Ocimum is a plant genus that has around 35 species. Ocimum is an aromatic herb or shrub of the family Lamiacea. Usually the leaves, stem or at times the entire herb in fresh as well as dry form are used for several medicinal and culinary purposes. I certain areas the seeds of some ocimum species are used as thickening agents. Different species of ocimum include Ocimum americanum, Ocimum bacilicum, Ocimumcanum, Ocimum gratissimum, Ocimum sanctum, Ocimum tenuiflorum, Ocimum micranthum etc.
Ocimum americanum is commonly known as Ran-tulsi, hoary basil, lemon basil or wild basil and is a native of tropical Africa and Asia. Ocimum americanum has a, extraordinary lemon aroma. Its leaves and seeds are widely used for medicinal purposes mostly for getting rid of intestinal worms, fever, migraine, anorexia etc.
Ocimum basilicum is a sweet basil and most of the ornamental and culinary basils are cultivars of this species. Ocimum basilicum is cultivated as a condiment, herb and spice and the essential oil obtained from it is used for flavouring foods. The green coloured aromatic leaves either in fresh or dried form are used in salads. Ocimum basilicum helps to lower the blood pressure, cleansing the body, lowering the stress, lowering cholesterol and as antispasmodic, blood cleanser, detoxifier etc.
Ocimum canum is a native of Africa and grows up to 2 feet height. Ocimum canum is otherwise called African basil and has a discrete mint flavour. Ocimum canum is mostly used for treating type 2 diabetes, fever, cold, parasitic infestations, headaches, joint inflammation etc. The oil extracted from ocimum canum contains linalool which provides the characteristic smell and qualities to the herb. Essential oil is used for flavouring many dishes, teas, energy drinks, cosmetics, soaps, shampoo, toothpaste, shower gels etc.
Ocimum gratissimum is other African basil. The essential oil extracted from ocimum gratissimum has good anti-diabetic and anti-cancerous properties. It is also used for treating gastrointestinal disorders. Ocimum gratissimum is also used as a mosquito repellent.
Ocimum sanctum is popularly known as tulsi and is considered as a sacred plant of India. Santun ocimum is a branched, erect and fragrant herb and because of its medicinal properties tulsi is used in many ayurvedic preparations. An essential oil is obtained ocimum sanctum and this oil contains mainly eugenol, eugenol methyl ether and carvacrol. Ocimum sanctum is used for treating fever, cold, cough, bronchitis, digestive problems, controlling ring worm and skin diseases etc. Ocimum sanctum is also used as a mosquito repellent. Tulsi is also having mild analgesic and antiseptic properties and helps to relieve the swelling. Since tulsi is a good blood purifier it helps to prevent heart and blood diseases.
Ocimum tenuiflorum is known as holy basil and this aromatic plant is a native of the Old world tropics. Ocimum tenuiflorum is an erect and branched shrub with hairy stem and strongly scented leaves. Ocimum tenuiflorum has medicinal as well as religious uses and the essential oil obtained from which is used in many ayurvedic preparations. Essential oil contains eugenol and is found to reduce the blood glucose level and cholesterol level. This tulsi also found to protect from radiation poisoning, cardiovascular diseases and cataract.
Uses of ocimum are widely accepted and hence are important constituents in many medicines, cosmetics and foods.