Basil

Taxonomy of the Basil (Ocimum basilicum Linneo, 1758) according to Cronquist System
Superdominium/Superdomain: Biota
Superkingdom or Domain: Eucariota Whittaker & Margulis,1978
Kingdom: Plantae Haeckel, 1866
Subkingdom: Viridaeplantae Cavalier-Smith, 1998 (Piante verdi)
Superdivision: Spermatophyta Gustav Hegi, 1906 (Piante con semi)
Division or Phylum: Tracheophyta Sinnott, 1935 ex Cavalier-Smith, 1998
Subdivision: Magnoliophytina Frohne & U. Jensen ex Reveal, 1996
Class: Rosopsida Batsch, 1788
Subclass: Lamiidae Takht. ex Reveal 1993
Superorder: Lamianae Takht., 1967
Order: Lamiales Bromhead, 1838
Suborder: Lamiineae Bessey in C.K. Adams, 1895
Family: Lamiaceae Lindl., 1836
Subfamily: Ocimoideae Kostel., 1834
Tribe: Ocimeae Dumort., 1829
Subtribe: Ociminae Bent. & Hook. f., 1876
Genus: Ocimum L. (1753)
Species: Ocimum basilicum Linneo, 1753

Taxonomy of the Basil (Ocimum basilicum Linneo, 1753) according to APG System
Kingdom: Plantae
Clade: Angiosperms
Clade: Eudicots
Clade: Basal Tricolpates
Clade: Asterids
Clade: Euasterids I
Order: Lamiales Bromhead, 1838
Family: Lamiaceae Lindl., 1836
Genus: Ocimum L. (1753)
Species : Ocimum basilicum Linneo, 1753



The species Ocimum basilicum L. is named by the following several synonyms: The common names for different linguage are the following:
Economic importance, origin and diffusion
Basil, pronounced bæzəl or beɪzəl, is a tender low-growing herb. Basil is a culinary herb prominently featured in Italian cuisine, and also plays a major role in the Northeast Asian cuisine of Taiwan and the Southeast Asian cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. Depending on the species and cultivar, the leaves may taste somewhat like anise, with a strong, pungent, often sweet smell.
The word basil comes from the Greek βασιλεύς (basileus), meaning "king", as it is believed to have grown above the spot where St. Constantine and Helen discovered the Holy Cross. The Oxford English Dictionary 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.
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 (Ocimum basilicum var. thyrsiflora), lemon basil (Ocimum basilicumO. x Ocimum citriodorum) and holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum), which are used in Asia. While most common varieties of basil are treated as annuals, some are perennial in warm, tropical climates, including holy basil and a cultivar known as “African Blue”.
Basil is originally native to Iran, India and other tropical regions of Asia, having been cultivated there for more than 5,000 years.
The basil is a vegetable crop species of ancient traditions much diffusing or in Italy, or in the rest of Europe and some areas of the United States, appreciated for its aromatic characteristics in kitchen and in the industry of the essences and often also as ornamental plants for the balconies and in the garden.
The essence extracts from the harvesting plants to the beginning of the blossoming. The plants are dried and preserved in dry place to the shadow. The basil contains an essential oil (1.5% on the dry weight) that allowed a yield of 2-4 kg of essential oils for ton of fresh product. The main members of this oil are metilcalvicolo (24%), the cineolo, linaiolo and the camphor of basil, besides traces of glycosides and tannic substances. In kitchen the basil can be used as condiment to the fresh or dried and reduced in powder. In Italy the which extended cultivations more are found again in Liguria are in open field that in greenhouse, above all to Albenga, as of ago a remarkable commerce also during the winter period. Extended cultivations they are found also in southern Italy where finds wide use tomato sauce industry, where basil leaves were added to the boiled and blanched fruits of tomato during the phase of industrial working of the canning. In the places of origin (Asia and Tropical Africa) it is used instead mainly in order to extract the essence and for this purpose it is cultivated in the Jamaica, in the Reunion Island and also in the central and southern area of the Russia.
In the vegetable crop cultivations of greenhouse it turned out a cultivated surface to basil around the 65 hectares with a production of 2.496 t of fresh product.

Botanic Characters, Biology and Physiology
The basil is an herbaceous species annual belonging to the family of the Lamiaceae. The basil plant has a branched and tap root and a quadrangular stem branched up to the base, high 20-40 cm (figure 1). The opposite leaves, with a short petiole, glabrous, have form oval-lanceolate and the border can be smooth or bullate, of green or violet colour (figure 2). The whitish flowers (figure 3) are clustered to groups of 6-10 by inflorescence lengthened to spike (figure 4). The flowers are bisexual and the pollination is entomophilous. Unusual among Lamiaceae, the four stamens and the pistil are not pushed under the upper lip of the corolla, but lie over the inferior lip. After entomophilous pollination, the corolla falls off and four round achenes develop inside the bilabiate calyx. The blossoming happens from June to October. The fruit is an achene (tetrachene) used like seed (figure 5).

Figura 1 – Plants of basil. Figura 2 – Leaves of basil.

Figura 3 – Flowers of basil.

Figura 4 – The inflorescence lengthened to spike. Figura 5 – Tetrachenes of basil.


The concurred minimal germination percentage for the commercialization of the seed is of 65%. The medium weight of 1.000 seeds is of 1.3-1.5 g, and one gram contains 700-800 seeds; one litre of seed it weighs 500-600 g. The genus Ocimum includes various species and subspecies:
  1. Ocimum basilicum maximum L. (1753): it is the type more cultivated or for condiment or for essence; the plants are high 30-40 cm with leaves greens and violet and flowers white or lilac. They belong to this subspecies the following varieties: “green”, “violetto great of Genoa” and a variety named “anisum” with aroma similar to that one of the anise.
  2. Ocimum basilicum minimum L. (1753): it includes plants with limited growth (20-30 cm of height) but much branched with small leaves, greens more or reddish coloured, a lot perfumed, with white or rose flowers, cultivated above all in vase. To this subspecies belong the the following varieties: “fine verde nano compatto», “fine verde”, “nano violetto”.
  3. Ocimum gratissimum L. (=Ocimum viride Willd., 1809): known also like “arborescent basil” for the greater height of the plant. One differs more for the lengthened leaves, bites, the flowers colour lilac and the seeds little ones. In the composition of the essential oil it shows a greater percentage of thymol (35-40%), and has an aroma many pleasant.
  4. Ocimum canum Sims, 1823: draft of a species diffused in the tropical Countries, characterized from the contained elevated one in essential oils and in particular of camphor (30-35% of the total); the aroma remembers that one of the carnation and the camphor.

Cultivation
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 will grow 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 or row cover 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” (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.
The basil is much demanding species in the cares of the land and the climate. It prefers light lands very equipped of organic substance with pH = 7
A good porosity is important also in order to favour the water-drainage, is be a matter in fact of plant that escapes again the humidity stagnations also introducing elevated water requirements.
The basil demands a moderated climate warm, in order to germinate is demanded a minimal temperature of 15 °C; the optimum is comprised between 20 and 25 °C. In these conditions the germination is completed in 6-7 days.
During the increase they turn out optimal temperatures comprised between 20 and 25 °C; in case of cultivation in greenhouse it is advised to maintain temperatures minimal of 18 °C and airing when the 25 °C are exceeded. Also growing well in full sun, one benefits of a light shadowing that favours the production of tissues tender and many aromatic.
The elevated relative humidity is favourable for the increase but also for the development of rots date the elevated density to which it comes cultivated.
As fertilization to the plantation we advise 20-30 t/ha of mature manure and 0.8-1.0 t/ha of mineral fertilizer complex, with moved nourishing relationship in favour of potassium (1: 0.5: 1.5). In relation to short cultural cycle (60-90 days) it is not taken part with additional fertilizations if not in necessity case.
The irrigation must be frequent so as to guarantee a high and uniform humidity in the substrate. The cultivation can be carried out with seeds direct or with transplant of it plants some to the state of 4-5 leaves.
The sowing in open field is begun in spring and they can gradually be carried out for all the summer. In autumn, the sowing in cold greenhouses and winter in heated greenhouses can be carried out. The seeds directed can be sowed to distant rows 20 cm or broadcast sowing in plots of 1 m of width; in this last case in the greenhouse cultivations they are employed till 3-5 g/m2 of seed so as to realize density of 600-1.000 plantlet/m2.
The harvest for the fresh consumption is carried out when the plants have caught up a minimal height of 10 cm extirpating them, forming bunches of 10-15 plants of it everyone and arranging them in appropriate containers (envelopes of paper, polyethylene bags etc.) so as to guarantee one good conservation.

Culinary use
Basil is commonly used fresh in cooked recipes. It is generally added at the last moment, as cooking quickly destroys the flavour. 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 flavour, and what little flavour remains tastes very different, with a weak coumarin flavour, like hay.
Basil is one of the main ingredients in pesto, a green Italian oil-and-herb sauce. Its other two main ingredients are olive oil and pine nuts.
The most commonly used Mediterranean basil cultivars are “Genovese”, “Purple Ruffles”, “Mammoth”, “Cinnamon”, “Lemon”, “Globe”, and “African Blue”. The Chinese also use fresh or dried basils in soups and other foods. In Taiwan, people add fresh basil leaves into thick soups (gēngtāng). They also eat fried chicken with deep-fried basil leaves. Basil (most commonly Thai basil) is commonly steeped in cream or milk to create an interesting flavour 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 flavour and they are edible.[1]
Thai basil is also a popular condiment in the Vietnamese noodle soup.

Chemical components
The various basils have such different scents because the herb has a number of different essential oils which come together in different proportions for various breeds. The strong clove scent of sweet basil is derived from eugenol, 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, and of limonene, which gives actual lemon peel its scent. African blue basil has a strong camphor smell because it contains camphor and camphene in higher proportions. Licorice basil contains anethole, 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: Based on chemical content, basils can be divided into four groups:
  1. French;
  2. exotic;
  3. methyl cinnamate; and
  4. eugenol basil.
These groupings are not used by gardeners.
  1. French basil; Ocimum basilicum, contains lower amounts of phenols
  2. contains methyl chavicol (40-80%)
  3. contains methyl cinnamate - ether 90%
  4. contains eugenol.
Basil and oregano contain large amounts of (E)-beta-caryophyllene (BCP), which might have a use in treating inflammatory bowel diseases and arthritis. 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's mood-altering effects.

Health effects
Recently, there has been much research into the health benefits conferred by the essential oils found in basil. Scientific studies have established that compounds in basil oil have potent antioxidant, anticancer, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties [6][7][8][9]. In addition, basil has been shown to decrease the occurrence of platelet aggregation and experimental thrombus in mice[10]. It is traditionally used for supplementary treatment of stress, asthma and diabetes in India[11]. 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 and tarragon, contains estragole, a known carcinogen 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

Diseases
Basil suffers from several plant pathogens that can ruin the crop and reduce yield. Fusarium wilt is a soil-borne fungal disease that will quickly kill younger basil plants. Seedlings may also be killed by Pythium damping off.
Sclerotinia cause rots of the roots and withering of plants some; against these parasites the disinfection of the soil with vapour and, eventually, fumigants turn out effective above all.
A common foliar disease of basil is gray mold caused by Botrytis cinerea; 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 Colletotrichum.
Attacks of virus like the cucumber mosaic virus (CMV) that causes distortions and foliar deformations and it reduces the internodes of the stem, causing nanism of the plants.

Cultural aspects
There are many rituals and beliefs associated with basil. The French sometimes call basil "l'herbe royale", while in Welsh it has the synonymous name "brenhinllys". Jewish folklore suggests it adds strength while fasting[citation needed]. In Portugal, dwarf bush basil is traditionally presented in a pot, together with a poem and a pom-pon, to a sweetheart, on the religious holidays of Saint John and Saint Anthony. However, basil represented hatred in ancient Greece, and European lore sometimes claims that basil is a symbol of Satan. African legend claims that basil protects against scorpions, while the English botanist Culpeper 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 and also has religious significance in the Greek Orthodox Church, where it is used to prepare holy water. It is said to have been found around Christ's tomb after his resurrection. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Serbian Orthodox Church, Macedonian Orthodox Church and Romanian Orthodox Church use basil (Bulgarian and Macedonian: “босилек”; Romanian: “busuioc”, Serbian: “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'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' poem Isabella or The Pot of Basil - which in turn inspired the paintings Isabella (Millais painting) and Isabella and the Pot of Basil. A similar story is told of the Longobard queen, Rosalind.

Toxicity studies
A 2009 has confirmed that extracts from the plant are very toxic to mosquitos. However, the plant is not toxic to rats.

References
  1. "Basil". Plantdex.com. http://www.plantdex.com/index.php/species-growing-guides/herbs/73-growing-basil. Retrieved 2011-01-28.
  2. J. Janick (ed.), James E. Simon, Mario R. Morales, Winthrop B. Phippen, Roberto Fontes Vieira, and Zhigang Hao, "Basil: A Source of Aroma Compounds and a Popular Culinary and Ornamental Herb", reprinted from: Perspectives on new crops and new uses (1999), ASHS Press, Alexandria, VA, ISBN 978-0-9615027-0-6.
  3. Anti-inflammatory compound from cannabis found in herbs
  4. "Basil". http://www.greenzonelife.com/herbs/basil.html.
  5. Bomford, Michael K. (2004) Yield, pest density, and tomato flavor effects of companion planting in garden-scale studies incorporating tomato, basil, and Brussels sprout. Thesis, West Virginia University, Plant and Soil Science, Unpublished
  6. Bozin B, Mimica-Dukic N, Simin N, Anackov G (March 2006). "Characterization of the volatile composition of essential oils of some lamiaceae spices and the antimicrobial and antioxidant activities of the entire oils". J. Agric. Food Chem. 54 (5): 1822–8.
  7. Chiang LC, Ng LT, Cheng PW, Chiang W, Lin CC (October 2005). "Antiviral activities of extracts and selected pure constituents of Ocimum basilicum". Clin. Exp. Pharmacol. Physiol. 32 (10): 811–6.
  8. de Almeida I, Alviano DS, Vieira DP, et al. (July 2007). "Antigiardial activity of Ocimum basilicum essential oil". Parasitol. Res. 101 (2): 443–52.
  9. Manosroi J, Dhumtanom P, Manosroi A (April 2006). "Anti-proliferative activity of essential oil extracted from Thai medicinal plants on KB and P388 cell lines". Cancer Lett. 235 (1): 114–20.
  10. Tohti I, Tursun M, Umar A, Turdi S, Imin H, Moore N (2006). "Aqueous extracts of Ocimum basilicum L. (sweet basil) decrease platelet aggregation induced by ADP and thrombin in vitro and rats arterio-venous shunt thrombosis in vivo". Thromb. Res. 118 (6): 733–9.
  11. Duke, James A. "Basil as the Holy Hindu Highness". doi:10.1089/act.2008.14101. http://www.liebertonline.com/doi/pdfplus/10.1089/act.2008.14101. Retrieved 10 May 2008.
  12. EMEA (3 March 2004). "Position Paper on the use of HMP containing estragole" (PDF). p. 5. http://www.emea.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document library/Position statement/2009/12/WC500018033.pdf. Retrieved 17 November 2006. "In particular, rodent studies show that these events are minimal probably in the dose range of 1-10 mg/kg body weight, which is approximately 100-1000 times the anticipated human exposure to this substance"
  13. Fiume, F. (1989). "Antifungal, physicochemical, and insect-repelling activity of the essential oil of Ocimum basilicum".
  14. Maurya, Prejwltta et al.; Sharma, Preeti; Mohan, Lalit; Batabyal, Lata; Srivastava, C.N. (2009). "Evaluation of the toxicity of different phytoextracts of Ocimum basilicum against Anopheles stephensi and Culex quinquefasciatus". Journal of Asia-Pacific Entomology 12 (2): 113–115.
  15. Fandohan, P. et al.; Gnonlonfin, B; Laleye, A; Gbenou, JD; Darboux, R; Moudachirou, M (2008). "Toxicity and gastric tolerance of essential oils from Cymbopogon citratus, Ocimum gratissimum and Ocimum basilicum in Wistar rats". Food and Chemical Toxicology 46 (7): 2493–2497.


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