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Ocimum tenuiflorum L.


Geniosporum tenuiflorum (L.) Merr., Lumnitzera tenuiflora (L.) Spreng., Ocimum anisodorum F.Muell., Ocimum caryophyllinum F.Muell., Ocimum hirsutum Benth., Ocimum inodorum Burm.f., Ocimum monachorum L., Ocimum sanctum L., Ocimum scutellarioides Willd. ex Benth., Ocimum subserratum B.Heyne ex Hook.f., Ocimum tomentosum Lam., Ocimum villosum Roxb. [Illegitimate], Plectranthus monachorum (L.) Spreng.  [42]

Vernacular Names

Malaysia Oku, ruku ruku, sulasi [43], selaseh, selaseh hitam, ruku-ruku merah [45]
English Holy Basil, sacred basil [43]
China Sheng luo le [44]
India Tulsi (Hindi); parnasa, suvasa tulasi, tulashi (Sanskrit); kala tulasi [44]
Indonesia Ruku-ruku (Sumatra); kemangi utan (Moluccas); lampes (Javanese, Sundanese); [43] kemangen (Javanese); klampes (Sundanese) [45]
Philippines Loko-loko (Tagalog); kamangi (Bicol); bidai (Ilocano) [43]
Cambodia Mrèah prëu [43]
Laos Saph’au [43]
Thailand Kaphrao (Central); kom ko dong, im-khim-lam (Northern) [43]
Vietnam H[uw][ow]ng nhu t[is]a, [es] t[is]a, [es] d[or] [43]
France Basilic sacré, asilica des moines [43]
Spain Albahaca cimarrona, albahaca morada criolla [44]

General Information


Ocimum tenuiflorum is a member of Lamiaceae family. It is an aromatic, erect, branched herb that can reach up to 1.5 m high. The stem is woody at the base. The leaves are desussately arranged, measure 1.5-6 cm x 1-2.5 cm; the petiole is 0.5-2.5 cm long; the blade is broadly elliptical; the margin is remotely serrate and pubescent. The inflorescence is racemose, measure 8-10 cm long, consists of opposite 3-flowered cymes appear as verticils and lax. The flower is 3 mm long with pink or white colour. The fruit consists of four nutlets surrounded by calyx with 3-4 mm long pedicel. [43]

Plant Part Used

Leaves, seeds and roots

Chemical Constituents

The fixed oil of O. tenuiflorum has been reported to contain five fatty acids (stearic, palmitic, oleic, linoleic and linolenic acids) [1][2]. O. tenuiflorum contains volatile oil (e.g. 1% including estragol, linalool, eugenol, methyl chavicol and small quantities of methyl cinnamate, cineole, and other terpenes), tannins, basil camphor, flavonoids (e.g. apigenin, luteolin, orientin, vicenin), and triterpene (e.g. ursolic acid) [3]. High resolution gamma ray spectrometry in O. tenuiflorum  showed the presence of zinc, manganese and sodium [4].

Traditional Uses

O. tenuiflorum is traditionally used to treat arthritis, asthma, bronchitis, common cold, diabetes, earache, epilepsy, fever, heart disease, influenza, malaria, peptic ulcer, rheumatism, sinusitis, snake bites, stomach ache, vomiting, to stimulate lactation, to prevent hair loss and as an anthelmintic  and tonic. [46]

Infusion of the O. tenuiflorum leaves is used for gastric disorders while the juice of the leaves is used as a laxative [46]. O. tenuiflorum leaves also have been used in treatment of diabetes mellitus and acts as a powerful mosquito repellent [5][6].

O. tenuiflorum flowers together with honey are used for the bronchitis treatment. [46]

O. tenuiflorum seeds are mucilaginous and demulcent. Few seeds can be used against the eyeball to supply mucilage to remove dust from the eye. [46]

Decoction of the roots is traditionally used to treat fever. [46]

Preclinical Data


Anti-inflammatory activity

The fixed oil and linoleic acid of O. tenuiflorum  was found to have anti-inflammatory activity by inhibiting the paw oedema induced by PGE2, leukotriene or arachidonic acid. Fixed oils of O. tenuiflorum and other different spesies of Ocimum also have the capacity to block both the cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase pathways of arachidonate metabolism and could be responsible for the antiinflammatory activity. The activity is proportional to the linolenic acid content.[8]

Methanol extract and aqueous suspension of O. tenuiflorum showed anti-inflammatory activity in rats induced by carrageenan for pedal oedema and croton oil for granuloma and exudate. The anti-inflammatory response observed at 500 mg/kg extract and suspension was comparable with the standard 300 mg/kg sodium salicylate. [9]

Antidiabetic activity

Alcohol extract of O. tenuiflorum leaves administered orally to normal, glucose fed hyperglycaemic and streptozotocin induced diabetic rats showed antidiabetic effect by lowering their blood sugar level.  The extract was further ameloriate the action of tolbutamide in normal and diabetic rats with 91.55 % and 70.43% activity respectively. [10] 

A diet of 1% level of O. tenuiflorum leaves powder for a month reduced fasting blood sugar, uronic acid, total amino acids, total cholesterol, triglyceride, phospholipids and total lipids in diabetic rats indicating its hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effect [11]. Another study reported the reduction in blood glucose levels in test group by intake of fresh leaves in a dose 2 gm/kg body weight for 30 days. [5] The antidiabetic action by O. sanctum leaves may be due to the stimulatory effects of its constituents on physiological pathways of insulin secretion [12].

Antilipidemic activity

A diet of 1-2% O. tenuiflorum fresh leaves given for four weeks lowered total cholesterol, triglyceride, phospholipid and LDL-cholesterol levels and increased HDL-cholesterol and total faecal sterol contents in albino rabbits. [13]  

Antitumour activity

Anticarcinogenic activity was detected in O. tenuiflorum leaves as it significantly decreased the incidences of both benzo(a)pyrene-induced neoplasia and 3'-methyl-4-dimethylaminoazobenzene-induced hepatomas in Wistar rats [14]. Moreover, it increased the glutathione-S-transferase (GST) activity by more than 78% in the stomach, liver and oesophagus in Swiss mice which is considered high enough to be as an anticarcinogenic agent. It also significantly suppressed (in vivo) chromosomal aberrations caused by benzo(a)pyrene in mouse bone marrow cells and multiple chromosome aberrations and exchanges reflecting the severity of damage within a cell [15]. These results suggest that O. tenuiflorum leaves is amongst the commonly consumed spices that prove to be valuable as a protective agent against cancer.

Pretreatment with O. tenuiflorum leaves extract for 24 hours showed a reduction in the levels of 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA)-DNA adducts in the DMBA-treated (10 µg) rat hepatocytes for 18 hours. The maximum reduction (93%) was obtained with the highest dose of extract treatment (500 µg). This indicated that the extract led to blockade or suppression of the events associated with chemical carcinogenesis through inhibition of the metabolic activation of the carcinogen and without adversely affecting the viability of the cells. [16]

Topical application of fresh O. tenuiflorum leaves paste and orally administered aqueous and ethanolic extracts of O. tenuiflorum were investigated for its chemoprotective activity against 7,14-Dibenz(a)anthracene (DMBA)-induced hamster buccal pouch carcinogenesis. The incidence of papillomas and squamous cell carcinomas were significantly reduced and increased the survival rate in all three forms of O. tenuiflorum hamster-treated when exposed to 0.5% of DMBA but the aqueous extract showed the most profound effect. [17]

O. tenuiflorum seed oil exhibit chemoprotective activity by significantly reduced tumour incidence and tumour volume and enhanced the survival rate in Swiss albino mice supplemented with the 100 μl/kg body weight of the oil prior to subcutaneous injection with 20-methylcholanthrene which induced fibrosarcoma tumours in the thigh region.  The incidence of tumour was also delayed in the seed oil-supplemented mice. Liver enzymatic superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), glutathione-S-transferase (GST), non-enzymatic antioxidants (reduced glutathione) and lipid peroxidation end product, malondialdehyde levels, were significantly modulated by the oil treatment as compared to untreated 20-methylcholanthrene injected mice. The chemopreventative effect of 100 μl/kg seed oil was comparable to that of 80 mg/kg of vitamin E. [18]

Antiulcer activity

O. tenuiflorum extract showed antiulcerogenic property by reducing the ulcer index, free and total acidity, and increased mucous secretion in acute and chronic administered of rats ligated with pyloric and with both pyloric and aspirin treated. The activity against experimental ulcers may be due to its ability to reduce acid secretion and to increase the mucous secretion. [19]  

O. tenuiflorum fixed oil showed significant inhibition of gastric secretion and aspirin-induced gastric ulceration in pylorus ligated rats.  Significant anti-ulcer activity was also observed against aspirin-, indomethacin-, alcohol-, histamine-, reserpine-, serotonin- and stress-induced ulceration in Wistar rats and guinea pigs. The antiulcer activity of the O. tenuiflorum was probably due to the lipoxygenase inhibitory, histamine antagonistic and antisecretory effects of the oil. [7]

The standardised methanolic extract of O. tenuiflorum leaves (OSE; eugenol content 5%) showed dose-dependent antiulcer effect when given orally in doses of 50-200 mg/kg, twice daily for five days showed against cold restraint stress induced gastric ulcers. OSE significantly healed ulcers induced by 50% acetic acid after five and ten days treatment with OSE (100 mg/kg) by inhibiting the offensive acid-pepsin secretion and lipid peroxidation. OSE also significantly increased the gastric defensive factors like mucin secretion, cellular mucus, and the life span of mucosal cells and had antioxidant effect, but did not induce mucosal cell proliferation. This suggests that the ulcer protective and healing effects of OSE may be as a result of its effects both on offensive and defensive mucosal factors. [20]

Antioxidant activity

Alcohol extract of O. tenuiflorum leaves (400 and 800 mg/kg body weight) administered orally to mice for duration of 15 days significantly elevated the activities of cytochrome P-450 (p < 0.05), cytochrome b5 (p < 0.01, p < 0.001), aryl hydrocarbon hydroxylase (p < 0.05), and glutathione S-transferase (p < 0.05, p < 0.01).  All help detoxify carcinogens as well as mutagens. The reduced glutathione levels were also increased in liver, lung, and stomach tissues (p < 0.01, p < 0.001). [21] 

The extract of O. tenuiflorum (0.5 g/kg) administered in the male mouse for duration of 15 days significantly decreased serum thyroxine (T4) (P < 0.001), hepatic lipid peroxidation (LPO) (P < 0.001) and glucose-6-phosphatase (G-6-P) (P < 0.001) activity, while the activities of endogenous antioxidant enzymes, superoxide dismutase (SOD) and catalase (CAT) were increased by the drug. Unaffected were triiodothyronine (T3) level, T3/T4 ratio and cholesterol. It appeared that O. tenuiflorum leaves extract was antithyroidic as well as antioxidative. [22]

Aqueous extract of O. tenuiflorum leaves (10 mg/kg i.p.) injected for 5 consecutive days to Adult Swiss mice prior to whole-body exposed to 4.5 Gy gamma-irradiation showed the inhibition of the radiation effects. The combination of O.sanctum extract with WR-2721 (100-400 mg/kg) enhanced the radioprotective effect. The combination of these two also enhanced the effect of the free radical scavenging activity in vitro, thus resulting higher bone marrow protection. [23]

Orientin and vicenin from the O. sanctum leaves showed radical scavenging activity and radiation protection against whole-body exposure to 2.0 Gy gamma-radiation for 30 minutes that could cause death from gastrointestinal syndrome as well as bone marrow syndrome. [24] [25]

O. sanctum extract (10 mg/kg body weight, p.o.) administered orally to Swiss albino mice before and after mercury (HgCl2) intoxication  (5.0 mg/kg body weight) showed a significant decrease in lipid peroxidation (LPO) level, alanine aminotransferase and aspartate aminotransferase and increase in serum alkaline phosphatase activity and glutathione (GSH) content, thus provide protection against the mercury induced toxicity in mice. [26]

Aqueous and alcohol extracts of O. tenuiflorum  leaves showed significant free radicals scavenging ability. Both extracts and their fractions inhibited the in vitro lipid peroxidation at very low concentrations. For in vivo, aqueous extracts of O. tenuiflorum administered to male albino rabbits showed lipid peroxidation inhibition in a dose-dependent manner and provided significant liver and aortic tissue protection from hypercholesterolemia-induced peroxidative damage. [27]

Psychopharmacological activity

O. tenuiflorum leaves extract was found to produce an psychopharmacological effect comparable to those produced by low doses of barbiturates in pharmacological studies, but at the same time produced some effects which were reminiscent of amphetamines. The results suggest that the effects of O. tenuiflorum on the central nervous system might involve dopaminergic neurones. [28]

Antistressor activity

O. tenuiflorum was found to lower restraint stress (RS)-induced cholesterol, lactate dehydrogenase, alkaline phosphatase levels, and reversed the RS-induced changes in red blood cell membrane dynamics but not affecting the RS-induced elevations of blood glucose and urea levels in rats. [29] 

 A 70% ethanolic extract of O. tenuiflorum  leaves administered to Wistar strain albino rats had a normalizing action on discrete regions of the brain and controlled the alteration in neurotransmitter levels due to noise stress, emphasizing the anti-stressor potential of this herb. [30]

Ethanol extract of O. tenuiflorum leaves administered to albino rats with for 7 days prevented noise induced changes in the two cholinergic parameters in all the four areas of brain. There were significant reduction in total acetylcholine content and increase in the activity of acetyl cholinesterase in the cerebral cortex, corpus striatum, hypothalamus and hippocampus of the brain. The results of the study suggested that this may be due to the protective effect of the plant extract on brain tissues against the detrimental effect of noise stress. [31]

Wound healing activity

Aqueous extract of O. tenuiflorum may be useful in the management of abnormal healing such as keloids and hypertrophic scars, due to wound healing and antioxidant activities of the extract [32]. Ethanol extract of O. sanctum leaves also significantly promoted wound healing and was able to overcome the wound healing suppressing action of dexamethasone [33].

Antifertility activityu

O. tenuiflorum leaves extract (200 and 400 mg/kg) administered to adult male Wistar rats for a duration of 15 days decreased their sexual behaviour compared to rats given the normal diets. [34]

Benzene extract of O. tenuiflorum leaves (250 mg/kg body weight) administered to albino rats for 48 days decreased the total sperm count, sperm motility, and forward velocity. The effects were suggested due to androgen deprivation, caused by the anti-androgenic property of O. tenuiflorum leaves. However, all parameters returned to normal by 2 weeks following the withdrawal of treatment. [35]

Immunostimulant activity

Methanol extract and an aqueous suspension of O. tenuiflorum leaves administered in albino rats showed immunostimulatory capability of humoral immunologic response to Salmonella typhosa and sheep erythrocytes indicated by the increased of antibody titre in both the Widal and sheep erythrocyte agglutination tests as well as by the cellular immunologic response represented by E-rosette formation and lymphocytosis. [36]


Animal studies

No acute toxicity was observed at doses as high as 100 mg/kg from the two flavonoids, orientin and vicenin, isolated from the leaves of O. tenuiflorum. [24] 

Genotoxicities and Mutagenicity Studies

A polyherbal formulation, Immu-21, containing extracts of O. tenuiflorum Withania somniferaEmblica officinalis and Tinospora cordifolia, was given at 100 mg/kg, daily, over 7 days, and 30 mg/kg daily over 14 days.  The preparation inhibited both cyclophosphamide-induced classical and non-classical chromosomal aberrations (approximately 40%-60% of control). A significant reduction in micronuclei was observed in bone marrow erythrocytes of mice pretreated with Immu-21. [37]

Aqueous extract of O. tenuiflorum leaves possessed protective effects against chromium and mercury induced genotoxicity with lower doses of the leaf extract found to be more effective than the higher doses. [38]

Clinical Data

Clinical Trials

Upon exposure of essential oils of rosemary, basil, fir, and eucalyptus to 150 bronchitis patients, few symptoms were observed including lowering plasma levels of dienic conjugates and ketones,  activation of catalase in red cells, and characteristic of antioxidant effect. [39]

A randomised, placebo-controlled, single-blind, crossover trial in patients diagnosed with noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM) was conducted to examine the effects of O. tenuiflorum (dried leaves 2.5 g daily) on fasting and postprandial blood glucose and serum cholesterol levels. A decrease of fasting blood glucose was observed while cholesterol levels showed mild reduction in a placebo controlled crossover human trial. Urine glucose levels also showed a similar trend. The mechanism responsible for the hypoglycaemic activity of O. tenuiflorum is not known. It has been speculated that the herb may improve beta cell function and enhance insulin secretion. [40]

Adverse Effetcs in Human

Anti-fertility effects, including abortifacient and anti-spermatogenic effects, have been described in rats, but only following the inclusion of O. sanctum leaf in the diet at high levels. The doses producing these effects were in the order of 1 g per kg bodyweight or more daily, equivalent to a daily dose of 50 g or more in humans. [34][35]

Used in Certain Conditions

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

No documentation

Age Limitations


No documentation


No documentation


Interactions with Drugs

No documentation

Interactions with Other Herbs / Herbal Constituents

No documentation



No documentation

Case Reports

No documentation 


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