The herb is well known for its use in Italian cuisine - it is one of the primary ingredients in pesto sauce. Basil is also commonly included in Indonesian, Thai, and Vietnamese cuisine.
The word "basil" derives from the Greek word "basileus," which means "king." The Oxford English Dictionary says that basil may have been used as "some royal unguent, bath, or medicine."
In fact, there are quite a number of beliefs associated with the herb. The French often refer to it as "l' herbe royale" (the royal herb), and in Jewish folklore, basil is thought to give strength while fasting.
Basil is used in traditional Tamil and Ayurvedic medicine, which is a form of traditional medicine popular on the Indian subcontinent.
Basil contains high quantities of (E)-beta-caryophyllene (BCP), which may be useful in treating arthritis and inflammatory bowel diseases, according to research conducted at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology.