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This article is from the Herb Reference series.


Other Names:

St. Josephswort
Sweet basil
Basil comes in many varieties:
Anise Basil : Ocimum Basilicum
Bush Basil : Ocimum Basilicum `Minimum'
Camphor Basil : Ocimum kilimandscharicum
Cinnamon Basil : Ocimum Basilicum / Ocimum Gratissimum
Dark Opal Basil : Ocimum Basilicum `Purpurascens'
Green Ruffles Basil : Ocimum Basilicum `Green Ruffles'
Holy Basil : Ocimum Sanctum
Lemon Basil : Ocimum Americanum
Lettuce-leaf Basil : Ocimum Basilicum `Crispum'
Nano Compatto Vero Basil : Ocimum Basilicum
Piccolo Verde Fino Basil : Ocimum Basilicum
Purple Ruffles Basil : Ocimum Basilicum
Thyrsiflora Basil : Ocimum Basilicum

Latin Name:

Ocimum Basilicum

Once native to India and Persia only, Basil is now common throughout the world as an herb. It is still a sacred herb to the Hindus who used to lay sprigs of O. sanctum on the chests of the dead to protect them from evil in the next life. In other cultures it has had both good and bad reputations. The Greeks thought that it was necessary to vilify it while sowing it for it to grow. In other countries it was used as a protection against witchcraft and as a symbol of love.

Basil is found wild in the tropical and sub-tropical regions of the world. It can be grown easily in a pot and likes a rich moist soil with plenty of sun.

Stems: Stem is square in section and slightly hairy.

Flowers: and white, pink or red whorls of flowers which nestle in the axils of the leaves (where the leaf joins the stem).

Leaves: Smooth, entire or slightly toothed, ovate leaves, which range in color from green to dark purple and give off a strong clove fragrance when crushed.

Fruit: Tiny dark brown seeds.

Height: Grows up to 2 feet in height.

Cultivation: Plant Basil indoors in early spring. Transplant after danger of frost. Place plants 10 t0 12 inches apart and pinch back flower spikes to prolong the life of the plant. It's one drawback is that it must be raised from seed or seedling each year. You can buy various types of basil besides the "sweet" variety, the other most popular being "bush" basil. All however, posses the same properties.

Basil contains an aromatic and volatile camphor-bearing oil which gives it its marvelous clove-like fragrance and accounts for its use in cooking, potpourris and perfumery.
antibacterial (mild)
A delicious tea can also be prepared from the leaves which is thought to allay mild nervous tension headaches and nausea.

Basil Tea : Infuse 1 teaspoon dried herb in 1 covered cup boiling water. strain, and flavor with honey if desired. Upto 2 cups per day may be taken.

Clinical studies have shown that extracts from basil seeds exhibit some antibacterial properties. A poultice can be made from the seeds and placed on sores.


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