Seed World

The King of Herbs has Been Around for 5,000 Years

When it comes to cooking, most kitchens will find the ‘king of herbs’ in their spice rack. Basil, known as the king for its popularity, is a cooking staple across the globe — from Asia to the Americas. As growers and gardeners alike look to get basil seed for their garden in 2023, here’s a few facts to remember about the plant.

Origin: Basil is native to Asia, particularly in India, Pakistan, Iran and Thailand, and can be found growing wild in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world.


  • 5,000 Years Ago: Basil was discovered and grown in different areas in Asia.
  • 807 AD: It was indicated that basil originated further east than India in ancient records.
  • 350 BC: Basil traveled to areas like Greece and Italy due to the spice trade.
  • 16th Century: Basil was introduced to England.
  • 1621: Basil was brought to the Massachusetts Bay Colony


35 is the number of basil species across the globe.

2,000 is the number of tons of basil the U.S. imports.

$1.2 million is the annual farmgate value of basil in Hawaii.


  • Basil may be derived from the Greek words basileus, which means “king,” or basilikon which means “royal”.
  • In Latin, the term basiliscus refers to the mythical dragon “basilisk,” which was so repulsive it could kill with just a glance. In Roman legend, the antidote to the venom of the basilisk is basil!
  • Though you often think of basil for cooking purposes, basil has been used for medicinal purposes and as an aromatic herb for centuries.
  • One of basil’s closest relatives is the mint.

Sources: Iowa State Horticulture, The Spruce Eats, The Mertz Library, University of Hawaii