Sunday, December 29, 2013


Basil-Ocimum Sanctum, Ocimum Basilicum, Ocimum Tenuiflorum, Ocimum Gratissimum, Ocimum Kilimand Schancum

Also known as:  sweet basil, holy basil, garden basil, common basil, St. Josephwort

Parts used:  leaves

Meridians/Organs affected:  lungs, stomach

Properties:  diaphoretic, antipyretic, carminative, stomachic, antispasmodic, galactogogue, antivenomous, antimalarial, emmenogogue, alterative, diuretic, nervine

Basil is perhaps the most well-known herb in the world.  It is an annual with dark green, pointed, oval leaves that are soft and sometimes curled.  The flowers are white or pink and the leaves are best gathered before the plant flowers in late July or early August.

Basil (also pronounced like 'dazzle') is a favorite culinary herb of many a chef.  It is a native of India but is cultivated throughout the world now.

There are some rather comical aspects attached to this plant stemming from its Latin roots.  The Greek name 'okimon' means 'quick' and 'basilicum' from the Latin means 'royal' which is why by early Greek and Roman cultures it was considered to be a 'king of plants' or a royal herb.  In some cultures basil was thought to be a sign of fertility and in others it is associated with death or evil.  This idea stems from another term 'basiliko', which was  a serpent-like creature feared by some (especially in Crete).  The French also had some ties to this as they believed the only way to make basil plants thrive was to 'semer le basilic' or to slander or yell at the plant.  Even Culpeper had some strange ideas about this herb.  Culpeper would divine the nature of the plant through its astrological origins (don't ask me how he determined those) and determined that basil is an .."herb of Mars and under the scorpion therefore called basilicon, it is no marvel if it carry a virulent quality with it.  Being applied to the place bitten by venomous beasts or stung by a wasp or hornet, it speedily draws the poison to it."

The Far Eastern cultures view this plant with respect and reverence.  It is considered a protector and is often laid with the dead to protect them from evil spirits.  It also is given in bundles to the Hindu gods Vishnu and Krishna.  Pots of basil are often found around homes and temples as a sign of safety.  In Italy it is a sign of courtship.  Pots of basil would be on the balconies of young ladies to let suitors know they were available.  The Chinese, who refer to this plant as 'luole', have used it since the 6th century to improve blood circulation, digestion, kidney issues, epilepsy, to relieve itching due to hives, and as an eyewash for bloodshot eyes.  Even today it is part of the top 30 herbs in Chinese medicine.  Basil tea has been used for fevers, flu, colds, indigestion, cramps, nausea and vomiting, constipation, headaches, nervous conditions and kidney and bladder issues.

Pliny used basil for jaundice, and in the Middle Ages it was often used for depression. It was a popular remedy, also, for snake bites and insect bites or stings, and often was used for epidemics and malaria outbreaks.

To bring us up to our time..a noted French aromatherapist, Dr. Jean Valnet, uses basil oil to help normalize menstrual cycles in women; European physicians use it for respiratory complaints; it helps with sinus congestion, bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, whooping cough, and a loss of smell due to excess mucus buildup.

The essential oil helps to open the upper chakras, it clears the head and works amazingly well for migraines.  The oil is also used to ease earaches, mouth ulcers, and gum infections.  It is beneficial in relieving the pain of rheumatism, arthritis, muscular aches and pains, and physical over exertion.  Basil can increase concentration and calm the nerves, it helps with skin tone and is beneficial in acne control.  In the Far East it is used as a prophylactic against cholera, malaria and the flu.  It has been shown to improve resistance to stress and to help balance blood sugar and blood pressure issues.  Used on a regular basis, basil is said to protect against cancer, prostatitis and leukemia.

Basil is divided into two categories (there are about 100 different varieties of basil):  those that are deemed culinary and those used for medicinal purposes.  Ocimum basilicum is a culinary basil-the most common variety for pestos, sauces, soups and vegetable dishes.  Ocimum sanctum or ocimum tenuiflorum are the varieties most used for medicinal purposes.

As basil stimulates the uterus it is best avoided by pregnant women.  However, it will promote milk flow in nursing mothers.  Too much basil can have a stupefying effect and to some it may cause skin irritation.

As is customary with all of my posts I am including some interesting links below for your benefit.  Use them as you feel necessary.  Keep well and stay strong!

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