Basil
Overview
 
Basil, or Sweet Basil, is a common name for the culinary herb Ocimum basilicum , of the family
Family (biology)
In biological classification, family is* a taxonomic rank. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, genus, and species, with family fitting between order and genus. As for the other well-known ranks, there is the option of an immediately lower rank, indicated by the...

 Lamiaceae
Lamiaceae
The mints, taxonomically known as Lamiaceae or Labiatae, are a family of flowering plants. They have traditionally been considered closely related to Verbenaceae, but in the 1990s, phylogenetic studies suggested that many genera classified in Verbenaceae belong instead in Lamiaceae...

 (mints), sometimes known as Saint Joseph's Wort in some English-speaking countries.

Basil, originally from India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, is best known as a culinary herb prominently featured in Italian cuisine
Italian cuisine
Italian cuisine has developed through centuries of social and political changes, with roots as far back as the 4th century BCE. Italian cuisine in itself takes heavy influences, including Etruscan, ancient Greek, ancient Roman, Byzantine, Jewish and Arab cuisines...

, and also plays a major role in the Northeast Asia
Northeast Asia
Northeast Asia and Northeastern Asia refers to the northeastern subregion of Asia. Though the precise definition of Northeast Asia changes according to context, it always includes Japan and the Korean Peninsula, and is sometimes used to refer to these two regions exclusively.-Definitions:The...

n cuisine of Taiwan and the Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

n cuisines of Thailand
Cuisine of Thailand
Thai cuisine is the national cuisine of Thailand. Blending elements of several Southeast Asian traditions, Thai cooking places emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components. The spiciness of Thai cuisine is well known. As with other Asian cuisines, balance, detail and variety...

, Vietnam
Cuisine of Vietnam
Vietnamese cuisine is a style of cooking derived from Vietnam. Fish sauce and paste, soy paste, rice, fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables are commonly used. Vietnamese recipes utilize a diverse range of herbs, including lemongrass, mint, Vietnamese mint, long coriander and Thai basil leaves...

, Cambodia
Cuisine of Cambodia
Khmer cuisine is another name for the foods and cuisine widely consumed in Cambodia. The food of Cambodia includes tropical fruits, rice, noodles, drinks, dessert and various soups....

, and Laos
Cuisine of Laos
Lao cuisine is the cuisine of Laos, which is distinct from other Southeast Asian cuisines. Laos shares borders with neighboring countries and as a result, Lao cuisine has strongly influenced the neighboring cuisine of Northeastern Thailand and some Lao culinary influences have also reached...

. Depending on the species and cultivar, the leaves may taste somewhat like anise
Anise
Anise , Pimpinella anisum, also called aniseed, is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae native to the eastern Mediterranean region and Southwest Asia. Its flavor resembles that of liquorice, fennel, and tarragon.- Biology :...

, with a strong, pungent, often sweet smell.

There are many varieties of Ocimum basilicum, as well as several related species or species hybrids also called basil.
Encyclopedia
Basil, or Sweet Basil, is a common name for the culinary herb Ocimum basilicum , of the family
Family (biology)
In biological classification, family is* a taxonomic rank. Other well-known ranks are life, domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, genus, and species, with family fitting between order and genus. As for the other well-known ranks, there is the option of an immediately lower rank, indicated by the...

 Lamiaceae
Lamiaceae
The mints, taxonomically known as Lamiaceae or Labiatae, are a family of flowering plants. They have traditionally been considered closely related to Verbenaceae, but in the 1990s, phylogenetic studies suggested that many genera classified in Verbenaceae belong instead in Lamiaceae...

 (mints), sometimes known as Saint Joseph's Wort in some English-speaking countries.

Basil, originally from India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, is best known as a culinary herb prominently featured in Italian cuisine
Italian cuisine
Italian cuisine has developed through centuries of social and political changes, with roots as far back as the 4th century BCE. Italian cuisine in itself takes heavy influences, including Etruscan, ancient Greek, ancient Roman, Byzantine, Jewish and Arab cuisines...

, and also plays a major role in the Northeast Asia
Northeast Asia
Northeast Asia and Northeastern Asia refers to the northeastern subregion of Asia. Though the precise definition of Northeast Asia changes according to context, it always includes Japan and the Korean Peninsula, and is sometimes used to refer to these two regions exclusively.-Definitions:The...

n cuisine of Taiwan and the Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...

n cuisines of Thailand
Cuisine of Thailand
Thai cuisine is the national cuisine of Thailand. Blending elements of several Southeast Asian traditions, Thai cooking places emphasis on lightly prepared dishes with strong aromatic components. The spiciness of Thai cuisine is well known. As with other Asian cuisines, balance, detail and variety...

, Vietnam
Cuisine of Vietnam
Vietnamese cuisine is a style of cooking derived from Vietnam. Fish sauce and paste, soy paste, rice, fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables are commonly used. Vietnamese recipes utilize a diverse range of herbs, including lemongrass, mint, Vietnamese mint, long coriander and Thai basil leaves...

, Cambodia
Cuisine of Cambodia
Khmer cuisine is another name for the foods and cuisine widely consumed in Cambodia. The food of Cambodia includes tropical fruits, rice, noodles, drinks, dessert and various soups....

, and Laos
Cuisine of Laos
Lao cuisine is the cuisine of Laos, which is distinct from other Southeast Asian cuisines. Laos shares borders with neighboring countries and as a result, Lao cuisine has strongly influenced the neighboring cuisine of Northeastern Thailand and some Lao culinary influences have also reached...

. Depending on the species and cultivar, the leaves may taste somewhat like anise
Anise
Anise , Pimpinella anisum, also called aniseed, is a flowering plant in the family Apiaceae native to the eastern Mediterranean region and Southwest Asia. Its flavor resembles that of liquorice, fennel, and tarragon.- Biology :...

, with a strong, pungent, often sweet smell.

There are many varieties of Ocimum basilicum, as well as several related species or species hybrids also called basil. The type used in Italian food is typically called sweet basil, as opposed to Thai basil
Thai basil
Thai basil is a type of sweet basil native to Southeast Asia that has been cultivated to provide a distinctive set of traits. It has an identifiable licorice flavor not present in sweet basil, and its flavor is more stable under high or extended cooking temperatures than that of sweet basil...

 (O. basilicum var. thyrsiflora), lemon basil
Lemon basil
Lemon basil is a hybrid between basil and African basil .It is an herb grown primarily in northeastern Africa and southern Asia, for its strong fragrant lemon scent is used in cooking....

 (O. × citriodorum) and holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), which are used in Asia. While most common varieties of basil are treated as annuals
Annual plant
An annual plant is a plant that usually germinates, flowers, and dies in a year or season. True annuals will only live longer than a year if they are prevented from setting seed...

, some are perennial
Perennial plant
A perennial plant or simply perennial is a plant that lives for more than two years. The term is often used to differentiate a plant from shorter lived annuals and biennials. The term is sometimes misused by commercial gardeners or horticulturalists to describe only herbaceous perennials...

 in warm, tropical climates, including holy basil and a cultivar known as 'African Blue'
African Blue basil
African blue basil is one of a few types of basil that is perennial. It is a sterile hybrid of two other breeds of basil, unable to produce seeds of its own, and is propagated by cuttings....

.

Basil is originally native to India and other tropical regions of Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

, having been cultivated there for more than 5,000 years.

Etymology

The word basil comes from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 βασιλεύς (basileus
Basileus
Basileus is a Greek term and title that has signified various types of monarchs in history. It is perhaps best known in English as a title used by the Byzantine Emperors, but also has a longer history of use for persons of authority and sovereigns in ancient Greece, as well as for the kings of...

), meaning "king", as it is believed to have grown above the spot where St. Constantine
Constantine I
Constantine the Great , also known as Constantine I or Saint Constantine, was Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Well known for being the first Roman emperor to convert to Christianity, Constantine and co-Emperor Licinius issued the Edict of Milan in 313, which proclaimed religious tolerance of all...

 and his mother St. Helen
Helena of Constantinople
Saint Helena also known as Saint Helen, Helena Augusta or Helena of Constantinople was the consort of Emperor Constantius, and the mother of Emperor Constantine I...

 discovered the Holy Cross
True Cross
The True Cross is the name for physical remnants which, by a Christian tradition, are believed to be from the cross upon which Jesus was crucified.According to post-Nicene historians, Socrates Scholasticus and others, the Empress Helena The True Cross is the name for physical remnants which, by a...

. The Oxford English Dictionary
Oxford English Dictionary
The Oxford English Dictionary , published by the Oxford University Press, is the self-styled premier dictionary of the English language. Two fully bound print editions of the OED have been published under its current name, in 1928 and 1989. The first edition was published in twelve volumes , and...

quotes speculations that basil may have been used in "some royal unguent, bath, or medicine". Basil is still considered the "king of herbs" by many cookery authors.

Nomenclature and taxonomy

Most commercially available basils are cultivars of sweet basil. There are over 160 named cultivars available and more new ones every year. There are also a number of species sold. Here are some basils commonly sold in the USA.
For a more complete list, see List of basil cultivars
  • African blue basil
    African Blue basil
    African blue basil is one of a few types of basil that is perennial. It is a sterile hybrid of two other breeds of basil, unable to produce seeds of its own, and is propagated by cuttings....

     (Ocimum basilicum X O. kilimandscharicum)
  • Camphor basil, African basil (O. kilimandscharicum)
  • cinnamon basil (Ocimum basilicum 'Cinnamon')
    Cinnamon basil
    Cinnamon basil is a cultivar of Ocimum basilicum . It contains cinnamate, the same chemical that gives cinnamon its flavor, and has the strongest scent of cinnamon. The leaves are small to medium sized. The combination of basil and cinnamon flavors make cinnamon basil popular for use in hot drinks...

  • Dark opal basil
    Dark opal basil
    Dark opal basil is a cultivar of Ocimum basilicum , developed at the University of Connecticut in the 1950s. With deep purple, sometimes mottled leaves, it is grown as much for its decorative appeal as for its culinary value...

     (Ocimum basilicum 'Dark Opal')
  • Globe basil
    Spicy globe basil
    Spicy globe basil is a cultivar of Ocimum basilicum . Unlike some better known basils, it grows in the form of a tidy, compact bush, more suitable for gardens and small pots than most varieties. The small, densely growing leaves are used in the same way as the leaves of other sweet basil varieties....

    , dwarf basil, French basil (Ocimum basilicum 'Minimum')
  • Hoary basil (Ocimum americanum
    Ocimum americanum
    Ocimum americanum, known as lime, hairy or "hoary basil", is an annual herb with white or lavender flowers. It is used for medicinal purposes....

    formerly known as O. canum)
  • Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum, formerly known a O. sanctum)
  • Spice Basil (a cultivar of Ocimum americanum
    Ocimum americanum
    Ocimum americanum, known as lime, hairy or "hoary basil", is an annual herb with white or lavender flowers. It is used for medicinal purposes....

    , which is sometimes sold as Holy Basil)
  • Lemon basil (Ocimum americanum
    Ocimum americanum
    Ocimum americanum, known as lime, hairy or "hoary basil", is an annual herb with white or lavender flowers. It is used for medicinal purposes....

    )
  • Lettuce leaf basil
    Lettuce leaf basil
    Lettuce leaf basil is a large-leaf variety of Ocimum basilicum . The large, crinkled leaves, which grow on the short, wide plant, are sweet, but not as strong as other sweet basils. This makes them particularly suitable for tossing into salads or wrapping fish, chicken or a rice stuffing for...

     (Ocimum basilicum 'Crispum')
  • Purple basil (Ocimum basilicum 'Purpurescens')
  • Queen of Siam basil (Ocimum basilicum citriodorum)
  • Rubin basil
    Red rubin basil
    Red rubin basil is an improved variety of Dark opal basil. Like many culinary basils, it is a cultivar of Ocimum basilicum . This basil variety has unusual reddish-purple leaves, and a stronger flavor than sweet basil, making it most appealing for salads and garnishes....

     (Ocimum basilicum 'Rubin')

Culinary use

Basil is commonly used fresh in cooked recipes. In general, it is added at the last moment, as cooking quickly destroys the flavor. The fresh herb can be kept for a short time in plastic bags in the refrigerator, or for a longer period in the freezer, after being blanched quickly in boiling water. The dried herb also loses most of its flavor, and what little flavor remains tastes very different, with a weak coumarin
Coumarin
Coumarin is a fragrant chemical compound in the benzopyrone chemical class, found in many plants, notably in high concentration in the tonka bean , vanilla grass , sweet woodruff , mullein , sweet grass , cassia cinnamon and sweet clover...

 flavor, like hay
Hay
Hay is grass, legumes or other herbaceous plants that have been cut, dried, and stored for use as animal fodder, particularly for grazing livestock such as cattle, horses, goats, and sheep. Hay is also fed to pets such as rabbits and guinea pigs...

.

Basil is one of the main ingredients in pesto
Pesto
Pesto is a sauce originating in Genoa in the Liguria region of northern Italy , and traditionally consists of crushed garlic, basil and pine nuts blended with olive oil and Parmigiano Reggiano and Fiore Sardo...

—a green Italian oil-and-herb sauce. Its other main ingredients are olive oil, garlic, and pine nuts.

The most commonly used Mediterranean basil cultivar
Cultivar
A cultivar'Cultivar has two meanings as explained under Formal definition. When used in reference to a taxon, the word does not apply to an individual plant but to all those plants sharing the unique characteristics that define the cultivar. is a plant or group of plants selected for desirable...

s are "Genovese", "Purple Ruffles", "Mammoth", "Cinnamon", "Lemon", "Globe", and "African Blue
African Blue basil
African blue basil is one of a few types of basil that is perennial. It is a sterile hybrid of two other breeds of basil, unable to produce seeds of its own, and is propagated by cuttings....

". The Chinese
Chinese cuisine
Chinese cuisine is any of several styles originating in the regions of China, some of which have become highly popular in other parts of the world – from Asia to the Americas, Australia, Western Europe and Southern Africa...

 also use fresh or dried basils in soups and other foods. In Taiwan
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

, people add fresh basil leaves to thick soups . They also eat fried chicken
Fried chicken
Fried chicken is a dish consisting of chicken pieces usually from broiler chickens which have been floured or battered and then pan fried, deep fried, or pressure fried. The breading adds a crisp coating or crust to the exterior...

 with deep-fried basil leaves. Basil (most commonly Thai basil) is commonly steeped in cream or milk to create an interesting flavor in ice cream or chocolates (such as truffles). The leaves are not the only part of basil used in culinary applications, the flower buds have a more subtle flavor and they are edible.

Thai basil is also a condiment in the Vietnamese noodle soup, phở
PHO
PHO may refer to:* Primary Health Organisation* Potentially hazardous object, an asteroid or comet that could potentially collide with Earth...

.

Basil seeds

When soaked in water, the seeds of several basil varieties become gelatinous, and are used in Asian drinks and desserts such as falooda
Falooda
Falooda or Faluda is a cold and sweet beverage with many ingredients very popular in South Asia. Traditionally it is made by mixing rose syrup with vermicelli, psyllium or basil seeds, jelly pieces and tapioca pearls along with either milk, water or ice cream.Falooda is an adaptation of the...

or sherbet
Sharbat
Sharbat or Sherbet is a popular Middle Eastern and South Asian drink that is prepared from fruits or flower petals. It is sweet and served chilled...

. They are used for their medicinal properties in Ayurveda
Ayurveda
Ayurveda or ayurvedic medicine is a system of traditional medicine native to India and a form of alternative medicine. In Sanskrit, words , meaning "longevity", and , meaning "knowledge" or "science". The earliest literature on Indian medical practice appeared during the Vedic period in India,...

, the traditional medicinal system of India and Siddha medicine
Siddha medicine
The Siddha medicine is one of the oldest medical systems known to mankind. This system of medicine originated from south Indian Tamil traditional medicine, as part of the trio Indian medicines - ayurveda, siddha and unani. This system was very popular in ancient India...

, a traditional Tamil system of medicine. They are also used as drinks in Southeast Asia.

Other basils

See List of basil cultivars

Several other basils, including some other Ocimum species, are grown in many regions of Asia. Most of the Asian basils have a clove-like flavor that is, in general, stronger than the Mediterranean basils. The most notable is the holy basil or tulsi
Tulsi
Ocimum tenuiflorum Ocimum tenuiflorum Ocimum tenuiflorum (also tulsi, tulasī, or Holy Basil is an aromatic plant in the family Lamiaceae which is native throughout the Old World tropics and widespread as a cultivated plant and an escaped weed. It is an erect, much branched subshrub 30–60 cm...

, a revered home-grown plant in India and Nepal
Nepal
Nepal , officially the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal, is a landlocked sovereign state located in South Asia. It is located in the Himalayas and bordered to the north by the People's Republic of China, and to the south, east, and west by the Republic of India...

. In China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

, the local cultivar is called , while the imported varieties are called or , although [巴西里] often refers to a different plant—parsley
Parsley
Parsley is a species of Petroselinum in the family Apiaceae, native to the central Mediterranean region , naturalized elsewhere in Europe, and widely cultivated as an herb, a spice and a vegetable.- Description :Garden parsley is a bright green hairless biennial herbaceous plant in temperate...

.

Lemon basil has a strong lemony smell and flavor very different from those of other varieties because it contains a chemical called citral
Citral
Citral, or 3,7-dimethyl-2,6-octadienal or lemonal, is either of, or a mixture of, a pair of terpenoids with the molecular formula C10H16O. The two compounds are double bond isomers. The E-isomer is known as geranial or citral A...

. It is widely used in Indonesia, where it is called kemangi and served raw, together with raw cabbage, green beans, and cucumber, as an accompaniment to fried fish or duck. Its flowers, when broken up, are a zesty salad condiment.

Chemical components

The various basils have such different scents because the herb has a number of different essential oil
Essential oil
An essential oil is a concentrated hydrophobic liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants. Essential oils are also known as volatile oils, ethereal oils or aetherolea, or simply as the "oil of" the plant from which they were extracted, such as oil of clove...

s that come together in different proportions for various breeds. The strong clove
Clove
Cloves are the aromatic dried flower buds of a tree in the family Myrtaceae. Cloves are native to the Maluku islands in Indonesia and used as a spice in cuisines all over the world...

 scent of sweet basil is derived from eugenol
Eugenol
Eugenol is a phenylpropene, an allyl chain-substituted guaiacol. Eugenol is a member of the phenylpropanoids class of chemical compounds. It is a clear to pale yellow oily liquid extracted from certain essential oils especially from clove oil, nutmeg, cinnamon, basil and bay leaf. It is slightly...

, the same chemical as actual cloves. The citrus scent of lemon basil and lime basil reflects their higher portion of citral, which causes this effect in several plants including lemon mint
Lemon mint
Monarda citriodora is a species of flowering plant in the mint family, Lamiaceae, that is native much of the United States and Mexico. Common names include Lemon Beebalm, Lemon Mint and Purple Horsemint. When crushed, the leaves emit an odor reminiscent of lemons...

, and of limonene
Limonene
Limonene is a colourless liquid hydrocarbon classified as a cyclic terpene. The more common D isomer possesses a strong smell of oranges. It is used in chemical synthesis as a precursor to carvone and as a renewably-based solvent in cleaning products....

, which gives actual lemon peel its scent. African blue basil has a strong camphor
Camphor
Camphor is a waxy, white or transparent solid with a strong, aromatic odor. It is a terpenoid with the chemical formula C10H16O. It is found in wood of the camphor laurel , a large evergreen tree found in Asia and also of Dryobalanops aromatica, a giant of the Bornean forests...

 smell because it contains camphor and camphene
Camphene
Camphene is bicyclic monoterpene. It is nearly insoluble in water, but very soluble in common organic solvents. It volatilizes readily at room temperature and has a pungent smell. It is a minor constituent of many essential oils such as turpentine, cypress oil, camphor oil, citronella oil,...

 in higher proportions. Licorice basil contains anethole
Anethole
Anethole is a phenylpropene, a type of aromatic compound that occurs widely in nature, in essential oils...

, the same chemical that makes anise smell like licorice, and in fact is sometimes called "anise basil."

Other chemicals that help to produce the distinctive scents of many basils, depending on their proportion in each specific breed, include:
  • citronellol
    Citronellol
    Citronellol, or dihydrogeraniol, is a natural acyclic monoterpenoid. Both enantiomers occur in nature. -Citronellol, which is found in citronella oils, including Cymbopogon nardus , is the more common isomer. -Citronellol is found in the oils of rose and Pelargonium geraniums.Citronellol is...

     (scented geranium
    Pelargonium
    Pelargonium is a genus of flowering plants which includes about 200 species of perennials, succulents, and shrubs, commonly known as scented geraniums or storksbills. Confusingly, Geranium is the correct botanical name of a separate genus of related plants often called Cranesbills. Both Geranium...

    s, rose
    Rose
    A rose is a woody perennial of the genus Rosa, within the family Rosaceae. There are over 100 species. They form a group of erect shrubs, and climbing or trailing plants, with stems that are often armed with sharp prickles. Flowers are large and showy, in colours ranging from white through yellows...

    s, and citronella
    Citronella (genus)
    Citronella is a genus of trees and shrubs in the Cardiopteridaceae family, it lies in 25 species occurring mostly in tropical climates. Earlier the genus was treated in Icacinaceae family.-Cultivation and uses:Few species have been cultivated...

    )
  • linalool (a flowery scent also in coriander
    Coriander
    Coriander is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. Coriander is native to southern Europe and North Africa to southwestern Asia. It is a soft, hairless plant growing to tall. The leaves are variable in shape, broadly lobed at the base of the plant, and slender and feathery higher on the...

    )
  • myrcene (bay leaf
    Bay leaf
    Bay leaf refers to the aromatic leaf of the bay laurel . Fresh or dried bay leaves are used in cooking for their distinctive flavor and fragrance. The leaves are often used to flavor soups, stews, braises and pâtés in Mediterranean cuisine...

    , myrcia
    Myrcia
    Myrcia is a genus of the flowering plant family Myrtaceae.Selected species* Myrcia albobrunnea* Myrcia albo-tomentosa DC.* Myrcia almasensis* Myrcia bella Cambess.* Myrcia calcicola...

    )
  • pinene
    Pinene
    Pinene is a bicyclic monoterpene chemical compound. There are two structural isomers of pinene found in nature: α-pinene and β-pinene. As the name suggests, both forms are important constituents of pine resin; they are also found in the resins of many other conifers, as well as in non-coniferous...

     (which is, as the name implies, the chemical that gives pine oil its scent)
  • ocimene
    Ocimene
    Ocimene refers to several isomeric hydrocarbons. The ocimenes are monoterpenes found within a variety of plants and fruits. α-Ocimene and the two β-ocimenes differ in the position of the isolated double bond: it is terminal in the alpha isomer. α-Ocimene is 3,7-dimethyl-1,3,7-octatriene. ...

  • terpineol
    Terpene
    Terpenes are a large and diverse class of organic compounds, produced by a variety of plants, particularly conifers, though also by some insects such as termites or swallowtail butterflies, which emit terpenes from their osmeterium. They are often strong smelling and thus may have had a protective...

  • linalyl acetate
    Linalyl acetate
    Linalyl acetate is a naturally occurring phytochemical found in many flowers and spice plants. It is one of the principal components of the essential oils of bergamot and lavender. Chemically, it is the acetate ester of linalool, and the two often occur in conjunction.Synthetic linalyl acetate is...

  • fenchyl acetate
  • trans-ocimene
  • 1,8-cineole
  • camphor octanane
  • methyl eugenol
    Methyl eugenol
    Methyl eugenol is a phenylpropene, a type of phenylpropanoid compound, the methyl ether of eugenol. It is found in various essential oils....

  • eugenol
    Eugenol
    Eugenol is a phenylpropene, an allyl chain-substituted guaiacol. Eugenol is a member of the phenylpropanoids class of chemical compounds. It is a clear to pale yellow oily liquid extracted from certain essential oils especially from clove oil, nutmeg, cinnamon, basil and bay leaf. It is slightly...

  • beta-caryophyllene


Based on chemical content, basils can be divided into four groups:
  1. French; Ocimum basilicum, contains lower amounts of phenols
  2. exotic; contains methyl chavicol (40-80%)
  3. methyl cinnamate - ether 90%
  4. eugenol


Basil and oregano
Oregano
Oregano – scientifically named Origanum vulgare by Carolus Linnaeus – is a common species of Origanum, a genus of the mint family . It is native to warm-temperate western and southwestern Eurasia and the Mediterranean region.Oregano is a perennial herb, growing from 20–80 cm tall,...

 contain large amounts of (E)-beta-caryophyllene (BCP), which might have a use in treating inflammatory bowel disease
Inflammatory bowel disease
In medicine, inflammatory bowel disease is a group of inflammatory conditions of the colon and small intestine. The major types of IBD are Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis.-Classification:...

s and arthritis
Arthritis
Arthritis is a form of joint disorder that involves inflammation of one or more joints....

. BCP is the only product identified in nature that activates CB2 selectively; it interacts with one of two cannabinoid receptors (CB2), blocking chemical signals that lead to inflammation, without triggering cannabis
Cannabis
Cannabis is a genus of flowering plants that includes three putative species, Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. These three taxa are indigenous to Central Asia, and South Asia. Cannabis has long been used for fibre , for seed and seed oils, for medicinal purposes, and as a...

's mood-altering effects.

Aroma profiles

  • 1,8-cineole
  • Bergamotene
  • Eugenol
    Eugenol
    Eugenol is a phenylpropene, an allyl chain-substituted guaiacol. Eugenol is a member of the phenylpropanoids class of chemical compounds. It is a clear to pale yellow oily liquid extracted from certain essential oils especially from clove oil, nutmeg, cinnamon, basil and bay leaf. It is slightly...

  • Linalool
  • Methyl chavicol
  • Methyl cinnamate
    Methyl cinnamate
    Methyl cinnamate is the methyl ester of cinnamic acid and is a white or transparent solid with a strong, aromatic odor. It is found naturally in a variety of plants, including in fruits, like strawberry, and some culinary spices, such as Sichuan pepper and some varieties of basil...

  • Methyl eugenol
    Methyl eugenol
    Methyl eugenol is a phenylpropene, a type of phenylpropanoid compound, the methyl ether of eugenol. It is found in various essential oils....

  • Phenylpropanoids
  • trans-β-Ocimene

Cultivation

Most culinary and ornamental basils are cultivars of the species Ocimum basilicum, but other species are also grown and there are many hybrids between species. Traditionally a green plant, some varieties, such as 'Purple Delight' have leaves that appear purple.
Basil grows between tall, with opposite, light green, silky leaves
Leaf
A leaf is an organ of a vascular plant, as defined in botanical terms, and in particular in plant morphology. Foliage is a mass noun that refers to leaves as a feature of plants....

  long and broad. The flowers are small, white in color and arranged in a terminal spike
Raceme
A raceme is a type of inflorescence that is unbranched and indeterminate and bears pedicellate flowers — flowers having short floral stalks called pedicels — along the axis. In botany, axis means a shoot, in this case one bearing the flowers. In a raceme, the oldest flowers are borne...

. Unusual among Lamiaceae, the four stamen
Stamen
The stamen is the pollen producing reproductive organ of a flower...

s and the pistil are not pushed under the upper lip of the corolla, but lie over the inferior lip. After entomophilous
Entomophily
Entomophily is a form of pollination whereby pollen is distributed by insects. Several insect are reported to be responsible for the pollination of many plant species, particularly bees, Lepidoptera , wasps, flies, ants and beetles. Some plant species co-evolved with a particular pollinator, such...

 pollination, the corolla falls off and four round achene
Achene
An achene is a type of simple dry fruit produced by many species of flowering plants. Achenes are monocarpellate and indehiscent...

s develop inside the bilabiate calyx.

Basil is very sensitive to cold, with best growth in hot, dry conditions. It behaves as an annual if there is any chance of a frost. In Northern Europe, Canada, the northern states of the U.S., and the South Island of New Zealand it will grow best if sown under glass in a peat pot, then planted out in late spring/early summer (when there is little chance of a frost).
Additionally, it may be sown in soil once chance of frost is past.
It fares best in a well-drained sunny spot.

Although basil grows best outdoors, it can be grown indoors in a pot and, like most herbs, will do best on an equator-facing windowsill. It should be kept away from extremely cold drafts, and grows best in strong sunlight, therefore a greenhouse
Greenhouse
A greenhouse is a building in which plants are grown. These structures range in size from small sheds to very large buildings...

 or row cover
Row cover
In horticulture, row cover is any material used as a protective covering to shield plants, usually vegetables, primarily from the undesirable effects of cold and wind, and also from insect damage....

 is ideal if available. They can, however, be grown even in a basement, under fluorescent lights.

If its leaves have wilted from lack of water, it will recover if watered thoroughly and placed in a sunny location. Yellow leaves towards the bottom of the plant are an indication that the plant has been stressed; usually this means that it needs less water, or less or more fertilizer.

In sunnier climates such as Southern Europe, the southern states of the U.S., the North Island of New Zealand, and Australia, basil will thrive when planted outside. It also thrives over the summertime in the central and northern United States, but dies out when temperatures reach freezing point. It will grow back the next year if allowed to go to seed. It will need regular watering, but not as much attention as is needed in other climates.

Basil can also be propagated very reliably from cuttings in exactly the same manner as 'Busy Lizzie
Busy Lizzie
Impatiens walleriana Hook.f. also known as Busy Lizzy, Balsam or simply Impatiens, is native to eastern Africa from Kenya to Mozambique. It is a herbaceous perennial plant growing to 15-60 cm tall, with broad lanceolate leaves 3-12 cm long and 2-5 cm broad...

' (Impatiens), with the stems of short cuttings suspended for two weeks or so in water until roots develop.

Once a stem produces flowers, foliage production stops on that stem, the stem becomes woody, and essential oil production declines. To prevent this, a basil-grower may pinch off any flower stems before they are fully mature. Because only the blooming stem is so affected, some stems can be pinched for leaf production, while others are left to bloom for decoration or seeds.

Once the plant is allowed to flower, it may produce seed pods containing small black seeds, which can be saved and planted the following year. Picking the leaves off the plant helps "promote growth", largely because the plant responds by converting pairs of leaflets next to the topmost leaves into new stems.

Companion planting

In double-blinded taste tests, basil has been found to not affect significantly the taste of tomatoes when planted adjacent to them.

Diseases

Basil suffers from several plant pathogens that can ruin the crop and reduce yield
Crop yield
In agriculture, crop yield is not only a measure of the yield of cereal per unit area of land under cultivation, yield is also the seed generation of the plant itself...

. Fusarium wilt
Fusarium wilt
Fusarium wilt is a common vascular wilt fungal disease, exhibiting symptoms similar to Verticillium wilt. The pathogen that causes Fusarium wilt is Fusarium oxysporum . The species is further divided into forma specialis based on host plant.-Hosts and symptoms:The fungal pathogen Fusarium...

 is a soil-borne fungal disease that will quickly kill younger basil plants. Seedling
Seedling
thumb|Monocot and dicot seedlingsA seedling is a young plant sporophyte developing out of a plant embryo from a seed. Seedling development starts with germination of the seed. A typical young seedling consists of three main parts: the radicle , the hypocotyl , and the cotyledons...

s may also be killed by Pythium
Pythium
Pythium is a genus of parasitic oomycete. Most species are plant parasites, but Pythium insidiosum is an important pathogen of animals...

damping off
Damping off
Damping off is the term used for a number of different fungus-caused ailments that can kill seeds or seedlings before or after they germinate....

.

A common foliar disease of basil is gray mold caused by Botrytis cinerea
Botrytis cinerea
Botrytis cinerea is a necrotrophic fungus that affects many plant species, although its most notable hosts may be wine grapes. In viticulture, it is commonly known as botrytis bunch rot; in horticulture, it is usually called grey mould or gray mold.The fungus gives rise to two different kinds of...

; it can also cause infections post-harvest and is capable of killing the entire plant. Black spot can also be seen on basil foliage and is caused by the fungi genus
Genus
In biology, a genus is a low-level taxonomic rank used in the biological classification of living and fossil organisms, which is an example of definition by genus and differentia...

 Colletotrichum
Colletotrichum
Colletotrichum is a genus of fungi that are obligate symbionts to plants in the form of endophytes. Many of the species in this genus are plant pathogens, although some species may express a mutualistic life-style in non-disease hosts....

.

Potential health effects

Recently, there has been much research into the health benefits conferred by the essential oils found in basil. Scientific studies in vitro
In vitro
In vitro refers to studies in experimental biology that are conducted using components of an organism that have been isolated from their usual biological context in order to permit a more detailed or more convenient analysis than can be done with whole organisms. Colloquially, these experiments...

 have established that compounds in basil oil have potent antioxidant
Antioxidant
An antioxidant is a molecule capable of inhibiting the oxidation of other molecules. Oxidation is a chemical reaction that transfers electrons or hydrogen from a substance to an oxidizing agent. Oxidation reactions can produce free radicals. In turn, these radicals can start chain reactions. When...

, antiviral, and antimicrobial
Antimicrobial
An anti-microbial is a substance that kills or inhibits the growth of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, or protozoans. Antimicrobial drugs either kill microbes or prevent the growth of microbes...

 properties, and potential for use in treating cancer
Cancer
Cancer , known medically as a malignant neoplasm, is a large group of different diseases, all involving unregulated cell growth. In cancer, cells divide and grow uncontrollably, forming malignant tumors, and invade nearby parts of the body. The cancer may also spread to more distant parts of the...

. In addition, basil has been shown to decrease the occurrence of platelet
Platelet
Platelets, or thrombocytes , are small,irregularly shaped clear cell fragments , 2–3 µm in diameter, which are derived from fragmentation of precursor megakaryocytes.  The average lifespan of a platelet is normally just 5 to 9 days...

 aggregation and experimental thrombus
Thrombus
A thrombus , or blood clot, is the final product of the blood coagulation step in hemostasis. It is achieved via the aggregation of platelets that form a platelet plug, and the activation of the humoral coagulation system...

 in mice. It is traditionally used for supplementary treatment of stress, asthma
Asthma
Asthma is the common chronic inflammatory disease of the airways characterized by variable and recurring symptoms, reversible airflow obstruction, and bronchospasm. Symptoms include wheezing, coughing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath...

 and diabetes
Diabetes mellitus
Diabetes mellitus, often simply referred to as diabetes, is a group of metabolic diseases in which a person has high blood sugar, either because the body does not produce enough insulin, or because cells do not respond to the insulin that is produced...

 in India. In Siddha medicine, it is used for treating pimples on the face, but noted that intake of the seeds in large quantities is harmful for the brain.

Basil, like other aromatic plants such as fennel
Fennel
Fennel is a plant species in the genus Foeniculum . It is a member of the family Apiaceae . It is a hardy, perennial, umbelliferous herb, with yellow flowers and feathery leaves...

 and tarragon
Tarragon
Tarragon or dragon's-wort is a perennial herb in the family Asteraceae related to wormwood. Corresponding to its species name, a common term for the plant is "dragon herb". It is native to a wide area of the Northern Hemisphere from easternmost Europe across central and eastern Asia to India,...

, contains estragole
Estragole
Estragole is a phenylpropene, a natural organic compound. Its chemical structure consists of a benzene ring substituted with a methoxy group and a propenyl group. Estragole is a double-bond isomer of anethole. It is a colorless to pale yellow liquid...

, a known carcinogen
Carcinogen
A carcinogen is any substance, radionuclide, or radiation that is an agent directly involved in causing cancer. This may be due to the ability to damage the genome or to the disruption of cellular metabolic processes...

 and teratogen in rats and mice. While human effects are currently unstudied, extrapolation using body weight from the rodent experiments indicates that 100–1000 times the normal anticipated exposure still probably produces a minimal cancer risk.

Cultural aspects

There are many rituals and beliefs associated with basil. The French sometimes call basil "l'herbe royale", while in Welsh
Welsh language
Welsh is a member of the Brythonic branch of the Celtic languages spoken natively in Wales, by some along the Welsh border in England, and in Y Wladfa...

 it has the synonymous name "brenhinllys". Jewish folklore suggests it adds strength while fasting. In Portugal
Portugal
Portugal , officially the Portuguese Republic is a country situated in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal is the westernmost country of Europe, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South and by Spain to the North and East. The Atlantic archipelagos of the...

, dwarf bush basil is traditionally presented in a pot, together with a poem and a pom-pon
Pom-pon
A pom-pon is a fluffy, decorative ball or tuft. Pom-pons may come in many colors, sizes, and varieties and are made from a wide array of materials, including wool, cotton, paper, plastic, and occasionally feathers....

, to a sweetheart, on the religious holidays of Saint John and Saint Anthony. However, basil represented hatred in ancient Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

, and European lore sometimes claims that basil is a symbol of Satan
Satan
Satan , "the opposer", is the title of various entities, both human and divine, who challenge the faith of humans in the Hebrew Bible...

. African legend claims that basil protects against scorpion
Scorpion
Scorpions are predatory arthropod animals of the order Scorpiones within the class Arachnida. They have eight legs and are easily recognized by the pair of grasping claws and the narrow, segmented tail, often carried in a characteristic forward curve over the back, ending with a venomous stinger...

s, while the English botanist Culpeper
Nicholas Culpeper
Nicholas Culpeper was an English botanist, herbalist, physician, and astrologer. His published books include The English Physician and the Complete Herbal , which contain a rich store of pharmaceutical and herbal knowledge, and Astrological Judgement of Diseases from the Decumbiture of the Sick ,...

 cites one "Hilarius, a French physician" as affirming it as common knowledge that smelling basil too much would breed scorpions in the brain.

Holy basil, also called tulsi, is highly revered in Hinduism
Hinduism
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. Hinduism is known to its followers as , amongst many other expressions...

 and also has religious significance in the Greek Orthodox Church
Greek Orthodox Church
The Greek Orthodox Church is the body of several churches within the larger communion of Eastern Orthodox Christianity sharing a common cultural tradition whose liturgy is also traditionally conducted in Koine Greek, the original language of the New Testament...

, where it is used to prepare holy water. It is said to have been found around Christ
Christ
Christ is the English term for the Greek meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew , usually transliterated into English as Messiah or Mashiach...

's tomb after his resurrection. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church
Bulgarian Orthodox Church
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church - Bulgarian Patriarchate is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Church with some 6.5 million members in the Republic of Bulgaria and between 1.5 and 2.0 million members in a number of European countries, the Americas and Australia...

, Serbian Orthodox Church
Serbian Orthodox Church
The Serbian Orthodox Church is one of the autocephalous Orthodox Christian churches, ranking sixth in order of seniority after Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, and Russia...

, Macedonian Orthodox Church
Macedonian Orthodox Church
The Macedonian Orthodox Church – Ohrid Archbishopric or just Macedonian Orthodox Church is the body of Christians who are united under the Archbishop of Ohrid and Macedonia, exercising jurisdiction over Macedonian Orthodox Christians in the Republic of Macedonia and in exarchates in the Macedonian...

 and Romanian Orthodox Church
Romanian Orthodox Church
The Romanian Orthodox Church is an autocephalous Eastern Orthodox church. It is in full communion with other Eastern Orthodox churches, and is ranked seventh in order of precedence. The Primate of the church has the title of Patriarch...

 use basil (Bulgarian and Macedonian: босилек; Romanian
Romanian language
Romanian Romanian Romanian (or Daco-Romanian; obsolete spellings Rumanian, Roumanian; self-designation: română, limba română ("the Romanian language") or românește (lit. "in Romanian") is a Romance language spoken by around 24 to 28 million people, primarily in Romania and Moldova...

: busuioc, Serbian
Serbian language
Serbian is a form of Serbo-Croatian, a South Slavic language, spoken by Serbs in Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Croatia and neighbouring countries....

: босиљак) to prepare holy water and pots of basil are often placed below church altars.

In Europe, basil is placed in the hands of the dead to ensure a safe journey. In India, they place it in the mouth of the dying to ensure they reach God. The ancient Egyptians and ancient Greeks believed it would open the gates of heaven for a person passing on.

In Boccaccio
Giovanni Boccaccio
Giovanni Boccaccio was an Italian author and poet, a friend, student, and correspondent of Petrarch, an important Renaissance humanist and the author of a number of notable works including the Decameron, On Famous Women, and his poetry in the Italian vernacular...

's Decameron a memorably morbid tale (novella V) tells of Lisabetta, whose brothers slay her lover. He appears to her in a dream and shows her where he is buried. She secretly disinters the head, and sets it in a pot of basil, which she waters with her daily tears. The pot being taken from her by her brothers, she dies of her grief not long after. Boccaccio's tale is the source of John Keats
John Keats
John Keats was an English Romantic poet. Along with Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley, he was one of the key figures in the second generation of the Romantic movement, despite the fact that his work had been in publication for only four years before his death.Although his poems were not...

' poem Isabella or The Pot of Basil - which in turn inspired the paintings Isabella (Millais painting)
Isabella (Millais painting)
Isabella , also known as Lorenzo and Isabella, is a painting by John Everett Millais, which was his first work in the Pre-Raphaelite style, created shortly after the formation of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in the previous year...

 and Isabella and the Pot of Basil
Isabella and the Pot of Basil
Isabella and the Pot of Basil is a painting completed in 1868 by William Holman Hunt depicting a scene from John Keats's poem of the same name...

. A similar story is told of the Longobard queen, Rosalind
Rosalind
-People:*Rosalind Chao , American actress born in Anaheim, California*Rosalind Franklin , British physical chemist and crystallographer who made very important contributions to the understanding of the fine structures of coal and graphite, DNA and viruses*Rosalind Hursthouse, a philosopher whose...

.

Toxicity studies

A study of the essential oil showed antifungal and insect-repelling properties.
A similar study reported in 2009 has confirmed that extracts from the plant are very toxic to mosquito
Mosquito
Mosquitoes are members of a family of nematocerid flies: the Culicidae . The word Mosquito is from the Spanish and Portuguese for little fly...

s.
However, the plant is not toxic to rats.

Nevertheless, further scientific researches should be warranted, since there are no equivalent reports of its use against humans.

List of the cultivars and their nomenclature

  • Genovese
  • Genovese Gigante

External links


Other sources

  • Usher, Jonathan, "Narrative and Descriptive Sequences in the Novella of Lisabetta and the Pot of Basil (Decameron, IV. 5)," Italian Studies, 38 (1983), 56-69.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
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