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hand illustrated image of basil
This image of Basil is in De historia stirpium commentarii insigne, produced by Leonhart Fuchs in 1542. One of the sixteenth century’s most celebrated herbals, Fuchs’s book has more than five hundred woodcut illustrations, each of them hand-colored. This book is available in the John R. Martin Rare Book Room in Hardin Library for the Health Sciences.

Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

Ocimum basilicum, known commonly as Basil, is found in tropical and subtropical regions of Asia and Africa, and in Central and South America (Zakaria, Aziz, Lachimanan, Sreenivasan, & Rathinam, 2008). Popular as a flavoring agent for salads, meat, sausage, and pizza (Cardoso et al., 2017), Basil is also widely used in folk medicine to treat headaches, coughs, kidney disorders and intestinal worms, and as an antispasmodic agent (Lee, Umano, Shibamoto, & Lee, 2005).

Historical Use

This image is of a text description of Basil in the 1633 edition of John Gerard’s The Herball, available in the John R. Martin Rare Book Room in Hardin Library for the Health Sciences. 

According to The Herball by John Gerard, published in 1579, Basil has many “virtues”; it was used to treat infirmities of the heart, digestive issues, headaches, and melancholy. Interestingly, it appears that Basil was also used, among other ingredients, to create concoctions used to reduce inflammation, as a diuretic, and to treat insect and scorpion stings.

Latest Research


Cardoso, N. N., Alviano, C. S., Blank, A. F., Arrigoni-Blank, M. F., Romanos, M. T., Cunha, M. M., . . . Alviano, D. S. (2017). Anti-cryptococcal activity of ethanol crude extract and hexane fraction from Ocimum basilicum var. Maria bonita: mechanisms of action and synergism with amphotericin B and Ocimum basilicum essential oil. Pharmaceutical Biology, 55(1), 1380-1388. doi:10.1080/13880209.2017.1302483

Lee, S.-J., Umano, K., Shibamoto, T., & Lee, K.-G. (2005). Identification of volatile components in basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) and thyme leaves (Thymus vulgaris L.) and their antioxidant properties. Food Chemistry, 91(1), 131-137.

Zakaria, Z., Aziz, R., Lachimanan, Y. L., Sreenivasan, S., & Rathinam, X. (2008). Antioxidant activity of Coleus blumei, Orthosiphon stamineus, Ocimum basilicum and Mentha arvensis from Lamiaceae family. Int J Nat Eng Sci, 2(1), 93-95.