Cinnamon basil (ocimum basilicum cinnamon), native to Southeast Asia, contains cinnamate, a chemical found in cinnamon that gives a sweet, fragrant aroma. When mature, the plant grows to be about 18 to 30 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches wide when soil conditions are moist and well drained. Cinnamon basil is also known as Vietnamese basil or Saigon basil.
The sharply pointed and narrow leaves of the plant are small to medium in size. The top of the leaves are a deep green and glossy while the underside of the leaves are spotted or streaked and slightly purple. The stems of the plant are purple which produces many purple and white flowers.
The flavor of cinnamon basil is a unique mix of spicy cinnamon flavor and sweet basil flavor with slight notes of clove. It works quite well in many Southeast Asian and Indian dishes. The herb can also add great flavor to many other dishes including fruits, jellies, vegetables such as squash and tomatoes, pasta, soups, game birds, rubbed on or cooked with pork or beef, stir fry dishes, and salads. In Vietnam, cinnamon basil is used in pho and other noodle soups.
Cinnamon basil is also used in Mexico for medicine and rituals purposes. It can also be used as an insect repellent of aphids and hornworms.