Ocimum basilicum ethanolic extract decreases cholesterol synthesis and lipid accumulation in human macrophages

Fitoterapia. 2008 Dec;79(7-8):515-23. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2008.05.002. Epub 2008 Jun 22.


Macrophage lipid accumulation induced by low density lipoproteins (LDL) plays a pivotal role in atherosclerotic plaque development. Previous work showed that Ocimum basilicum extract, used as hypocholesterolemic agent by traditional medicine in Morocco, has hypolipidemic activity in rat acute hyperlipimidemia. This study investigated the effects of ethanolic extract of O. basilicum on lipid accumulation in human macrophages. As modification of LDL increase atherogenicity of the particles we evaluated the effects of the extract on LDL oxidation. The extract caused a dose-related increase of LDL-resistance to Cu(2+)-induced oxidation. Furthermore, at the dose of 60 microg/ml, significantly decreases the accumulation of macrophage lipid droplets induced by modified LDL evaluated as by red-oil staining. Cholesterol esterification and triacylglycerol synthesis in the cells were not affected. Macrophage treatment with 60 microg/ml, but not 20 microg/ml, of the extract reduced newly synthesized unesterified cholesterol by about 60% and decreased scavenger receptors activity by about 20-30%, evaluated by the internalization of cholesterol carried by [(3)H]CE-aggregated-LDL. The results suggest that O. basilicum ethanolic extract has the capability to reduce foam cell formation through the reduction of cholesterol synthesis and the modulation of the activity of surface scavenger receptors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Atherosclerosis / prevention & control
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cholesterol / biosynthesis*
  • Copper / metabolism
  • Foam Cells / drug effects*
  • Foam Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Hypolipidemic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Lipids / biosynthesis*
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / isolation & purification
  • Lipoproteins, LDL / metabolism*
  • Macrophages / metabolism*
  • Ocimum basilicum / chemistry*
  • Oleic Acid / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction / drug effects
  • Plant Components, Aerial
  • Plant Extracts / isolation & purification
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Proteins / analysis
  • Receptors, Scavenger / metabolism
  • Triglycerides / metabolism


  • Hypolipidemic Agents
  • Lipids
  • Lipoproteins, LDL
  • Plant Extracts
  • Proteins
  • Receptors, Scavenger
  • Triglycerides
  • Oleic Acid
  • Copper
  • Cholesterol