The genus Ocimum basilicum L. is extremely widespread through the world and its essential oils have acquired commercial significance. Native to Asia and the tropical regions, this Iabiatae spread rapidly through Europe, particularly in Southern France, Italy, Hungary and Spain, the USA, south and north Africa, and Reunion Island. Table I recapitulates the research work devoted to these essential oils.
According to Lawrence (1978) several types of oils can be distinguished depending on their geographical origin. European essential oils from France, Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary and South Africa can be determined by their approximately equal Iinalool and methyl chavicol proportions. The so-called exotic essential oils that originate from Reunion Island, the Comoro Islands, Madagascar, Thailand and Vietnam are rich in methyl chavicol (80% to 90%), Tropical essential oils (India, Pakistan, Haiti, Guatemala) have a higher methyl cinnamate content than the others. Essential oils distilled in the USSR and north Africa (Egypt, Morocco) are rich in eugenol.
Finally, some oils coming from Nigeria are said to have a high thymol content (19% to 32%) (Dro 1984). An oil of Vietnamese origin has recently been found containing 70% citral (Van Phiet Hoang 1980). But in these iast two cases, it is alfleged to be another variety Ocimum gratissimum L.