Basil of the family Lamiaceae(mints), is a tender low-growing herb. Basil is a culinary herb prominently featured in Italian cuisine, and also plays a major role in the Southeast Asian cuisines of Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. The plant tastes somewhat like anise, with a strong, pungent, sweet smell.
When soaked in water the seeds of several basil varieties become gelatinous, and are used in Asian drinks and desserts such as falooda or Sherbet. They are used for their medicinal properties in Ayurveda, the traditional medicinal system of India and Siddha medicine, a traditional Tamil system of medicine. They are also used as popular drinks in Southeast Asia.
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 generally stronger than the Mediterranean basils. The most notable is the holy basil or tulsi, a revered home-grown plant in India and Nepal. In China, the local cultivar is called traditional cuisine.
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.
A common foliar disease of basil is gray mold caused by Botrytis cinerea, 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.
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, anti-cancer, antiviral and anti-microbial properties. In addition, basil has been shown to decrease the occurrence of platelet aggregation and experimental thrombus in mice. It is traditionally used for supplementary treatment of stress, asthma and diabetes 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