Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Botany, Geographical Distribution, and Horticultural Information of Basil (Ocimum basilicum)


Basil (Ocimum basilicum), also known as great basil, is a culinary herb belonging to the family Lamiaceae (mints). It is a tender plant, used worldwide in various cuisines. Basil is an annual or sometimes perennial herb, depending on the climate. The plant can reach heights between 30 and 150 centimeters (1 and 5 feet). Basil leaves are richly green, ovate, and vary in size and shape depending on the cultivar. The plant grows a thick, central taproot, and its flowers are small and white, growing from a central inflorescence that emerges from the central stem.

Geographical Distribution:

Basil is native to tropical regions from Central Africa to Southeast Asia. It has been globalized due to human cultivation and is now found in many regions of the world. In temperate climates, basil is treated as an annual plant, but in warmer horticultural zones with tropical or Mediterranean climates, it can be grown as a short-lived perennial or biennial.

Horticultural Information:

Basil is sensitive to cold and thrives best in hot, dry conditions. It is commonly cultivated in many countries around the world, particularly in the Mediterranean area, temperate zones, and subtropical climates. The plant grows best outdoors in well-drained soil with direct sun exposure. Basil can also be grown indoors in pots on sun-facing windowsills or even in a basement under fluorescent lights.

The plant requires regular watering but not as much attention as in other climates. It can recover if wilted from lack of water when watered thoroughly and placed in a sunny location. Basil can be propagated reliably from cuttings, and its leaves are commonly used fresh in recipes. The plant is susceptible to various plant pathogens, including Fusarium wilt, Pythium damping off, gray mold, black spot, and downy mildew.


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2. M. Aghaei, et al. “Molecular characterisation and similarity relationships among Iranian basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) accessions using inter simple sequence” –
3. F. Nejatzadeh-Barandozi. “Effects of different levels of mulch and irrigation on growth traits and essential oil content of basil” –


History, Traditional Herbal & Culinary Uses of Basil (Ocimum basilicum)


Basil, scientifically known as Ocimum basilicum and commonly referred to as great basil, is a culinary herb belonging to the family Lamiaceae (mints). Native to tropical regions from Central Africa to Southeast Asia, basil has been globalized due to human cultivation and is now found in many regions worldwide. In Western cuisine, “basil” typically refers to the variety known as sweet basil or Genovese basil. The plant is treated as an annual in temperate climates but can be grown as a short-lived perennial or biennial in warmer horticultural zones with tropical or Mediterranean climates.

Traditional Herbal Uses:

Basil has been used in various traditional medicine systems, such as Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine. It is known for its potential health benefits, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and antimicrobial properties. The essential oil of basil has been studied for its insecticidal and insect-repelling properties, showing potential toxicity to mosquitoes and effectiveness against various pests.

Culinary Uses:

Basil is most commonly used fresh in recipes, often added last as cooking quickly destroys its flavor. It is a key ingredient in pesto, an Italian sauce, and is used in many national cuisines. The fresh herb can be stored in plastic bags in the refrigerator or for a longer period in the freezer after being blanched in boiling water. Basil seeds, when soaked in water, become gelatinous and are used in Asian drinks and desserts.


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Scientific and Medicinal Studies on Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Overview of Scientific Research:

Basil (Ocimum basilicum L.), commonly known as sweet basil, is a prominent spicy-aromatic and medicinal plant. It has been extensively studied for its diverse pharmacological properties, including antioxidant, antimicrobial, and cytostatic activities. Basil’s essential oil, in particular, has garnered significant attention in experimental research.

Pharmacological Properties:

1. Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Activities: Basil essential oil has demonstrated good antioxidant and antimicrobial properties. These activities are attributed to its rich phytochemical composition, including various essential oils and phenolic compounds.

2. Cytostatic Activity: Basil has shown cytostatic activity, which is the ability to inhibit cell growth and multiplication, making it a potential candidate for cancer research.

3. Diabetes Management: A study on basil’s effects on type 2 diabetes revealed its significant role in controlling the disease through various mechanisms. These include inhibiting glucose production in the liver, increasing glycogen synthesis, decreasing gluconeogenesis and glycogenolysis, stimulating insulin secretion, and inhibiting α-glucosidase and α-amylase enzymes.

4. Antibacterial Properties: Research on the antibacterial activity of organic basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) indicated a satisfactory antibacterial activity against various pathogens. This emphasizes the antimicrobial potential of basil and its use in alternative medicine for treating respiratory and rheumatic problems.

Cultivation and Varietal Development:

Basil’s popularity in the spice market and its medicinal properties have driven the development of new varieties. Work on improving and creating promising basil varieties has led to the registration of several types for diverse uses, including seasoning, flavoring, and medicinal raw materials.


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2. Melika Kheshti, Khojasteh Malekmohammad, Firouzeh Gholampour. “Study of Basil (Ocimum basilicum L) and its Mechanism of Action on Type 2 Diabetes” –
3. K. C. Maciel, et al. “Bacterial Inhibition Profile of Organic Basil – (Ocimum basilicum L.)” –


Specific List of Phytochemicals in Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Basil (Ocimum basilicum L.), commonly known as sweet basil, is a rich source of various bioactive compounds. The specific individual phytochemicals identified in basil include:

1. α-Linalool: A major component contributing to basil’s aroma and flavor.

2. Camphor: Found in basil, known for its aromatic properties.

3. Limonene: A volatile compound present in basil, contributing to its citrus-like aroma.

4. Thymol: A phytochemical known for its antimicrobial properties.

5. Citral: A compound contributing to the lemon scent of certain basil varieties.

6. β-Linalool: Another form of linalool found in basil.

7. Estragole: Also known as methyl chavicol, found in significant amounts in basil.

8. Rosmarinic Acid: A phenolic compound found in basil with various health benefits.

9. Ellagic Acid: A polyphenol known for its antioxidant properties.

10. Catechin: A flavonoid present in basil, known for its health-promoting properties.

11. Liquiritigenin: A flavonoid compound found in basil.

12. Umbelliferone: A coumarin compound present in basil.

These individual phytochemicals contribute to basil’s antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and other medicinal properties, making it a valuable herb in both culinary and medicinal applications.


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2. Hafiz Rehan Nadeem, et al. “Toxicity, Antioxidant Activity, and Phytochemicals of Basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) Leaves Cultivated in Southern Punjab, Pakistan” –
3. Chaimae Majdi, et al. “Phytochemical Characterization and Bioactive Properties of Cinnamon Basil (Ocimum basilicum cv. ‘Cinnamon’) and Lemon Basil (Ocimum × citriodorum)” –
4. A. Falowo, et al. “Phytochemical Constituents and Antioxidant Activity of Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) Essential Oil on Ground Beef from Boran and Nguni Cattle” –


Herbalists Report on Contraindications and Safety of Basil (Ocimum basilicum)


Basil (Ocimum basilicum L.), commonly known as sweet basil, is widely used as a culinary herb and in traditional medicine. While basil is generally considered safe and beneficial for health, it is essential to understand its safety profile and potential contraindications.

Safety Profile:

Basil is safe for most people when used in food amounts. It is also safe in medicinal amounts for short periods. However, long-term medicinal use or consumption of large amounts may have health implications due to the presence of certain compounds like estragole, which has been a subject of safety concerns.


1. Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking basil in medicinal amounts during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Therefore, it is advisable to stick to food amounts during these periods.

2. Allergic Reactions: People with allergies to mint family plants might also be allergic to basil.

3. Blood Clotting: Basil might slow blood clotting. In theory, basil might increase the risk of bleeding during and after surgery. It is recommended to stop using basil as a medicine at least two weeks before a scheduled surgery.

4. Estragole Content: Basil contains estragole, a compound that has raised concerns due to its potential carcinogenicity. However, recent research suggests that the tumorigenic potential of alkenylbenzenes is counteracted by other basil constituents such as nevadensin, concluding that basil consumption in food and preparations is generally safe.


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