Basil herb health benefit and review of studies - supplement
October 22 2016 by
Ray Sahelian, M.D.

Basil is a popular culinary herb, and its essential oils have been used extensively for many years in food products, perfumery, and dental and oral products. Basil  has a rich, mildly peppery flavor with a trace of mint. There are dozens of known varieties of which Ocimum basilicum or Sweet Basil is the most commonly grown. This herb is native to India and Asia having been cultivated there for more than 5,000 years and has been known for its medicinal value.

Compounds and molecules in the herb, what does it contain?
One basil study found forty-five compounds through consulting literature and searching database by computer. The main constituents in volatile oil from basil are rosmarinic acid (a strong antioxidant), linalol, methylchavikol, methylcinnamat, and eugenol, caryophyllene, ursolic acid, and oleanolic acid.

Planetary Herbals, Holy Basil Extract, 450 mg, 120 Capsules
Holy Basil supplement ( Sweet Basil )
Amount Per 3 capsules
Calories 10  
Total Carbohydrate 1 gram
Sodium 10 mg
Holy Basil 1,350 mg or 1.35 g 

Buy Basil supplement

You may also consider other healthy herbs and supplements with high antioxidant potential, including acai berry supplement, Cacao supplement, curcumin, an extract from turmeric, goji berry which is also found in Eyesight Rx, graviola supplement, mangosteen supplement, pomegranate supplement, and noni.

Anti-bacterial and anti-fungal activity
Basil essential oils and their principal constituents were found to exhibit antimicrobial activity against a wide range of Gram-negative and Gram-positive bacteria, yeast, and mold.

Mechanism of action of anti-inflammatory effect of fixed oil of Ocimum basilicum.
Indian J Exp Biol. 1999.
Fixed oil of basil was found to possess significant anti-inflammatory activity against carrageenan and different other mediator-induced paw edema in rats. Significant inhibitory effect was also observed in castor oil-induced diarrhea in rats. It also inhibited arachidonic acid  and leukotriene-induced paw edema. The results of antiinflammatory activity support the dual inhibition of arachidonate metabolism as indicated by its activity in inflammation models that are insensitive to selective cyclooxygenase inhibitors. Basil may be a useful antiinflammatory agent which block both cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase pathways of arachidonic acid metabolism.

Anti oxidant
Phenolics composition and antioxidant activity of sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum).
J Agric Food Chem. 2003.
The antioxidant activity of a methanolic extract of sweet basil was examined using different in vitro assay model systems. The major basil antioxidant compound in was confirmed as rosmarinic acid. The existence of a synergistic effect between alpha-tocopherol and rosmarinic acid was revealed.

Chemomodulatory efficacy of basil leaf on drug metabolizing and antioxidant enzymes, and on carcinogen-induced skin and forestomach papillomagenesis.
Phytomedicine. 2004.
The effects of doses of 200 and 400 mg/kg body weight of hydroalcoholic extract of the fresh leaves of basil on xenobiotic metabolizing Phase I and Phase II enzymes, antioxidant enzymes, Glutathione content, Lactate dehydrogenase and lipid peroxidation in the liver of 9 weeks old mice were examined. The hepatic glutathione S-transferase and DT-diaphorase specific activities were elevated above basal level by basil leaf. Treatment was very effective in elevating antioxidant enzyme response by increasing significantly the hepatic glutathione reductase, superoxide dismutase, and catalase activities. Reduced glutathione, the major intracellular antioxidant, showed a significant elevation in the liver and also in all the extrahepatic organs. Basil leaf extract was highly effective in inhibiting carcinogen-induced tumor incidence in both the tumor models at peri-initiational level. 

Anti-tumor activity
One study shows basil leaf to inhibit carcinogen-induced tumors.

Blood pressure reduction
Antihypertensive effects of Ocimum basilicum L. on blood pressure in renovascular hypertensive rats.
Hypertens Res. 2010. Department of Pharmacology, Xinjiang Medical University, Urumqi, Xinjiang, PR China. Department of Pharmacology, Universite de Bordeaux, Bordeaux Cedex, France.
Sweet basil, is a medicinal herb used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat cardiovascular diseases including hypertension. The objective of the study was to investigate the possible antihypertensive effects of this herbal extract in renovascular hypertensive rats. Sweet basil extract reduced systolic and diastolic blood pressure by about 20 and 15 mm Hg, respectively, compared with 35 and 22 mm Hg for captopril, from the lowest dose tested with no dose dependency. The effects of basil on blood pressure, cardiac hypertrophy and ET, are consistent with an effect on ET-converting enzyme, and warrant further exploration.

Blood sugar
One study indicates holy basil leaves may be beneficial for blood sugar reduction.
Randomized placebo-controlled, single blind trial of holy basil leaves in patients with noninsulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.
Int J Clin Pharmacol Ther. 1996.
We studied the effects of treatment with holy basil leaves on fasting and postprandial blood glucose and serum cholesterol levels in humans. Results indicated a significant decrease in fasting and postprandial blood glucose levels during treatment with holy basil leaves compared to during treatment with placebo leaves. Fasting blood glucose fell by 21 mg/dl. Mean total cholesterol levels showed mild reduction during basil treatment period.

Nutr Cancer. 2013. Ocimum sanctum L (Holy Basil or Tulsi) and its phytochemicals in the prevention and treatment of cancer. Scientific studies have shown it to possess antiinflammatory, analgesic, antipyretic, antidiabetic, hepatoprotective, hypolipidemic, antistress, and immunomodulatory activities. Preclinical studies have also shown that Tulsi and some of its phytochemicals eugenol, rosmarinic acid, apigenin, myretenal, luteolin, β-sitosterol, and carnosic acid prevented chemical-induced skin, liver, oral, and lung cancers and to mediate these effects by increasing the antioxidant activity, altering the gene expressions, inducing apoptosis, and inhibiting angiogenesis and metastasis. The aqueous extract of Tulsi and its flavanoids, orintin, and vicenin are shown to protect mice against γ-radiation-induced sickness and mortality and to selectively protect the normal tissues against the tumoricidal effects of radiation. The other important phytochemicals like eugenol, rosmarinic acid, apigenin, and carnosic acid are also shown to prevent radiation-induced DNA damage. This review summarizes the results related to the chemopreventive and radioprotective properties of Tulsi and also emphasizes aspects that warrant future research to establish its activity and utility in cancer prevention and treatment.

Pak J Biol Sci. 2013. Cytotoxic activity of methanolic extract of Mentha longifolia and Ocimum basilicum against human breast cancer. Based on results achieved, we can concluded that, OB and ML extracts have the potency to act as powerful antioxidants and protect against DNA damage and have cytotoxic activity against MCF-7 cell line.

Anticonvulsant potential of holy basil, Ocimum sanctum, and its cultures.
Indian J Exp Biol. 2003.
Different extractives of stem, leaf and stem callus of basil were tested for anticonvulsant activity against standard drug phenytoin using maximal electroshock model. Basil ethanol and chloroform extractives of stem, leaf and stem calli were effective in preventing tonic convulsions induced by transcorneal electroshock.

Historical uses
Egypt is the principal source of sweet basil, followed by the United States. With so many attributes it isn't any wonder that this condiment has become increasingly popular over the years. Being a member of the mint family, it is not surprising to see it recommended for digestive complaints. Herbalists have recommended basil for years for stomach cramps, vomiting and constipation. Basil has been described as having a slight sedative action, which would explain why it is sometimes recommended for headaches and anxiety.

Sabja or Tukmaria, Takmaria in other languages.

Applying certain essential oils to the ear canal appears to be an effective treatment for ear infections, findings from an animal study suggest. The vapors that are released by essential oils, such as oil of basil, have been shown to have rapid bacteria-killing effects. Topical therapy for ear infections is usually not recommended because most drugs are in a liquid form that cannot penetrate the eardrum to reach the infected middle ear. However, the vapors from essential oils may be able to diffuse through the eardrum and destroy the microbes present. To investigate, Dr. Karl G. Kristinsson, from Landspitali University Hospital in Reykjavik, Iceland, and colleagues tested oil of basil, various essential oil components, and inactive "placebo" on rats with experimental ear infections. Treatment with the oils cured up to 81 percent of the animals. With placebo, by contrast, cure rates did not exceed 6 percent. The team notes that, based on their properties, essential oils may be able to destroy a variety of bacteria that can cause ear infections. They also point out that essential oils are generally considered to be safe. Journal of Infectious Diseases, 2005.

Interactions with blood thinners
I am required to take Plavix 75 mg daily - for life. I would like to take holy basil and turmeric. Are they known to interfere with Plavix - either to increase clotting or increase bleeding? I am taking the Plavix for CAD. I do realize your answer may be an educated guess.
    These herbs may have mild blood thinning potential but we have not seen studies regarding the interaction of holy basil or turmeric with Plavix or other blood thinning medications.

Another excellent product is New Chapter Holy Basil which has:
Supplement Facts
Two Basil softgels contain: Holy Basil - 94 mg Ocimum sanctum, (leaf) , supercritical extract (7% eugenol - 6.6 mg, 4% caryophllene - 3.8 mg)
Holy Basil 536 mg, Ocimum sanctum leaf, hydroethanolic extract (minimum 1% triterpenoic acids 5.4 mg including ursalic acid. oleanolic acids, and minimum 1% rosmarinic acid 5.4 mg)