Basil (Ocimum bacilicum)

Identification: An annual plant found wild in the tropical and subtropical regions of the world. Its thin, branching root produces bushy stems growing from 1 to 2 feet high. The toothed leaves are opposite, ovate, and often purplish hued. The two-lipped flowers vary in color from white to red, sometimes with a tinge of purple, appear from June to September. The plant emits a spicy scent when bruised.

Habitat: Found wild in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world; elsewhere it is cultivated as a kitchen herb.

Family: Labiatae (Mint family)

Other Names: Common Basil, Garden Basil, Luole (Chinese name), Sweet Basil, St. Josephwort, Tulsi (Sanskrit name).

Flowers: June – September

Parts Used: Leaves

History: Basil has a rich and fanciful history. It had been ‘Herb royale’ to the French, a sign of love to Italians, and a sacred herb in India. The first century A.D. Roman naturalist Pliny reported that basil relieves flatulence, which had been subsequently proven true. In the Far East, the herb had been used as a cough medicine, and in Africa, it has been used to expel worms. American colonists considered Basil the essential ingredient in a snuff used to ease headaches. In Ayurvedic medicine, basil is know as tulsi and the juice is widely used. In India, basil is perhaps the most sacred plant, next to the lotus.

The scent of basil, they say, is conducive to meditation, and the plant is often used in magic. It is also a popular culinary herb.

Haitian merchants often sprinkle their stores with water that basil has been soaking in. According to creed this chases bad luck away and attracts buyers. This herb is much used as a love charm in voodoo practice.

Constiruents: Volatile oils (up to 28 percent methyl cinnamate), estragol with linalon, lineol, tannin, and camphor.

Medicinal Properties:
Properties: Antismasmodic, antidepressant, antiseptic, stimulant, tonic, febrifuge, diaphoretic, nervine, antibacterial, expectorant, appetizer, carminative, galactagogue, and stomichic.

Main Uses: Basil’s usefulness is generally associated with the stomach and its related organs. It can be used for stomach cramps, gastric catarrh, vomiting, intestinal catarrh, constipation, depression, menopause, and enteritis. As an antispasmodic, it has sometimes been used for whooping cough. Basil has also been recommended for headache. It increases the appetite, tends to increase the flow of milk, improves blood circulation, enhances the digestion, good for coughs, relieves gas pains, and is an aid for indigestion. Treats fevers (tea made with basil and peppercorns reduces fever), colds, flu, coughs, sinusitus, stomach cramps. The leaves are good for rubbing on insect bites. Externally, it is used to soothe bloodshot eyes and relieve itching from hives.

Preparation & Dosages: Harvest before flowering.
Infusion: Steep 1 teapoon dried herb in 1/2 cup water. Take 1 to 1-1/2 cups a day, a mouthful at a time. Can be sweetened with honey if taken for a cough.

Warning: Do not use essential oil externally or internally when pregnant.

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