Essential Oils


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Basil Exotic

Ocimum basilicum

Family Lamiaceae (Labiatae)

Synonyms Sweet basil, Comoran basil (oil) Reunion basil (oil)

General Description Botanically classified as identical from the French basil, though it is a larger plant with a harsher odour and different constituents.

Distribution Mainly produced in the Comoro Islands, but it is also processed in Madagascar.

Other Species The exotic basil is a dramatically different chemotype to the French basil and probably a separate sub-species (possibly a form of O. canum), although this has not been specified.

Essential oils are also produced in Morocco, Egypt, South Africa, Brazil and Indonesia from various chemotypes of the East India or shrubby basil (o.gratissimum), which contains a high percentage of either thymol or eugenol.

The hairy or hoary basil ( o.canum), originating in East Africa and found in India and South America, is also used to extract oils rich in either methyl cinnamate or camphor, which are produced in the West Indies and Indonesia.

Herbal/ Folk Tradition See Basil French

Extraction Essential oil by steam distillation from the leaves and flowering tops.

Characteristics The Exotic type oil is yellow or pale green, with a slightly coarse sweet herbaceous odour with a camphoraceous tinge. Its scent does not compare with the 'true' sweet basil oil.

Principal Constituents mainly methyl chavicol (70-88 per cent), with small amounts of linalol, cineol, camphor, eugenol, limonene and citronellol.

Safety Data Methyl chavicol is moderately toxic and irritating to the skin: 'the methyl chavicol content of Comoran basil is sufficient reason to discard it for therapeutic usage in favour of the French type.'

There has also been some recent concern over the possible carcinogenic effects of methyl chavicol. Basil should be avoided during pregnancy.

Aromatherapy/Home Use None.

Other Use The oil is employed in high-class fragrances, soaps and dental products; used extensively in major food categories especially meat products and savories.

Reference: The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils: Julia Lawless


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