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Facts About the Basil Plant That You May Not Know

Eman is a writer and engineer. She loves to search and write about herbs and their benefits.

Basil Plants


Basil is a member of the mint family. There are many types of basil, as well as several related species including, sweet basil, lime basil, cardinal basil, cinnamon basil, green basil, green ruffles basil, lemon basil, lettuce leaf basil, purple ruffles basil, spicy saber basil, Egyptian basil (Reunion), and Thai basil.

Basil is called in Arabic (Rayhan) and is mentioned twice in the Holy Quran as in (Surah 55: Ar-Rahman (The Beneficent), verse 12) and (Surah 56: Al- Waqi'ah (The Inevitable), verse 89).

Basil is grown around the world as an ornamental, medicinal, and spice herb.

Basil is grown in many Asian and Mediterranean countries. Basil is widely cultivated in Egypt, Hungary, Indonesia, Morocco. Basil plant is also grown in large quantities in different regions of South Africa, Mexico, Iran, and India.

In the United States, basil is grown commercially in the west and the southern states where the climate is suitable, including Arizona, California, Florida, New Mexico, and North Carolina.

U.S. crops are of the highest quality, and they produce the finest scents. The United States is the largest producer and importer.

Let's learn more about this interesting plant:

Scientific Classification


















O. basilicum

Basil Leaves of Several Different Types

Leaves of several different basil varieties: From left to right Mediterranean (sweet) basil, African Blue, lemon basil (O. americanum), spice basil, Thai basil, and tree basil (O. gratissimum), upper and lower sides.

Leaves of several different basil varieties: From left to right Mediterranean (sweet) basil, African Blue, lemon basil (O. americanum), spice basil, Thai basil, and tree basil (O. gratissimum), upper and lower sides.

Basil has a square, branching stems, opposite leaves, brown or black seeds, and flower spikes. Sweet basil, Italian basil, and lettuce leaf basil can grow from 2 to 3 feet. Lemon basil, tree basil, dwarf basil, and spicy basil grow 8 to 12 inches in height and width. Reddish-purple variations like dark agate and purple ruffles tend to be medium-sized, bearing purple rather than white flowers.

Production Stages

1. Cultivation

Most cooking and ornamental basil are varieties of the Ocimum basilicum such as anise basil, licorice basil, lettuce leaf, cinnamon basil, dark opal basil, Rubin, purple basil, Thai basil, globe basil, and dwarf basil. Other species are also grown, and there are many hybrids between the species.

Basil grows in climates with temperatures ranging from 45˚F to 80˚F. This herbaceous annual is susceptible to frost and hail injuries. The plant grows best during sunny days with well-drained soil.

Basil seeds can be sown directly or planted in the field in late spring. Rows are planted 25 to 35 inches apart, with 6 inches spacing. Basil can also be grown in raised tubs in rows of three lines.

The soil is kept moist to improve plant growth. Germination occurs within 8 to 14 days after planting seeds. At first, the plant grows slowly, but after the first few sets of leaves appear, the growth increases dramatically.

Drip irrigation is preferred because it reduces damage to leaves due to moisture coming into contact with leaves.

The need to fertilize basil is determined by the type of soil and the type of the previous crop. In general, it is recommended to use a fertilizer that provides nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium.

Currently, organic methods are used to eradicate pests, such as biological control using beneficial insects or bacteria, insecticidal soaps, plant extracts, pest traps, manual removal of pests, and organic insecticides.

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Basil plants are cut 4 to 5 inches above the ground to allow for regrowth.

Basil plants are cut 4 to 5 inches above the ground to allow for regrowth.

2. Harvesting

The portion of the plant to be harvested and the timing of harvesting depend on the use of the lawn. For example, for dried basil leaves, the plant is cut just before the flowers appear. For producing basil essential oil, the plant is harvested when the flowers are in full bloom.

In a warm climate, it is possible to make three to five harvestings per year; usually, in early summer, but in cooler climates, the growing season may allow only two cuttings per year; before flowering.

In large trade operations, basil plants are cut 4 to 5 inches above the ground to allow for regrowth.

3. Packing

If marketed fresh, leaves are washed, cleaned, and all weeds removed.

Basil is packed in large-sized boxes in the field and transported to storage rooms below 50˚F for short periods of time without causing hail spoilage. Then they are shipped to the packing store, and the plants are sorted by hand and placed in small boxes for retail sales. All herbs are encapsulated to keep them safe.

4. Holding

For dried herbs, dry the leaves at a low temperature under forced air to retain maximum color before milling or distilling to extract basil essential oil.

Sweet basil leaves.

Sweet basil leaves.

Nutritional Value per 100 g (3.5 oz) of Fresh Basil


Vitamin A equiv.

264 μg


177 mg


3142 μg


0.385 mg

Thiamine (B1)

0.034 mg


3.17 mg

Riboflavin (B2)

0.076 mg


64 mg

Niacin (B3)

0.902 mg


1.148 mg

Pantothenic acid (B5)

0.209 mg


56 mg

Vitamin B6

0.155 mg


295 mg

Folate (B9)

68 μg


0.3 μg


11.4 mg


4 mg

Vitamin C

18.0 mg


0.81 mg

Vitamin E

0.80 mg

Vitamin K

414.8 μg

Health Benefits of Basil

Researchers have conducted many studies on basil to extract its health benefits, which can be summarized as follows:

  1. Basil works mainly on the digestive and nervous systems. It relieves flatulence, stomach cramps, and indigestion. Basil relieves nausea and vomiting and helps to kill intestinal worms.
  2. Basil has excellent anti-malarial properties; eugenol is the main ingredient responsible for its mosquito repellent properties.
  3. Basil leaf paste is effective against ringworm and for removing marks on the face. The presence of ursolic acid in the leaves helps remove wrinkles and restore skin elasticity.
  4. Boiled basil leaves are used against liver disorders and gastritis. Basil leaf juice is used to treat dysentery, night blindness, and conjunctivitis. Basil essential oils have 100% larvicidal properties.
  5. Basil is extremely beneficial in healing wounds and sores and removing parasites and worms. It provides several antioxidants and provides a generous boost against damage from free radicals. Oxygen-free radicals are naturally occurring physiological products containing one or more non-duplex electrons, along with reactive oxygen species (ROS), which are harmful to important membrane fats, proteins, carbohydrates, and DNA. This damage has been linked to many diseases, such as atherosclerosis, cirrhosis, cancer, and diabetes. Nutritional antioxidants have great potential to treat these disease processes.
  6. Basil has long proven anti-cancer activity and has been mentioned by many researchers. Protection against cancer at the cellular level is provided by the flavonoids found in basil. Water-soluble flavonoids from basil have been shown to protect cell structures and chromosomes from radiation.
  7. Research has proven beneficial in treating irritability, fatigue, depression, and anxiety. It can also be taken to treat migraines and whooping cough.
  8. Basil contains many important essential oil compounds such as linalool, eugenol, citral, limonene, and methyl cinnamate. These aromatic compounds protect the lawn from insects, bacteria, and fungi. Likewise, it can help protect against diseases caused by fungi, bacteria, and insects. In studies involving cell culture, basil essential oils have shown antimicrobial activity by damaging bacterial cell walls and stimulating cell lysis. Pathogenic bacteria can cause diseases such as pneumonia, urinary tract infections, food poisoning, and dysentery.
  9. Formaldehyde-induced arthritis has been studied in rats to evaluate the anti-inflammatory activity of fixed basil oil. The static oil greatly reduced the diameter of the flared claw. There was a clear progression in the improvement in the incidence of arthritis in mice.
  10. Basil boosts the immune reaction by improving cellular and humoral immunity as steam distilled basil essential oil altered the humoral immune response in albino rats.
  11. A study on neem and basil leaves mixed together showed; this blend significantly lowered the sugar level in people with diabetes.
  12. Basil extracts slow platelet aggregation and clotting, indicating their ability to prevent stroke and heart attacks.
  13. Basil may also be an antipyretic. The antipyretic effect of basil oil extracted from the seeds examined in mice against fever induced by typhoid vaccine showed that basil significantly reduces fever.

Uses of Basil in Food

The type used commonly as a flavor is a sweet basil (Genovese basil), as opposed to Thai basil (O. basilicum var. thyrsiflora), lemon basil (O. × citriodorum), and African blue basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum).

It is preferable when using basil to add it at the end of cooking; to not lose the volatile oils during boiling. If the dried leaves lose their flavor, restore them by heating them again in the oven at the lowest temperature for a few minutes or until they smell fragrant.

There are many ways to use basil in food:

  • Basil is added to soups and tomato sauces.
  • Chopped basil is added to salads.
  • Basil can be mixed with olive oil and chopped garlic and used as a sauce.
  • Chopped fresh basil is sprinkled over pizza.
  • Basil leaves can be mixed with other herbs, such as thyme, paprika, mustard, parsley, pepper, sage, rosemary, and thyme.
  • Basil can also be used in rice, fish, poultry, and meat.
Sweet basil

Sweet basil

Some Precautions

  1. One tablespoon of basil provides 10.8 micrograms of vitamin K, which plays a role in blood clotting. This ranges from 9% to 12% of adults daily. High levels of vitamin K can affect the action of some medicines. Persons who use blood thinners should speak to a doctor before increasing their basil intake.
  2. Some people suffer from allergies if they eat herbs from the mint family. People with this type of sensitivity should avoid basil as much as possible.


© 2021 Eman Abdallah Kamel


Eman Abdallah Kamel (author) from Egypt on April 08, 2021:

It's my pleasure, Devika Primić. Basil is an interesting plant and has many types and benefits.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on April 08, 2021:

AliciaC I know of some of the different types of Basil and not much of the benefits. Your hub has enlightened me on a lot more and I enjoyed reading more about Basil plants. I plant a few different types in Spring and use in my cooking it has such good aromas

Eman Abdallah Kamel (author) from Egypt on April 08, 2021:

Thank you very much, Linda. You are right, basil is very interesting and has great health benefits. Research is still being done on this plant.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on April 07, 2021:

Thank you for sharing so many facts about basil. It’s a very interesting plant.

Eman Abdallah Kamel (author) from Egypt on April 06, 2021:

Thanks, Chrish. There are many types of basil, and it has many health benefits as well. It is added to many foods and has a distinctive taste and aroma.

Eman Abdallah Kamel (author) from Egypt on April 06, 2021:

Thank you very much, Linda. You're right, basil gives food a distinct taste and aroma, in addition to its great benefits.

Chrish Canosa from Manila Philippines on April 06, 2021:

Wow, I didn't know there are many different types of basil. I only know green basil, very surprising health benefits too, thanks a lot Ms Emmy for sharing this article with us. I'll tell mom if she knows this, the benefits are really good for her.

it's so perfect for sea food pasta!!!!! I'm sending lots of love blessings.

Linda Chechar from Arizona on April 06, 2021:

This is health benefits and nutrition in basil organic leaves! The basil fragrant herb that tastes great in many dishes. The pizzas, spaghetti, salads that the basil is wonderful!

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