Herb Highlight-Basil

The culinary uses of basil are well known, but the benefits of this aromatic plant go well beyond putting it in spaghetti sauce.

Basil belongs to the mint family and has many varieties including Thai basil, lemon basil, and holy basil (just to name a few, there are actually 35).  It belongs to the genus Ocimum, which is derived from the Greek ozo, meaning “to smell,”  and the name “basil” is derived from the old Greek word basilikohn, which means “royal,” reflecting that ancient culture’s attitudes towards an herb that they held to be very noble and sacred [2].  In fact, it has been given the honor of the “King of Herbs,” but why such a title?  With all the uses and benefits to this plant, it’s not hard to see why it deserves such a title.

Benefits of Basil

The uses of basil have been around from more than a millennia.  There are differences between species, so it is important to know what variety you have to understand the benefits.  Sweet basil is what you will typically find in the store and what is normally used in cooking.  It “is considered one of the healthiest herbs. It’s best when fresh, exuding a sweet, earthy aroma that indicates not only the promise of pleasantly pungent flavor, but an impressive list of nutrients. Vitamin K, essential for blood clotting, is one of them. Just two tablespoons of basil provides 29 percent of the daily recommended value.

Basil is an important medicinal plant in various traditional and folk systems of medicines, such as those in Southeast Asia and India. Holy basil is usually referred to as tulsi in India and is actually considered a sacred herb. It’s been used in over 300 different Ayurvedic herbal treatments for thousands of years, including tinctures, teas, ointments and tonics.

Holy basil also has a long history of religious and medical use in India, where it’s considered one of the most important herbs there is.”

Courtesy of: https://draxe.com/benefits-of-basil/

 

How-to Use Basil

One of my goals, as I learn about herbs and how to unlock their full potential, is to find less commonly known uses for them.  In the case of sweet basil, it is typically only used in the kitchen.  So, I have been trying to think outside of the box and research the multiple uses of sweet basil, since that is what is flourishing in my garden currently.

Basil Tea: relief from stress, migraines, colds, allergies, exhaustion and digestive issues

Sweet basil is used extensively in aromatherapy for ailments such as stress, migraine, colds and hay fever. It has antispasmodic, appetizing, carminative, galactagogue and stomachic properties. It is quite effective for tension headaches, exhaustion and digestive upsets such as stomach cramps, constipation, diarrhea and enteritis.

Make an infusion by adding 2 teaspoons fresh leaves to 1/2 cup boiling-hot water. Steep for about 10 minutes. Strain and drink hot. Take three times a day.

Respiratory Disorders

Boiling basil leaves with honey and ginger is useful for treating asthma, bronchitis, cough, cold, and influenza.

Influenza

Boiling the leaves, cloves, and sea salt in some water will give rapid relief of influenza. These combinations should be boiled in about two quarts of water until only half the water remains before they are taken.”

Natural Skin Care

Use 1 cup chopped basil leaves in 2 cups boiling-hot water. Steep for 15-20 minutes. Then add to bath.

Blemish Eraser

Boil a handful of fresh basil leaves in 1 cup of water for 10 minutes; let the liquid cool. Dip a cotton ball into the liquid, pat it on your breakout zones, wait 10 minutes, then splash with water; repeat once or twice a day.”

Mouth Infections

Chewing a few leaves twice daily can cure infections and ulcerations of the mouth [5].

Insect repellant

“It’s a good insect repellant for white fly, aphids and fruit fly. A pot of basil, set on a windowsill near an open window, will prevent flies from entering the room through the window”.

 

Growing Basil

Growing basil is not difficult, and here in Southeast Texas (zone 9) it is considered a perineal which propagates its self well.  I started with two basil plants last year and ended up with four more scattered throughout the garden.  It has many benefits within the garden, and is a good companion plant: Sweet Basil is a most beneficial companion for your other plants. In particular it enhances the flavor of summer savory and it helps tomatoes to grow larger and more flavorsome.

You can purchase a basil plant from the store; however it grows easily from seed, so why not try your hand at starting from seed?   Besides, it’s cheaper this way (and saving money wherever we can is becoming increasingly important these days).

Plant seeds about two weeks after the last frost. Basil is sensitive to the cold (know your hardiness zone), so whether you are transplanting seedlings from indoors or have plants in the ground, watch the early spring temperatures and cover if necessary.

In addition to sowing basil from seed, a cutting of basil will easily root when placed in water. Select a 4″ section of basil that has not yet flowered. Roots will form within a week. Transplant the basil directly into the garden or container once a healthy root system is apparent [7].

Basil prefers full sun (6-8 hours) and well-drained soil with a neutral pH (7).  It doesn’t typically need any soil amendments, in fact, it will lose some of its flavor intensity if the soil is too rich.  I haven’t done anything to mine, they have taken off, and it has yielded several clippings.

Don’t have a garden space?  Not a problem.  Basil grows well in containers, so really there is no excuse not to have this plant around.  To learn more about growing basil from a container, CLICK HERE

Do y’all have basil on your homestead?  What ways do you use it?  I would love to hear from you.

Sources:

  1. https://draxe.com/benefits-of-basil/
  2. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=85
  3. http://foodfacts.mercola.com/basil.html
  4. https://herb.co.za/grow-and-use-sweet-basil/
  5. http://www.offthegridnews.com/alternative-health/medicinal-uses-and-health-benefits-of-basil/
  6. http://www.health.com/health/gallery/0,,20500778,00.html#blemish-eraser
  7. http://www.thekitchn.com/everything-you-need-to-know-about-growing-basil-221272

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