Basil (Ocimum basilicum) – Uses, Remedies, Dose, Research, Side Effects

By Dr Renita D’Souza
Basil is widely used as culinary spice and known Ayurvedic herb used to treat cough, poisoning, headache, diarrhoea, intestinal worms etc. It is known as Barbari in Sanskrit.


Sweet Basil essential oil is used to flavor food, relieves indigestion, flatulence, constipation, cough, asthma etc. It is used in aromatherapy and relieves stress. It act as antibacterial, anti-fungal and insect repellent.
It is extracted by steam distillation from the leaves and the flowering tops Ocimum basilicum.

Botanical Name – Ocimum basilicum
Synonyms – Ocimum nigrum, Ocimum thyrsiflorum
Family – Lamiaceae
Read – Tulsi – Ocimum sanctum – Benefits, Research, Side Effects

Home remedies – Barbari

Traditional Remedies of Sweet basil (barbari)

  • To relieve cough, juice of vantulsi along with honey or the infusion of seeds is given.
  • In diarrhoea, seed infusion is given. It is considered as absorbent (grahi) in nature.
  • For scorpion bite, leaf paste is applied externally.
  • In snake bite, 50 – 60 ml of juice is given every four hours.
  • Juice is made used externally to relieve ear pain and toothache.
  • Juice is applied over head to control dandruff. It is also applied in scalp ringworm.

Qualities, uses, types

Medicinal Qualities of Barbari herb (sweet basil)
Taste – katu (pungent),
Virya (potency) – shita (cold)
Qualities of Barbari (vantulsi)
Ruksha – dry
Tikshna – sharp and penetrating in nature
Laghu – light to digest
Vidahi – causes burning sensation
Ruchikarak – improves perception of taste
Hrdya – cardiac tonic
Deepana – carminative

Special qualities of Barbari
Pishachavanti – protect from evil spirits
Bhutagni – relieves psychiatric disorders

Effect on Tridoshas
Pittala – increases pitta dosha
Balances Vata and Kapha dosha

Traditional Uses of Basil:
Blood disorders
Kandu – itching
Krmi – intestinal worm infestation
Visha – poisoning, toxic condition

Juice of the barbari is considered sharp, penetrating (tikshna), hot, dry in nature. It balances Vata dosha, induces sweating and relieves worm infestation.

Qualities of barbari seeds
Taste – sweet
Potency (virya) – cold (shitha)
Snigdha – unctous
Sthambhana – styptic
Relieves burning sensation and emaciation (shosha)

Varieties of Barbari (vantulasi)
Reference – Bhavaprakasha Nighantu
1. Kali Van Tulsi (krshna)
Sanskrit Synonyms – Katillaka, Kuteraka
2. Saphed Van Tulsi (shukla)
Sanskrit Name – Arjaka
3. Vatpatr

Shloka, controversy, dose

In Raja Nighantu, Barbari is mentioned as the synonym of Bharangi herb.
Read – Bharangi Clerodendrum serratum Uses, Side Effects, Dose

Parts Used
Whole plant, seeds

Juice – 3 – 5 ml
Seed powder – 3 – 6 grams

Side effects, chemistry, pharmacology

Side Effects of Barbari Herb
There are no recorded side effects.
However, in excess dose can cause stomach irritation, burning sensation or constipation.
Due to the hot and sharp quality, it is better to avoid its usage in high pitta conditions, heavy menstrual bleeding, bleeding disorders, pregnancy and lactation.

Chemical constituents of Ocimum basilicum
Terpenoids, alkaloids, flavonoids, tannins, saponin glycosides and ascorbic acid.

Pharmacological Acivities of Ocimum basilicum
Hepato-protective, immunomodulatory, anti-hyperglycemic, hypolipidemic, anti toxic, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and anti-fungal.

Pharmacological Activities of Basil essential oil
It possess high antioxidant, antimicrobial, anti-hypertensive, anticancer and anti-inflammatory activities.

1. Read review on phytochemical and pharmacological studies of Ocimum basilicum (a)

Morphology of Ocimum basilicum
Ocimum basilicum is an erect herb grows to a height of 30 – 60 cm. Leaves 2-5 cm long, opposite, ovate and aromatic. Flower pale purple or white, arranged in a terminal spike . Nutlets, small, ellipoides and black. Stem glabrous, hairy at the nodes.

Ocimum basilicum is native to tropical Asia, Africa and America and cultivated in Europe, South-west Asia and the USA.

Interaction with medicines, supplements

Can this be used while taking Homeopathic medicine?
Yes. This product does not react with homeopathic medicine.

Can this medicine be continued while taking supplements like multivitamin tablets, Omega 3 fatty acids etc?
Yes. Generally, this product goes well with most of the dietary supplements. However, if you are taking more than one product per day, please consult your doctor for an opinion.

With western medicines
Seek your doctor’s advice if you are taking this product along with other western (allopathic / modern) medicines. Some Ayurvedic herbs can interact with modern medicine.
If both Ayurvedic and allopathic medicines are advised together, then it is best to take Allopathic medicine first, wait for 30 minutes and then take the Ayurvedic medicine.

Distribution, different names, medicines

Names in different languages
Hindi Name – Barbari, Bambari, Vantulsi, Baarbara, Ram Tulsi
English Name – Common basil, Sweet basil
Bengali Name – Babui tulsi, Khubkalam
Kannada Name – Kaama gaggare, Kaama kasturi
Malayalam Name – Pach-cha-pushpam, pachcha, ram-tulasi, tirunetru, kattuthrithavu
Marathi Name – Bhu-tulasi, Sabaja
Gujarati Name – Ran tulsi, Damaro
Tamil Name – Tirunittru, Chankanirakkarantai, Chapchavitai, Tirtuthpathachi
Punjabi Name – Baburi, Babari
Telugu Name – Bhu-tulasi
Urdu Name – burg faranjmushk, burg firanjmishk

Ayurvedic Medicines with Ocimum basilicum as Ingredient
Ocem 5 Drops – It is an Ayurvedic medicine mainly used in chronic respiratory conditions and influenza.
Surasadi tailam – Used in the treatment of sinusitis, bronchial diseases, cough, chronic catarrh and chronic wounds.

Classical categorisation
Bhavaprakasha Nighantu – Pushpa Varga
Kaiyadeva Nighantu — Aushadi Varga
Shodala Nighantu – Shatapushpadi Varga

Sanskrit synonyms
Barbari, tuvari, tunghi
Kharapushpa, Ajaghandika
Kreshnarjaka, kalamalah, Maluka
Krshnamaluka, Kakamalli

Scientific Classification
Kingdom – Plantae
Division – Magnoliophyta
Class – Magnoliopsida
Order – Lamiales
Family – Lamiaceae
Genus – Ocimum
Species – basilicum
Binomial Name – Ocimum basilicum

Spices, basil, dried

Taste – pungent, bitter
Guna – light, dry, sharp
Veerya – hot
Vipaka – pungent
Effect on Doshas
Vata balancing – due to hot, sharp properties
Pitta increasing – due to pungent, hot properties
Kapha balancing – due to pungent, bitter tastes, hot, dry, light qualities.

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