by Diane Kennedy Snyder
Basil is described by Webster as being of the mint family used especially as a seasoning. As you read this article you will find that basil is much more than something we add to our spaghetti.
Basil's botanical name is Ocimium Basilicum. It is a native of India, South Asia, the Middle East and has been grown for thousands of years in the Mediterranean region. Basil is found growing wild in tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world.
There are many rituals and beliefs associated with basil. The French call basil herb royale. In Italy it is a sign of love, romance, and fine dining. Jewish folklore suggests it adds strength while fasting. Basil was said to be found in Christ's tomb after his resurrection. Greek Orthodox use basil to prepare holy water and pots of basil are placed below church alters. In Europe and India they place basil in the hands of the dead to ensure a safe journey. The Egyptians and Grecians believe it will actually open the gates of heaven for a person passing on.
Maybe all of us had better get out our garden tools, plant some basil and begin to get prepared! Growing basil is something you definitely want to try. Basil is an annual herb with a spicy, clove like fragrance and flavor. Sow seeds indoors in the spring or plant seeds outside when all danger of frost has passed and the ground is at least 50 degrees. Make sure you place basil in a sheltered spot near your peppers and tomatoes to enhance growth. Your plants should be placed 1 foot apart, 1/8 inch deep, in rich moist light sandy soil, in full sun. Take care not to over water. Basil grows up to 3 foot high and flowers in mid-to-late summer. Basil has a bushy appearance with leafy stems. The leaves are very fragrant. Pick the leaves when young. To encourage growth and a bushy plant, prune the main stem leaving at least one node with two shoots. Do this before it flowers. Gather the tops as the flowers open. To store basil, dry the leaves or brush the leaves with oil and freeze.
There are many varieties of basil: Sweet Basil, Bush Basil, Dark Opal Basil, Lemon Basil, Holy Basil, Vero Basil, Purple Ruffle Basil and the list goes on. Sweet Basil and Bush Basil are best choices for culinary use.
Basil has been known for many years as an herbal remedy for diseases of the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, and the bladder. It is primarily a digestive and nervous system aid. Infuse basil and use it as a tea for indigestion. Inhale basil tea to relieve cold symptoms. A tonic can be made by steeping basil leaves in wine for several hours. Basil has uplifting, energizing, anti-depressant properties.
The dried leaves are used as snuff to relieve headaches and colds. Basil is also used as an insect repellent. Place a pot of basil outside your door to repel flies. Use basil essential oil on a bee sting (use only one drop, more than one drop may irritate the skin) or crush the leaves and rub on cuts, insect bites and stings.
Some of the ailments basil can treat are: anxiety, concentration, indigestion, respiratory problems, colic, tight coughs, asthma, nervous headaches, migraines, muscle tension, nerve pain, memory loss, insomnia, infection, a stuffy head, colds, sinusitis, sore throats, bronchial congestion, appetite loss, gas, diarrhea, and nausea.
Use basil flowers and leaves for an invigorating bath. Basil adds luster to hair: brunettes, add it to a rosemary rinse, blondes, add it to a chamomile rinse. Combine basil essential oil with other essential oils to make perfumes and toilet water. Blends well with: Bergamot, geranium, hyssop, neoili, marjoram, melissa and lavender.
Basil is very aromatic. Add dried basil to potpourri and sachets. Lemon basil and opal basil are good choices.
Use basil as an ornamental; not because of its beautiful flowers, but because it has beautiful shiny leaves that can offset other flowering plants.
Last but not least, basil is very compatible with tomatoes. Basil is known as the tomato herb. Use sweet basil in your pesto and tomato sauces. Sprinkle dried or cut fresh basil over salads and sliced tomatoes. Basil also goes well in soups, salads, eggs, fish and meat dishes.
We would love to help you with your basil needs. Try our new basil hair rinse or our basil toning body rub. Take a peek in our Herbal Kitchen. We have quality dried basil and packets of herbal mixtures to make your own herbal vinegars.
- The information in this article should not replace the advice of your medical practitioner.