The Scent leaf, botanically known as Ocimum gratissimum, is an aromatic herb that has been introduced extensively across tropical and subtropical regions of the world. It is native to Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroun, Madagascar, Southern Asia, and the Bismarck Archipelago. It has been naturalized in countries such as Polynesia, Hawaii, Brazil, Panama, the West Indies, and Mexico.
The plant is normally a perennial homegrown shrub, although it can be found in the wild, and is used mainly as a spice for cooking delicacies due to its aromatic taste.
Local Common Names
Brazil: alfavaca brava
Cambodia: ling leak kranam
Cuba: albahaca de clavo; canela; clavo; clavo mondonguero; laurel cimarrón; orégano cimarrón
Dominican Republic: albahaca vaca; atiyayo
Haiti: basilic à petites fleurs; basilic grandes feuilles; folle basin; fombasin; gran basilique; grand basilique; grand fombasin
India: ajeka; doshakleshi; elumiccam tulaci; elumichanthulasi; kattuthrithavu; mali-thulasi; perumthulasi; ram tulsi
Indonesia: kemangi hutan; ruku-ruku rimba; selaseh mekah
Jamaica: African tea bush
Lesser Antilles: basilic; frond bazin; mint
Jamaica: African tea bush
Malaysia: ruku-ruku hitam; selaseh besar
Netherlands Antilles: anis; yerba di hole blanku
Nigeria: nchuanwu/ Ahuji (Igbo); efirin (Yoruba); daidoya (Hausa)
Scent Leaves contain vital bioactive substances which confer it with the above-mentioned activities including; tannins, phenols, calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin A, and more, all of which are essential for human health. This plant’s blooms and leaves are high in essential oils, adding a fragrant flavor to soups, salads, and other regional foods.
Types of Scent Leaves
Although a lot of people may not know this, there are different types of scent leaves.
The genus Ocimum contains all authentic basil species. Annuals, non-woody perennials, and shrubs native to Africa and other tropical and subtropical parts of the Old and New World are included in the genus.
Even though there are different types of scent leaves, the type used commonly as a flavor is typically called sweet basil (or Genovese basil), as opposed to Thai basil ( O. basilicum var. thyrsiflora ), lemon basil ( O. × citriodorum), and holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum).
READ ALSO : Why You Must Stay Hydrated: The 1 Thing You Are Doing Wrong
The leaves of Ocimum gratissimum are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and essential oils such as:
Vitamin A, Vitamin B, Calcium, Vitamin K, Potassium, Dietary fiber, Protein, Water, Magnesium, Iron, Zinc, Phosphorus
The essential oil of scent leaf is high in eugenol, thymol, camphor, pinene, limonene, and other chemical compounds that are responsible for many of their therapeutic properties.
- Maintenance of the eyes
Scent leaf is rich in Vitamin A, which promotes good eyesight. Vitamin A is needed by the retina of the eyes in the form of retinal which combines with protein opsin to form rhodopsin, the light-absorbing molecule which is ultimately necessary for both scotopic vision (low-light) and color vision.
The deficiency of vitamin A can be terrible for the eyes leading to xerophthalmia (a medical condition in which the eye fails to produce tears) and night blindness both of which are preventable when adequate amounts of scent leaves are consumed.
- Largely improves heart function
Scent leaves are high in calcium and magnesium, which both assist to lower bad cholesterol (LDL cholesterol), improving blood circulation. Adults’ risk of Coronary Artery Disease is increased by low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterols, therefore consuming fragrance leaves can help to minimize this ever-present risk.
Heart and artery issues caused by clogged arteries are almost entirely avoidable if sufficient amounts of scent leaves are consumed.
- Aids digestion
Scent leaves can help relieve bloating and also help digest meals on time. Brewed scent leaves can have a calming effect on the stomach and help with bowel evacuation. Drinking scent leaves tea also relieves heartburn.
- Anti-Inflammatory properties
Scent leaves have been shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties akin to drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofen but are kinder to the inner linings of the stomach. Decoction made from leaves of O. gratissimum is useful for healing menstrual pain, stomach ache, earache, and fever.
- Promotes oral hygiene
The stem of scent leaf when used as chewing stick kills bacteria in the mouth and help fight off bad breath. It is also able to prevent tooth decay. Tea made from the leaves of scent leaf can be taken as a tonic or used as a gargle to treat sore throat.
- Reproductive health
Scent leaf is a good source of arginine, an amino acid that helps in the maintenance of optimum penile health and sperm vitality. It also contains compounds such as epigenin fenkhona and eugenol which can facilitate erection.
In addition, the anetol and boron in the leaves are capable of inducing estrogen in women while the same eugenol effective in men helps to kill fungus that has been implicated in vaginal discharge.
- Promotes normal hair growth
Hair loss is one of the most feared side effects of cancer chemotherapy. Investigations by Orafidiya et al., showed the efficacy of the leaf essential oil of scent leaves (Ocimum oil) in promoting hair growth and follicular proliferation in cyclophosphamide-induced hair loss.
- Source of aromatics and Oils
The oil extracts obtainable from scent leaves have a wide spectrum of usage. The essential oils can be used for aromatherapy massage as the oils can relieve and refresh the body. The oils can equally be used in the manufacture of soaps, perfumes, ointments, and aromatherapy oils.
There are so many other unconfirmed uses of this powerful plant including; reduction of nicotine levels, ceremonial washing of corpses (in Indonesia). One thing that is clear is that the plant is more than meets the nose and must be better researched and utilized before its beauty in its entirety can be duly appreciated.
How to prepare scent leaf tea to maximize its health benefits
Step 1: Wash your scent leaf thoroughly to remove dirt
Step 2: Pour a glass of water or 2 ( this depends on how much the scent leaf is) into your kettle
Step 3: Place your clean scent leaf in your kettle
Step 4: Lit your gas or stove and boil for 30 mins
Step 5: After 30 mins, put off your gas or stove.
The water and scent leaf mixture in your kettle is your scent leaf tea, pour in a cup, leave it to warm, and drink.