Updated: Mar 2, 2021
Botanical Name: Ocimum basilicum
Other names: Sweet basil and Common basil. Ocimum is derived from the Greek for Smell, basilicum is derived from the Greek for Kingly or Royal herb.
Family: Lamiaceae or Labiatae - Mint Family
Basil is an annual/biannual herb that is very easy to grow. It grows best during the summer months when it is warm. When grown outside it may die of during the first winter frosts. It prefers light, well drained soil in a warm climate with full sun. Basil can be successfully grown in pots also, just be careful to not over water.
Basil can grow from 12 to 24 inches in height. The stem is quadlateral, the leaves are opposite each other. The flowers are a white or pink whorles. It is a very aromatic herb with high levels of volatile oils. Basil tastes warming, pleasant and slightly peppery.
Parts Used: The leaves, seeds, flowers and essential oil
Basil is best collected just before the first flowers bloom.
Constituents: essential oils (including: phenol methylchavicol 45%, linalool, eugenol, 1,8 cineole, pinene, camphor, terpinolene, ocimene, mycrene, methyl cinnamate), tannins 5%, glycosides, saponins, oleanol, ursolic acid. Basil leaves contains vitamins & minerals such as calcium and iron, potassium and magnesium B2, vitA and vitC.
Energetics: Pungent, sweet, bitter, aromatic, warm and dry. Basil can be restoring, raising, astringing, stimulating and relaxing.
Actions: analgesic, antibacterial, antiflatulent, antifungal, antiemetic antimicrobial, antioxidant, antispasmodic, antiviral, anxiolytic, circulatory stimulant, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, emmenagogue, hepatoprotective, hypoglycemic, insecticide and vasodilator,
Indications: sinusitis, cough with mucus, indigestion, reduced appetite, nausea, spasmodic digestive pain, blood sugar fluctuations, delayed or scanty periods, menstrual cramps, headaches, mental anxiety and nervous tension. insect repellant.
Basil is used most often as a culinary herb. It can be added fresh or dried to meals. If you have an abundance in your garden you can puree and freeze to use throughout winter. It can go well with meats and salads along with making flavourful pesto for dips.
An infusion can be made using a basil leaf and hot water. This can be taken internally or applied topically to bites or stings once cooled.
A poultice can be made from basil leave an applied to sting or insect bites. The leaves can be either chewed or mashed.
An infusion with basil leaf, lemon balm, with either chamomile or lavender to help relieve headache.
Essential oil basil can be used in a vaporizer or a drop in a cup of hot water for inhalation to clear sinuses or used in a massage oil blend. DO NOT TAKE ESSENTIAL OILS INTERNALLY.
Basil should be avoided during pregnancy and breast feeding. Is likely safe when used in foods.
Precautions and safety:
Care should be taken in those with bleeding disorders, blood thinning medication or those with low blood pressure.
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Elpel, T. (2010), Botany in a Day - The patterns method of plant identification, 5th edition; Hops Press, Pony, Montana.
Holmes, P. (2007) The Energetic of Western Herbs - A Materia Medica Integrating Western and Chinese Herbal Therapeutics, Vol.1, 4th edition, Snow Lotus; Cotati, California.
Gladstar, R. (2012) Rosemary Gladstar's Medicinal Herbs - a beginners guide, Storey Publishing; North Adams, Massachusetts