Basil is a very popular herb used in cooking, mainly associated with Mediterranean cuisine. However, Basil is also widely used for medicinal purposes, much used in Far Eastern medicine especially in the Ayurvedic tradition, where it is also known as tulsi.
The name of the herb "basil" comes from the Greek word meaning "king" or "royal", reflecting that this herb was regarded extremely highly. In Italy, basil is a symbolic for love and was sometimes used as an aphrodisiac. Perhaps explaining it's wide use today in Italian dishes. However, it originated from India and was introduced into Europe in ancient times.
For medicinal purposes, it is widely used for respiratory conditions such as bronchitis, coughs, colds, asthma, flu and emphysema.
Basil is an expectorant, making it good for treating upper respiratory symptoms. The plant has also been used as an antidote to poisonous insect or snake bites as well as being used in the fight against epidemics and fever, such as malaria.
Basil improves blood circulation and the digestive system. It is considered a 'cooling' herb with anti-inflammatory properties and is used to relieve symptoms of rheumatic pain, irritable skin conditions and soothe the nerves. It is good for rubbing the leaves on insect bites to reduce itching and inflammation.
The leaves can also be used as a warming tonic for nervous exhaustion or any cold condition. You can do this by pouring boiling water on to the leaves and inhale the steam. It smells lovely.
Like most other mints, Basil is often recommended for digestive complaints. When drunk as a tea after a meal it can enhance digestion and dispel gas.
To prepare the tea,
Pour 1 cup of hot (not boiling) water over about 1 teaspoon of fresh chopped Basil leaves
steep for 5 minutes.
Strain and drink.
Honey can be added if a sweeter taste is required.
A basil infusion (tea) is recommended for treating vomiting, stomach cramps, diarrhea and constipation.
As Basil also has slight sedative properties, this makes the plant very useful for headaches and anxiety especially in combination with other sedating herbs like chamomile and catnip.
Basil is an excellent natural insect repellent, sprigs of basil burned on the barbecue will repel mosquitoes and a pot of basil in a windowsill will discourage flies, they will go elsewhere as they cannot stand the smell of this lovely plant.
You may be surprised to know that there are many varieties of basil, each one has their own distinct flavour such as Lemon or Clove Basil which are used in cooking as well as for medicinal purposes.
Although Basil is native to India and Persia it is also commercially cultivated in the Mediterranean,however it will grow outside during most English summers. Basil is a member of the mint family and is very similar in appearance only with a broader leave The most popular type of basil that is used in cooking is sweet basil.
Basil is an excellent source of iron, calcium, potassium and Vitamin C. It also contains smaller amounts of Vitamin A, magnesium and manganese. Along with its medicinal value, basil is nutritionally rich in anti-aging antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. As it can be consumed in fairly large quantities compared to some herbs, it makes it a very beneficial health food.
Basil is easily available from your local supermarket, fresh, dried or even frozen. Fresh basil sold already cut, will keep for a few days if refrigerated and wrapped in a damp paper towel.
Basil grows very well in pots and can easily be kept on your windowsill This is the way that I keep myself suppled during the winter months with fresh Basil. The plant will keep going for weeks even months if cared for properly and work out very inexpensive compared to regularly buying ready cut Basil.
As with most herbs fresh basil is much more aromatic and flavour some than dried basil and gives a completely different taste to your dishes. I always use fresh basil where possible.
Basil is an exceedingly versatile herb that may be used in an abundant variety of foods. It is especially excellent in tomato-based dishes, spinach, and all types of squash.
I find that Basil gives a great flavor to my winter soups but do not add it until the last few minutes of cooking as it will destroy the flavor. It can also be used in cream cheese for sandwiches, dips, and pasta dishes. Basil is the main ingredient in pesto.
Sprinkle fresh basil over the top of your pizza or sprinkle torn basil over a tomato and mozzarella salad. Add to stir-fried vegetables. Use in a marinade with garlic and olive oil.
Add fresh leaves of basil to your salad.
Basil is delicious, nutritious and an effective natural treatment for many common ailments. It should therefore be an essential feature for your outdoor or indoor organic herb garden.
Thoughts while weeding my garden:
I find that we live in strange times and I often ask myself “What can I do to get rid of the evil?’
But then I think: How to use the evil for good.
How can I learn discernment so that I can say, yes; this is the weed and this is the wheat, however they must both grow together to make life. That is the question...that is the true challenge for life today...how to live in darkness and light at the same time?
only then will evil be used for good.