Ocimum gratissimum: Anxiolytic Herb?

Ocimum gratissimum is more commonly called African basil or clove basil. The plant is found in parts of Africa and South and Central America and is a member of the Lamiaceae or mint family. A number of plants from this family are known to have medicinal effects and be used in traditional medicine. Ocimum gratissimum contains a phytochemical called eugenol, which has been shown to possess antibacterial effects. However, the herb can be used to treat a number of central nervous system disorders, and in this regard has received attention for its ability to prevent anxiety. In animal studies involving mice, administration of Ocimum gratissimum have been shown to decrease anxious behaviour when the animals are exposed to experimental stress. In addition, extracts of the plant have been shown to possess anti-convulsant effects in the mice. These findings suggest that Ocimum gratissimum may affect the central nervous system in animals, and this may provide beneficial effects against seizures and anxiety. It is thought that the essential oil of the plant may be responsible for these effects.

ocimum grattisimum

A number of phytochemicals have been identified in the essential oil from the leaves Ocimum gratissimum. These include the monoterpene eugenol, that is thought to be the main volatile constituent. Also present are the monoterpenes cineole, β-pinene, cis-Ocimene, trans-Ocimene, camphor and methyl eugenol, and the sesquiterpenes caryophyllene and germacrene-D. Thymol, and a number of xanthones and lactones are also present. Image is ocimum gratissimum. Image from: By Forest & Kim Starr, CC BY 3.0, https:// commons.wikimedia.org/ w/index.php? curid=6123697.

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Okoli, C. O., Ezike, A. C., Agwagah, O. C. and Akah, P. A. 2010. Anticonvulsant and anxiolytic evaluation of leaf extracts of Ocimum gratissimum, a culinary herb. Pharmacognosy Research. 2(1): 36-40

About Robert Barrington

Robert Barrington is a writer, nutritionist, lecturer and philosopher.
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