Ocimum is a genus of aromatic annual and perennial herbs and shrubs in the family Lamiaceae, native to the tropical and warm temperate regions of all 6 inhabited continents, with the greatest number of species in Africa. Its best known species are the cooking herb Cooking basil, O. basilicum and the medicinal herb Tulsi (holy basil) , O. tenuiflorum.
Most culinary and ornamental basils are cultivars of Ocimum basilicum and there are many hybrids between species. Thai basil (O. basilicum var. thyrsiflora) is a common ingredient in Thai cuisine, with a strong flavour similar to aniseed, used to flavour Thai curries and stir-fries. Amazonian basil (O. campechianum) is a South American variety often utilized in ayahuasca rituals for its smell which is said to help avoid bad visions. Holy Basil or Tulsi (O. tenuiflorum) is a sacred herb in India, used in teas, healing remedies, and cosmetics. The plant is worshipped as dear to Vishnu in some sects of Vaishnavism. It is also used in Thai cooking. Lemon Basil (Ocimum citriodorum) is a hybrid between O. americanum and O. basilicum. It is noted for its lemon flavour and used in cooking. O. centraliafricanum is valued as an indicator species for the presence of copper deposits.
Ocimum species are used as food plants by the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Endoclita malabaricus.