:A: Strong scientific evidence for this use; B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use; D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work); F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).
The below uses are based on tradition or scientific theories. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious and should be evaluated by a qualified health care professional.
Acne, aging, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antiplatelet (inhibition of clumping of platelets involved in blood clotting), antiviral, atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), breast cancer, cancer, cardiovascular risk reduction, chronic bronchitis, dental conditions, diabetes, diabetic complications, diarrhea, food uses, fragrance, gastrointestinal conditions (stomach and intestine), hepatitis (inflammation of the liver), herpes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, HIV/AIDS, immune function, insecticide, liver protection, muscle relaxant (smooth muscle), otitis media (ear infection), spermicide (kills sperm), tinea pedis (athlete's foot), ulcers, vasorelaxant (blood vessel dilator).
The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.
Adults (over 18 years old)
There is no proven effective dose for sweet basil in adults.
Children (under 18 years old)
There is no proven effective dose for sweet basil in children.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.
Avoid in individuals with a known allergy or hypersensitivity to sweet basil, its constituents, or members of the Lamiaceae or Labiatae families, such as hyssop, marjoram, mint, sage, lavender, oregano, or thyme.
Side Effects and Warnings
Fresh basil may carry pathogens and should always be washed before use.
Estragole, a constituent of sweet basil, may cause liver damage.
Cow's urine concoction (CUC), prepared from leaves of tobacco, garlic, basil, lemon juice, rock salt, and bulbs of onion, is thought to be toxic, causing severe depression of the central nervous system and the cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels) system.
Although human data are limited, sweet basil may decrease blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking drugs that lower blood pressure.
Sweet basil may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in patients with bleeding disorders or those taking drugs that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
Sweet basil may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in patients with diabetes or hypoglycemia and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
Use cautiously in patients who are pregnant or breastfeeding, as amounts higher than those commonly found in food have not been fully investigated.
Use amounts above dietary levels cautiously in males, as sweet basil may kill sperm.
Avoid in patients with an allergy or sensitivity to sweet basil, its constituents, or members of the Lamiaceae/Labiatae family.
Avoid consumption of basil grown in soils contaminated with heavy metals, due to possible heavy metal contamination.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Sweet basil is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women, due to a lack of available scientific evidence in amounts higher than those commonly found in food. Based on laboratory study, sweet basil may be a potent spermicide (kills sperm) in humans.
Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.
Interactions with Drugs
Sweet basil may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking herbs or supplements that lower blood pressure.
Sweet basil may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, antiplatelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin®, Advil®) or naproxen (Naprosyn®, Aleve®).
Sweet basil may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. Patients taking insulin or drugs for diabetes by mouth should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
Sweet basil may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver's cytochrome P450 enzyme system. As a result, the levels of these drugs may be increased in the blood and may cause increased effects or potentially serious adverse reactions. Patients using any medications should check the package insert and speak with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, about possible interactions.
Sweet basil may also interact with alcohol, drugs that affect the immune system, agents absorbed through the skin, aspirin, UDP-glucuronosyltransferase substrates, antibiotics, anticancer agents, antifungals, anti-inflammatory agents, antimicrobials (including antiparasitics), antiulcer agents, antivirals, cholinesterase inhibitors, agents that relax or widen blood vessels, cholesterol-lowering agents, gastrointestinal agents, indomethacin, and laxatives.
Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements
Sweet basil may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients taking herbs or supplements that lower blood pressure.
Sweet basil may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.
Sweet basil may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also lower blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.
Sweet basil may interfere with the way the body processes certain herbs or supplements using the liver's cytochrome P450 enzyme system. As a result, the levels of other herbs or supplements may become too high in the blood. It may also alter the effects that other herbs or supplements possibly have on the P450 system.
Sweet basil may also interact with antiulcer herbs and supplements, antibacterials, anticancer herbs and supplements, antifungals (such as vanillin), anti-inflammatory herbs and supplements, antimicrobials (including antiparasitics), antioxidants, antivirals, herbs and supplements that relax or widen blood vessels, cholesterol-lowering herbs and supplements, cholinesterase inhibitors, laxatives (such as castor oil), herbs and supplements that affect the immune system, herbs and supplements absorbed through the skin, gastrointestinal herbs and supplements, and UDP-glucuronosyltransferase substrates.
This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).
Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.
Chiang LC, Ng LT, Cheng PW, et al. Antiviral activities of extracts and selected pure constituents of Ocimum basilicum. Clin Exp.Pharmacol.Physiol 2005;32(10):811-816. View Abstract
Erler F, Ulug I, Yalcinkaya B. Repellent activity of five essential oils against Culex pipiens. Fitoterapia 2006;77(7-8):491-494. View Abstract
Esiyok D, Otles S, Akcicek E. Herbs as a food source in Turkey. Asian Pac.J Cancer Prev. 2004;5(3):334-339. View Abstract
Hoang LM, Fyfe M, Ong C, et al. Outbreak of cyclosporiasis in British Columbia associated with imported Thai basil. Epidemiol.Infect. 2005;133(1):23-27. View Abstract
Hsu WY, Simonne A, Jitareerat P. Fates of seeded Escherichia coli O157:H7 and Salmonella on selected fresh culinary herbs during refrigerated storage. J Food Prot. 2006;69(8):1997-2001. View Abstract
Imoberdorf R, Ruhlin M, Ballmer PE. [Eating and drinking during aging]. Ther Umsch. 2005;62(12):847-851. View Abstract
Iten F, Saller R. [Fennel tea: risk assessment of the phytogenic monosubstance estragole in comparison to the natural multicomponent mixture]. Forsch.Komplementarmed.Klass.Naturheilkd. 2004;11(2):104-108. View Abstract
Lalko J, Api AM. Investigation of the dermal sensitization potential of various essential oils in the local lymph node assay. Food Chem Toxicol 2006;44(5):739-746. View Abstract
Manosroi J, Dhumtanom P, Manosroi A. Anti-proliferative activity of essential oil extracted from Thai medicinal plants on KB and P388 cell lines. Cancer Lett 4-8-2006;235(1):114-120. View Abstract
Niture SK, Rao US, Srivenugopal KS. Chemopreventative strategies targeting the MGMT repair protein: augmented expression in human lymphocytes and tumor cells by ethanolic and aqueous extracts of several Indian medicinal plants. Int J Oncol. 2006;29(5):1269-1278. View Abstract
Opalchenova G, Obreshkova D. Comparative studies on the activity of basil--an essential oil from Ocimum basilicum L.--against multidrug resistant clinical isolates of the genera Staphylococcus, Enterococcus and Pseudomonas by using different test methods. J.Microbiol.Methods 2003;54(1):105-110. View Abstract
Rady MR, Nazif NM. Rosmarinic acid content and RAPD analysis of in vitro regenerated basil (Ocimum americanum) plants. Fitoterapia 2005;76(6):525-533. View Abstract
Renzulli C, Galvano F, Pierdomenico L, et al. Effects of rosmarinic acid against aflatoxin B1 and ochratoxin-A-induced cell damage in a human hepatoma cell line (Hep G2). J Appl Toxicol 2004;24(4):289-296. View Abstract
Wannissorn B, Jarikasem S, Siriwangchai T, et al. Antibacterial properties of essential oils from Thai medicinal plants. Fitoterapia 2005;76(2):233-236. View Abstract
Yano Y, Satomi M, Oikawa H. Antimicrobial effect of spices and herbs on Vibrio parahaemolyticus. Int J Food Microbiol 8-15-2006;111(1):6-11. View Abstract
Copyright © 2013 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)
The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.
March 22, 2017