Basil leaves contain vitamin C and A, and minerals like calcium, zinc and iron, as well as chlorophyll and many other phytonutrients. The leaf volatile oil contains eugenol, euginal, urosolic acid, carvacrol, linalool, limatrol, caryophyllene, estragol, methylchavikol while the seed volatile oil have fatty acids and sitosterol. In addition, the seed mucilage contains some levels of sugars and the anthocyans are present in green leaves. It also contains a variety of constituents that may have biological activity, including saponins, flavonoids (like orientin and vicenin), triterpenoids, and tannins. In addition, the following phenolic actives have been identified, which also exhibit antioxidant and antiinflammatory activities, Rosmarinic acid, propanoic acid, apigenin, cirsimaritin, isothymusin and isothymonin.
Leaves of basil are loaded with beta-caryophyllene, an anti-inflammatory compound that may treat conditions such as arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease. Eugenol present in Basil leaves also showed potential for helping people with arthritis. It has demonstrated the greatest ability of all basil essential oil compounds to decrease the activity of cyclooxygenase (COX), an enzyme that increases the production of pro-inflammatory cells responsible for arthritis.
Two water-soluble flavonoids, orientin and vicenin, present in basil, might provide protection against radiation at the cellular level thus preventing chromosomal damage resulting in cancer.
Basil’s essential oils constitute estragole, eugenol, rosmarinic acid, linalool, methylchavikol, and oleanolic acid which are reported to be effective in retarding the growth of bacteria strains Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus and Escherichia coli.
One of the major constituents of the leaves,ursolic acid has been reported to possess antifertility activity in rats and mice. This effect has been attributed to it’s antiestrogenic (A substance that can prevent the full expression of estrogen- sex hormones) effect which may be responsible for arrest of spermatogenesis in males and inhibitory effect on implantation of ovum in females.This constituent may prove to be a promising antifertility agent devoid of side effects.
As a rich source of both magnesium and beta-carotene, basil may support cardiovascular health.