This study examines the chemical composition and in vitro anticancer activity of the essential oil from Ocimum basilicum Linn. (Lamiaceae), cultivated in the Western Ghats of South India. The chemical compositions of basil fresh leaves were identified by GC-MS: 11 components were identified. The major constituents were found to be methyl cinnamate (70.1%), linalool (17.5%), β-elemene (2.6%) and camphor (1.52%). The results revealed that this plant may belong to the methyl cinnamate and linalool chemotype. A methyl thiazol tetrazolium assay was used for in vitro cytotoxicity screening against the human cervical cancer cell line (HeLa), human laryngeal epithelial carcinoma cell line (HEp-2) and NIH 3T3 mouse embryonic fibroblasts. The IC(50) values obtained were 90.5 and 96.3 µg mL(-1), respectively, and the results revealed that basil oil has potent cytotoxicity.