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Ocimum minimum - Lour.

Bush Basil

AuthorLour. Botanical references
FamilyLabiatae GenusOcimum
Known HazardsNone known
RangeTropical Asia?
HabitatLong cultivated, its original habitat is obscure[132].
Edibility Ratingapple iconapple iconapple iconapple icon 4 (1-5) Medicinal Ratingapple iconapple iconapple icon 3 (1-5)

Physical Characteristics

icon of man icon of perennial/biennial/annual Annual growing to 0.3m.
It is hardy to zone 10 and is frost tender. It is in flower from August to September, and the seeds ripen in September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Bees.

The plant prefers light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It requires moist soil.


Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves; Seed.

Edible Uses: Condiment; Drink; Tea.

Leaves and flowers - raw or cooked[4, 21, 27]. Used as a flavouring or as a spinach[14, 61], they are used especially with tomato dishes, pasta sauces, beans, peppers and aubergines[238]. The leaves are normally used fresh but can also be dried for winter use[21]. A very pleasant addition to salads[K], the leaves have a delightful scent of cloves[4]. A refreshing tea is made from the leaves[21]. The seed can be eaten on its own or added to bread dough as a flavouring[183]. When soaked in water it becomes mucilaginous and can be made into a refreshing beverage called 'sherbet tokhum' in the Mediterranean[183]. An essential oil obtained from the plant is used as a food flavouring in mustards, sauces, vinegars etc[57, 105, 183]

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.

Antispasmodic; Aromatic; Carminative; Galactogogue; Ophthalmic; Stomachic; Warts.

Bush basil has a milder action than sweet basil and is used mainly in the treatment of flatulence and griping pain in the digestive system[254]. The leaves and flowering tops are antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, digestive, galactogogue, stomachic and tonic[7, 14, 21, 178, 218]. They are taken internally in the treatment of feverish illnesses (especially colds and influenza), poor digestion, nausea, abdominal cramps, gastro-enteritis, migraine, insomnia, depression and exhaustion[238]. Externally, they are used to treat acne, loss of smell, insect stings, snake bites and skin infections[238]. The leaves can be harvested throughout the growing season and are used fresh or dried[238]. The seed is said to remove film and opacity from the eyes[218]. Extracts from the plant are bactericidal and are also effective against internal parasites[218, 238]. The seeds are said to be a cure for warts[4]. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is 'Clearing'[210].

Other Uses

Essential; Repellent.

An essential oil obtained from the whole plant is used as a food flavouring and in perfumery, dental applications etc[46, 57, 61, 105, 171, 238]. An average yield of 1.5% essential oil is obtained from the flowering tops[7]. When applied to the skin it makes a good mosquito repellent[7]. The growing or dried plant is an effective insect repellent. It is a good plant to grow in the home, where it repels flies, or in the greenhouse where it can keep all manner of insect pests away from nearby plants[14, 20, K]. It has been used in the past as a strewing herb[201].

Scented Plants

Leaves: Fresh Crushed Dried
The bruised leaves are very aromatic.

Cultivation details

Prefers a rich light well-drained to dry soil[1, 27, 238]. Requires a sunny sheltered position if grown outdoors[52]. Tolerates a pH in the range 5 - 8[238]. Bush basil is commonly grown for its edible leaves in warm temperate and tropical climates. A perennial plant in the tropics, it is frost tender and is grown as a half-hardy annual in temperate zones[142]. It is a very good plant to grow in the house or greenhouse, its aromatic foliage helps reduce problems caused by insect pests[K]. It requires a good summer in Britain if it is to do well outdoors. This species is considered by some botanists to be no more than a form of O. basilicum[132]. Bush basil is a good companion plant for tomatoes but it grows badly with rue and sage[14, 18, 20, 201]. When grown near raspberries it can retard their fruiting[201].


Seed - sow mid to late spring in a greenhouse and only just cover the seed. Germination is usually free and quick, prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. If growing basil outdoors, plant out after the last expected frosts.



[K] Ken Fern
Notes from observations, tasting etc at Plants For A Future and on field trips.

[1] F. Chittendon. RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press 1951
Comprehensive listing of species and how to grow them. Somewhat outdated, it has been replaces in 1992 by a new dictionary (see [200]).

[4] Grieve. A Modern Herbal. Penguin 1984 ISBN 0-14-046-440-9
Not so modern (1930's?) but lots of information, mainly temperate plants.

[7] Chiej. R. Encyclopaedia of Medicinal Plants. MacDonald 1984 ISBN 0-356-10541-5
Covers plants growing in Europe. Also gives other interesting information on the plants. Good photographs.

[14] Holtom. J. and Hylton. W. Complete Guide to Herbs. Rodale Press 1979 ISBN 0-87857-262-7
A good herbal.

[18] Philbrick H. and Gregg R. B. Companion Plants. Watkins 1979
Details of beneficial and antagonistic relationships between neighbouring plants.

[20] Riotte. L. Companion Planting for Successful Gardening. Garden Way, Vermont, USA. 1978 ISBN 0-88266-064-0
Fairly good.

[21] Lust. J. The Herb Book. Bantam books 1983 ISBN 0-553-23827-2
Lots of information tightly crammed into a fairly small book.

[27] Vilmorin. A. The Vegetable Garden. Ten Speed Press 0 ISBN 0-89815-041-8
A reprint of a nineteenth century classic, giving details of vegetable varieties. Not really that informative though.

[46] Uphof. J. C. Th. Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim 1959
An excellent and very comprehensive guide but it only gives very short descriptions of the uses without any details of how to utilize the plants. Not for the casual reader.

[52] Larkcom. J. Salads all the Year Round. Hamlyn 1980
A good and comprehensive guide to temperate salad plants, with full organic details of cultivation.

[57] Schery. R. W. Plants for Man. 0
Fairly readable but not very comprehensive. Deals with plants from around the world.

[61] Usher. G. A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable 1974 ISBN 0094579202
Forget the sexist title, this is one of the best books on the subject. Lists a very extensive range of useful plants from around the world with very brief details of the uses. Not for the casual reader.

[105] Tanaka. T. Tanaka's Cyclopaedia of Edible Plants of the World. Keigaku Publishing 1976
The most comprehensive guide to edible plants I've come across. Only the briefest entry for each species, though, and some of the entries are more than a little dubious. Not for the casual reader.

[132] Bianchini. F., Corbetta. F. and Pistoia. M. Fruits of the Earth. 0
Lovely pictures, a very readable book.

[142] Brouk. B. Plants Consumed by Man. Academic Press 1975 ISBN 0-12-136450-x
Readable but not very comprehensive.

[171] Hill. A. F. Economic Botany. The Maple Press 1952
Not very comprehensive, but it is quite readable and goes into some a bit of detail about the plants it does cover.

[178] Stuart. Rev. G. A. Chinese Materia Medica. Taipei. Southern Materials Centre 0
A translation of an ancient Chinese herbal. Fascinating.

[183] Facciola. S. Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications 1990 ISBN 0-9628087-0-9
Excellent. Contains a very wide range of conventional and unconventional food plants (including tropical) and where they can be obtained (mainly N. American nurseries but also research institutes and a lot of other nurseries from around the world.

[201] Allardice.P. A - Z of Companion Planting. Cassell Publishers Ltd. 1993 ISBN 0-304-34324-2
A well produced and very readable book.

[210] Westwood. C. Aromatherapy - A guide for home use. Amberwood Publishing Ltd 1993 ISBN 0-9517723-0-9
An excellent little pocket guide. Very concise.

[218] Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S. Medicinal Plants of China Reference Publications, Inc. 1985 ISBN 0-917256-20-4
Details of over 1,200 medicinal plants of China and brief details of their uses. Often includes an analysis, or at least a list of constituents. Heavy going if you are not into the subject.

[238] Bown. D. Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. 1995 ISBN 0-7513-020-31
A very well presented and informative book on herbs from around the globe. Plenty in it for both the casual reader and the serious student. Just one main quibble is the silly way of having two separate entries for each plant.

[254] Chevallier. A. The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants Dorling Kindersley. London 1996 ISBN 9-780751-303148
An excellent guide to over 500 of the more well known medicinal herbs from around the world.



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