Basil - Medicinal Uses
Most people know Basil for its culinary uses, or at most for putting pots of Basil on the kitchen window sill to repel flies.
Where is Basil from?
Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a native of India and is sacred to both Krishna and Vishnu and is cherished in every Hindu house. Mrs Grieves notes “Every good Hindu goes to his rest with a Basil leaf on his breast. This is his passport to Paradise.”
Bush (or Greek) Basil (Ocimum minimum) is a South American Native.
A little bit of history
Physicians of old were unable to agree as to Basil’s medicinal value, some saying that it was poison and others suggesting that it was a precious simple. Mrs Grieves notes, “Culpepper tells us: “Galen and Dioscorides hold it is not fitting to be taken inwardly and Chrysippus rails at it. Pliny and the Arabians defend it. Something is the matter, this herb and rue will not grow together, no, nor near one another, and we know rue is as great an enemy to poison as any that grows.’”
Can Basil be used medicinally?
Bush Basil’s leafy tops were occasionally used for mild nervous disorders (it being aromatic and carminative) and for the alleviation of wandering rheumatic pains. Dried leaves in the form of snuff were said to be a cure for nervous headaches. An infusion of the green herb in boiling water was suggested to be good for all obstructions of the internal organs, arresting vomiting and allaying nausea.
Sweet Basil rates much less as a medicinal, but Lesley Bremness in “The Complete Book of Herbs” suggests steeping a few leaves in wine for several hours as a tonic (would that be the Basil or the wine that is the tonic?!) and also infusing as a tea to aid digestion.
Basil has many uses in aromatherapy. I've used Basil Oil in a burner in the past for stimulation when the old brain was getting a bit foggy and Lesley Bremness suggests “Put a drop of essential oil on a sleeve and inhale to allay mental fatigue.”
What is Holy Basil?
Of course, I couldn't talk about Basil without touching on Tulsi, also known as Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) a plant also native to India. Tulsi is commonly used in the traditional Indian medicine, Ayurveda.
Tulsi, like most Basil is relatively easy to grow if you can provide it with the warm conditions that it thrives in.
Chemicals in holy basil are thought to decrease pain and swelling. In India the plant is brewed into a tea that is used to fight the common cold.
Tulsi has abundant amounts of antioxidants and micronutrients that help fight of common ailments like colds, fever, flu and asthma. Chewing tulsi leaves or drinking tulsi tea brings relief from a sore throat and cold symptoms.
Holy basil may also be used for anxiety, stress, diabetes and high cholesterol.
Are there many varieties of Basil?
There are many varieties of basil, besides, Sweet, Bush & Holy basil. These include Cinnamon, Dark Opal, Thai, Persian, Lettuce leaf, Fino verde, Gustosa, Lemon and Purple.
If you're looking to make a statement in the kitchen, put purple basil in vinegar to make a colourful addition to your kitchen shelf. You cannot help but feel better just for admiring the wonderful colour.
Love & Lettuce,