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Basil

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  • Botanical: Ocimum basilicum L.
  • Family: Lamiaceae
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Basil

Botanical

Ocimum basilicum L.

Family

Lamiaceae

Known as

Basilikum, Königskraut,

Old Use

culinary; medicinal

Collection Times

September

Parts Used

leaves, seed

Aroma

floral, sharp

Medicinal

abdominal pain, acne, anxiety, anorexia, bronchitis, bowel cleansing, bronchitis, colds, colic, conjunctivitis, constipation, cramps, cystitis, depression, diarrhea, digestion, exhaustion, eye inflammation, fever, flatulence, flu, gastrointestinal, gout, laxative, infections, infections intestinal, insect bites, insect repellend, intestinal parasites, menopausal symptom, migraine, pain relief, pre-mestrual, neurasthenia

Infection & Inflammation

eye inflammation, infections intestinal

Mind & Nerves

anxiety, depression, loss of appetite, nervousness, restlessness

Stomach & Intestinal

bowel cleansing, digestion, flatulence, gastrointestinal, intestinal parasites, stomach cramps, urinary infections

Skin & Hair

abscess, acne, insect bites, insect repellent

Properties

analgesic, antibacterial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antirheumatic, anti inflammatory, carminative, diaphoretic, digestive, diuretic, expectorant, galactagogue, stomachic, tonic

Note

top

Extraction

steam distillation

Description

Common or Sweet Basil which is used in medicine and also for culinary purposes, especially in France, is a hairy, labiate plant, growing about 3 feet high. The stem is obtusely quadrangular, the labiate flowers are white, in whorls in the axils of the leaves, the calyx with the upper lobe rounded and spreading. The leaves, greyish-green beneath and dotted with dark oil cells, are opposite, 1 inch long and 1/3 inch broad, stalked and peculiarly smooth, soft and cool to the touch, and if slightly bruised exale a delightful scent of cloves.

There are several varieties, differing in the size, shape, odour and colour of the leaves. The Common Basil has very dark green leaves, the curled-leaved has short spikes of flowers, the narrow-leaved smells like Fennel, another has a scent of citron and another a tarragon scent, one species has leaves of three colours, and another 'studded' leaves.

Properties & Uses

Sweet basil has been used for thousands of years as a culinary and medicinal herb. It acts principally on the digestive and nervous systems, easing flatulence, stomach cramps, colic and indigestion. The leaves and flowering tops are antispasmodic, aromatic, carminative, digestive, galactogogue, stomachic and tonic. They are taken internally in the treatment of feverish illnesses (especially colds and influenza), poor digestion, nausea, abdominal cramps, gastro-enteritis, migraine, insomnia, depression and exhaustion. Externally, they are used to treat acne, loss of smell, insect stings, snake bites and skin infections. The leaves can be harvested throughout the growing season and are used fresh or dried. The mucilaginous seed is given in infusion in the treatment of gonorrhoea, dysentery and chronic diarrhoea. It is said to remove film and opacity from the eyes. The root is used in the treatment of bowel complaints in children. Extracts from the plant are bactericidal and are also effective against internal parasites. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is 'Clearing'. In Chinese medicine for kidney disease and gum ulcers. In Indian medicine foe earache, rheumatoid arthritis, anorexia, itching, menstrual disorders, and malaria. 

Other Uses

An essential oil obtained from the whole plant is used as a food flavouring and in perfumery, dental applications etc. An average yield of 1.5% essential oil is obtained from the flowering tops. When applied to the skin it makes a good mosquito repellent. The growing or dried plant is an effective insect repellent. It is a good plant to grow in the home, where it repels flies, or in the greenhouse where it can keep all manner of insect pests away from nearby plants. It has been used in the past as a strewing herb.

Cautions

Basil contains estragole a potentially carcinogenic and mutagenic essential oil. Do not take during pregnancy or give basil oil to small infants/children

Distribution

Tropics of Asia and Africa; widely cultivated elsewhere.

Constituents

linalol (54.95%), methylchavikol (11.98%), methylcinnamat (7.24%), and linolen (0.14%). Essential oil is also found in sweet basil, along with rosmarinic acid, citral, eugenol, and geraniol