1. Family: Lamiaceae Martinov
    1. Genus: Ocimum L.
      1. Ocimum basilicum L.

        Basil is an important economic crop producing annually c.100 tonnes of essential oil worldwide and with a trade value as a pot herb of around US$15 million per year. It is also widely used in systems of indigenous medicine.

    [FWTA]

    Labiatae, J. K. Morton. Flora of West Tropical Africa 2. 1963

    Habit
    A stout, bushy, aromatic herb
    Flowers
    White flowers in loose racemes
    Cytology
    Tetraploid.
    [KSP]

    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description
    Ocimum basilicum, commonly known as basil, is an aromatic annual herb and an important economic crop.

    Basil is an important economic crop producing annually c.100 tonnes of essential oil worldwide and with a trade value as a pot herb of around US$15 million per year. It is also widely used in systems of indigenous medicine.

    Much confusion surrounds basil taxonomy with several forms having different attributes being recognised under the same name. However, a study by Dr Eli Putievsky of Newe Ya'ar Research Centre, Haifa, Israel, working with Alan Paton during a sabbatical year at Kew, used analysis of chromosome numbers and essential oils alongside morphological descriptions to investigate a standardisation of the approach. This type of work is extremely important in order to develop the full economic and medicinal potential of plant species. 

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    Tropics of Asia and Africa; widely cultivated elsewhere.

    Description

    Ocimum basilicum is an aromatic, annual herb, 0.3-0.5 metres tall, but some cultivars can reach up to 1 m. The plant is almost hairless. Some cultivars, such as the 'Dark Opal', have leaves and stems deep purple in colour. The leaves are ovate, often puckered, flowers white or pink, and fruits have four small nutlets, which are mucilaginous when wet.

    Ocimum basilicum is closely related to and frequently confused with Ocimum africanumand Ocimum americanum, but they can be identified on the basis of indumentum (hair distribution) and flower size. Lemon-scented cultivars are usually the result of crosses between O. basilicum and O. africanum.

    Uses

    Basil is used to flavour soups and sauces and is the main ingredient of pesto sauce. The leaves can be eaten as a salad. Basil is also used in perfumery, soap-making, and to flavour liqueurs. The seeds are edible, and when soaked in water become mucilaginous. In parts of the Mediterranean they are made into a refreshing drink known as cherbet tokhum.

    Basil is widely used in systems of traditional medicine, including Ayurveda and traditional Chinese medicine. It is used for treating digestive system disorders, such as stomach ache and diarrhoea, kidney complaints, and infections. In Africa, for example, it is used for treating whooping cough and various types of fever. The leaves are pulped in water to make ear- and eye-drops in parts of west Africa, and a leaf decoction is used for treating coughs.

    The leaves are used to make an insecticide that can protect stored crops from beetle damage

    Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

    The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in Kew's seed bank vault at Wakehurst.

    Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: 13Seed storage behaviour: Orthodox (the seeds of this plant survive being dried without significantly reducing their viability, and are therefore amenable to long-term frozen storage such as at the MSB)Germination testing:SuccessfulComposition values:Oil content 24%, Protein 21%

    Cultivation

    Unlike other herbs grown in the same family (Lamiaceae) such as rosemary, sage and mint, basil is tropical in origin and as a result is not frost-hardy.

    Ecology
    Cultivated, not frost-hardy.
    Conservation
    Least concern.
    Hazards

    None.

    [FWTA]
    Use
    Commonly cultivated for culinary purposes
    [KSP]
    Use
    Food, perfume, flavoured liqueurs, medicine, insecticide.
    [UPPd]
    Digestive System Disorders
    La infusión de las hojas tomada para el dolor de estómago Leaves - Uso actual y potencial de la vegetación de Mina, N.L, Un estudio biométrico de las fibras vegetales, su desarrollo, estructura y productividad. Las hojas masticadas para los cóliicos fuertes Leaves - Uso actual y potencial de la vegetación de Mina, N.L, Un estudio biométrico de las fibras vegetales, su desarrollo, estructura y productividad.
    Mental Disorders
    La infusión de las plantas tomada para los nervios Unspecified parts - Uso actual y potencial de la vegetación de Mina, N.L, Un estudio biométrico de las fibras vegetales, su desarrollo, estructura y productividad.
    Food Additives
    Spices and condiments. Unspecified plant parts - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping
    Herbage
    Unspecified Animal Unspecified plant parts - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping
    Vegetables
    Unspecified plant parts - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping
    Stimulants
    Unspecified plant parts - Plant Resources of Tropical Africa: basic list of species and commodity grouping

    Images

    Distribution

    Found In:

    Andaman Is., Assam, Bangladesh, Borneo, Cambodia, China South-Central, China Southeast, East Himalaya, India, Jawa, Laos, Lesser Sunda Is., Malaya, Maluku, Myanmar, Nepal, New Guinea, Nicobar Is., Philippines, Sri Lanka, Sulawesi, Sumatera, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam, West Himalaya

    Introduced Into:

    Angola, Bahamas, Benin, Bismarck Archipelago, Bolivia, Brazil Southeast, Burkina, Burundi, Cameroon, Canary Is., Cape Provinces, Cape Verde, Cayman Is., Central African Repu, Chad, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Cook Is., Cuba, Dominican Republic, East Aegean Is., Ecuador, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Gilbert Is., Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gulf of Guinea Is., Haiti, Hawaii, Honduras, Illinois, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Laccadive Is., Leeward Is., Liberia, Line Is., Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Mexico Central, Mexico Gulf, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, Mongolia, Mozambique, New Caledonia, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Niue, Panamá, Primorye, Puerto Rico, Samoa, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Society Is., South European Russi, Sudan, Tanzania, Tokelau-Manihiki, Tonga, Trinidad-Tobago, Uganda, Ukraine, Venezuela, Venezuelan Antilles, Wallis-Futuna Is., Windward Is., Xinjiang, Zambia, Zaïre, Zimbabwe

    Common Names

    English
    Basil

    Ocimum basilicum L. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Identified Reference Herbarium Specimen Type Status
    Jan 1, 2007 Zaramela, G.S. [s.n.], Brazil K000479656
    Jan 1, 1999 Quadra, A. [A4069], Malaysia K000897330
    Jan 1, 1999 Powell, D.A. [XI1354], Australia K000897334
    Jul 1, 1997 Lugas, L. [1288], Malaysia K000897332
    May 5, 1988 Dyg. Awa [44381], Malaysia K000897327
    Jun 5, 1986 Burrt-Davy, J. [5288], South Africa K000347122 Unknown type material
    Apr 1, 1938 Schiffner, V. [2488], Indonesia K000897328
    Pettet, A., Sudan 60221.000
    Wallich, N. [Cat. no. 2713], India K001116887
    s.coll. [Cat. no. 2713] K001116888
    s.coll. [Cat. no. 2713] K001116889
    s.coll. [Cat. no. 2713], India K001116890
    Tweedie [995], Kenya 2760.000
    Scott, H., Ethiopia 2761.000
    USA 55958.000
    Reillo, J. [16459], Philippines K000897247
    Frake, C.O. [38073], Philippines K000897248
    Frake, C.O. [38105], Philippines K000897249
    Quadra, A. [A1040], Malaysia K000897329
    Backer, C.A. [19610], Indonesia K000897331
    Horsfield, T. [s.n.], Indonesia K000897335
    s.coll. [s.n.], Indonesia K000897336
    Wallich, N. [s.n.], Malaysia K000897353 Unknown type material
    Prescott, T.A.K. [13], Papua New Guinea K000939078
    India 33705.000

    First published in Sp. Pl.: 597 (1753)

    Accepted in:

    • [1] (2016) Phytotaxa 250: 1-431
    • [2] Sykes, W.R. (2016) Flora of the Cook Islands . National Tropical Botanical Garden, Hawaii
    • [3] Darbyshire, I., Kordofani, M., Farag, I., Candiga, R. & Pickering, H. (eds.) (2015) The Plants of Sudan and South Sudan . Kew publishing, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [4] (2014) Phytotaxa 171: 1-78
    • [5] Mohlenbrock, R.H. (2014) Vascular Flora of Illinois. A Field Guide , ed. 4: 1-536. Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale
    • [6] (2013) Flora Zambesiaca 8(8): 1-346. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [7] (2013) PhytoKeys 23: 1-18
    • [8] (2012) Bishop Museum Occasional Papers 113: 1-102
    • [9] (2012) Flora Mesoamericana 4(2): 1-533. Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, México, D.F.
    • [10] (2012) Phytotaxonomy 12: 7-19
    • [12] Garcia-Mendoza, A.J. & Meave, J.A. (eds.) (2012) Diversidad florística de Oaxaca: de musgos a angiospermas (colecciones y listas de especies) , ed. 2: 1-351. Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México
    • [14] (2011) Anales del Jardin Botanico de Madrid 68: 199-223
    • [15] (2009) Flora of Tropical East Africa
    • [16] (2008) Flora of Bangladesh 58: 1-161. Bangladesh National Herbarium, Dhaka
    • [18] (2008) Strelitzia 22: 1-279. National Botanical Institute, Pretoria
    • [19] Hokche, O., Berry, P.E. & Huber, O. (eds.) (2008) Nuevo Catálogo de la Flora Vascular de Venezuela . Fundación Instituto Botánico de Venezuela
    • [20] Nelson Sutherland, C.H. (2008) Catálogo de las plantes vasculares de Honduras. Espermatofitas . SERNA/Guaymuras, Tegucigalpa, Honduras
    • [22] (2006) Scripta Botanica Belgica 35: 1-438
    • [23] Akoègninou, A., van der Burg, W.J. & van der Maesen, L.J.G. (eds.) (2006) Flore Analytique du Bénin . Backhuys Publishers
    • [25] National Parks Board Singapore (2006) Vascular Plant Life Checklist Pulau Ubin . www.nparks.gov.sg/nparks_cms/cms/cmsmgr/data/6/PlantChkList.xls
    • [26] Thulin, M. (ed.) (2006) Flora of Somalia 3: 1-626. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [27] (2005) Harvard Papers in Botany 10: 95-116
    • [28] (2005) Kew Bulletin 60: 3-75
    • [29] Sita, P. & Moutsambote, J.-M. (2005) Catalogue des plantes vasculaires du Congo , ed. sept. 2005: 1-158. ORSTOM, Centre de Brazzaville
    • [30] (2004) Flore de la Nouvelle-Calédonie et Dépendances 25: 20-141. Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle, Paris
    • [31] Govaerts, R. (2003) World Checklist of Selected Plant Families Database in ACCESS . The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
    • [32] Welsh, S.L. (1998) Flora Societensis . E.P.S. Inc. Utah
    • [37] Jones, M. (1991) A checklist of Gambian plants . Michael Jones, The Gambia College
    • [38] Lebrun, J.P., Toutain, B., Gaston, A. & Boudet, G. (1991) Catalogue des Plantes Vasculaires du Burkina Faso . Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort
    • [39] Smith, A.C. (1991) Flora Vitiensis Nova. A new flora for Fiji (Spermatophytes only) 5: 1-626. Pacific Tropical Botanical Garden, Lawai
    • [41] Boudet, G., Lebrun, J.P. & Demange, R. (1986) Catalogue des plantes vasculaires du Mali . Etudes d'Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux
    • [43] (1985) Bulletin du Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle. Section B, Adansonia 7: 259-329
    • [44] Boulvert, Y. (1977) Catalogue de la Flore de Centrafrique 2(1): 1-85. ORSTOM, Bangui
    • [46] Berhaut, J. (1975) Flore illustrée du Sénégal 4: 1-625. Gouvernement du Sénégal, Ministère du développement rural direction des eaux et forêta, Dakar

    Literature

    • [11] (2012) Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 98: 1-1192
    • [13] Hassler, M. (2012) Flora of Rhodes. Systematic list of flora of Rhodes . http://www.rz.uni-karlsruhe.de/~db111/flora/rhodos/list.php
    • [17] (2008) Journal of Economic and Taxonomic Botany 32: 403-500
    • [21] (2006) Flora of Ethiopia and Eritrea 5: 1-690. The National Herbarium, Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia & The Department of Systematic Botany, Upps
    • [24] Catarino, L., Sampaio Martins, E., Pinto-Basto, M.F. & Diniz, M.A. (2006) Plantas Vasculares e Briófitos da Guiné-Bissau . Instituto de investigação científica tropical, Instituto Português de apoio ao desenvolvimento
    • [33] Dales, M.J. (1996). A Review of Plant Materials Used for Controlling Insect Pests of Stored Products. Natural Resources Institute, Chatham.
    • [34] De-Baggio, T. & Belsinger, S. (1996). Basil: An Herb Grower's Guide. Interweave press, Loveland.
    • [35] (1995) Journal of Economic and Taxonomic Botany 19: 235-250
    • [36] Burkill, H.M. (1995). The Useful Plants of West Tropical Africa, Vol. 3: Families J-L. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • [40] (1987) Atoll Research Bulletin 295: 1-33
    • [42] (1985) Atoll Research Bulletin 287: 1-38
    • [45] Peyre de Fabregues, B. & Lebrun, J.-P. (1976) Catalogue des Plantes Vascularies du Niger . Institut d' Elevage et de Médecine Vétérinaire des Pays Tropicaux, Maisons Alfort
    • [47] Usher, G. (1974). A Dictionary of Plants used by Man. Constable, London.
    • [48] (1970) Bulletin, New Zealand Department of Scientific and Industrial Research 200: 1-321
    • [49] (1959) Bernice P. Bishop Museum Bulletin 220: 1-283
    • [50] (1957) Atoll Research Bulletin 58: 1-37
    • [51] Hedrick, U.P. (ed.) (1919). Sturtevant’s Notes on Edible Plants. New York (State) Dept. of Agriculture, 27th Annual Report, Vol. 2 Part II. Lyon, Albany.
    • [52] F.T.A. 5: 336.
    • [53] Sp.Pl. 2: 597 (1753)
    • [54] Kew Scientist.
    • [55] SEPASAL (Survey of Economic Plants for Arid and Semi-Arid Lands).

    Sources

    Flora of West Tropical Africa
    [A]
    [B] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2017). Published on the internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp
    [C] See http://kew.org/about-kew/website-information/legal-notices/index.htm You may use data on these Terms and Conditions and on further condition that: The data is not used for commercial purposes; You may copy and retain data solely for scholarly, educational or research purposes; You may not publish our data, except for small extracts provided for illustrative purposes and duly acknowledged; You acknowledge the source of the data by the words "With the permission of the Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew" in a position which is reasonably prominent in view of your use of the data; Any other use of data or any other content from this website may only be made with our prior written agreement. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0
    [D] © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

    Kew Species Profiles
    Kew Species Profiles
    [E]
    [F] http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

    Project MGU - Useful Plants Project (UPP) database
    [G]