Bountiful Basil

Ellen Lord By Ellen Lord, 21st Apr 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Guides>Gardening>Herbs

Basil is often used to treat intestinal problems, motion sickness, flatulence and nausea. It also relaxes bronchial spasms and is thus helpful for treating various respiratory illnesses.


This information is in no way intended to be a substitute for modern medical care. Do not self-treat any medical complaint without the guidance of a licensed health care provider.


Once believed to possess magical powers, basil was considered by ancient peoples to be an elixir of love and a charm. Others, such as the Romans, recognized its healing properties and used it to aid digestion and counteract poisons. It also enjoyed a royal history having been buried with Egyptian kings in the great pyramids. While basil dates back to biblical times when it was seen growing around Christ's tomb, some cultures associated it with hatred and misfortune; others regarded it as a love token.

A medicinal herb as well as a sweet, pungent culinary seasoning, basil is one of the most familiar herbs because it is widely used in Italian cuisine, particularly in tomato-based dishes. But it also complements many other foods, including meat, poultry, salads, soups and pasta. This is fortunate because not only does basil enhance the flavor of foods, it also aids digestion. Indeed, this popular herb has a long history of medicinal use. In past centuries, the plant was accorded wide respect for its healing potential and was used to purify the mind, open the heart and even cure malaria. Today, herbalists recommend basil as an antispasmodic. It is therefore often used to treat intestinal problems, motion sickness, flatulence and nausea. It also relaxes bronchial spasms and is thus helpful for treating various respiratory illnesses.

Basil, Ocimum basilicum, is native to India, Africa and Asia, but after spice traders introduced the herb to Europe in the sixteenth century, its popularity took off; there are now more than 150 varieties grown around the world. Its common names include St. Josephwort, sweet basil and common basil. It is mildly sedative with antibacterial properties and can be used to relieve skin problems, to stimulate the immune system and the adrenal glands, and to prevent vomiting. In addition, fresh leaves can be crushed and rubbed on insect bites to reduce itching and swelling. In Ayurvedic medicine, basil juice is used for snakebites, chills, coughs, earaches and skin problems. What's more, even a tentative gardener (like me!) can grow this versatile herb.

Plant Facts

A member of the labiate family, basil can grow to a height of 24 inches and is related to peppermint. Its leaves have a spicy scent and an aromatic taste. Basil grows in North America as an annual garden herb, where it loves the heat and hates frost. The herb does best in sunny areas that are protected from the wind.

Therapeutic Effect

Thanks to its antispasmodic properties, basil is used for treating flatulence and stomach upset. It also helps ease tension and induce sleep. Its pungent taste triggers the production of saliva, enabling the body to digest food more effectively. It further aids digestion by increasing appetite and the flow of bile. Basil can also stimulate the cilia in the nose, helping to clear the nasal passages of mucus and disease-causing bacteria.


Basil leaves are rich in an essential oil called estragol that is comprised primarily of methylchavicol. The oil is credited for basil's antispasmodic and germicidal effect. Basil also contains saponines, tannins and flavonoids. Fresh basil also contains carotenoids and folic acid. In its dried form, basil is a good source of calcium, potassium and iron.


When taken internally, basil is known to ease a nervous stomach, reduce intestinal gas and alleviate constipation and bloating. Its properties stimulate the appetite and digestive juices while soothing inflamed mucus membranes. Because of the herb's antibacterial properties, basil is favored as a supporting measure for a variety of infections, including gastrointestinal difficulties and urinary tract infections. Make a poultice from basil by simmering the herb for two minutes. Squeeze out the liquid, and apply to wounds that are slow to heal, as well as to fungal infections. Try basil for sleep disorders and headaches. Even a sore throat may be soothed by gargling a basil infusion.

Basil snuff

Basil provides relief from respiratory diseases. Crush the dried herb to a fine powder and sniff it deep into the nose. Drying the leaves increases their essential oil content, thereby strengthening their antibacterial benefits.


The wonderful scent and flavor of basil makes it one of the most popular garden herbs. Basil brings flavor to a variety of dishes with its very unique, sweet pungency. Medicinally, basil is considered a mild antidepressant, thought to be emotionally uplifting. To ease depression, eat fresh leaves or add 5 drops of essential oil (available at health-food stores) to your bath. For relief from a head cold, pour boiling water over fresh leaves and inhale the steam. Since basil is antiseptic, you can even put diluted oil on cotton balls and then dab on your skin to treat acne.

Methods of Administration

Juice of the leaf
Chop 3-4 cups of basil leaves. Form a bag from a piece of gauze, place the leaves in the bag and press, squeezing the juice from the leaves into a glass. Take 1 tsp. of the juice 3 times daily.

Basil drink
A cooling beverage that does double duty as an appetite stimulant can be made from basil seeds. Use organic seeds or those that come from plants you've grown, because the seeds that are sold commercially may be chemically treated. To obtain basil seeds, let a few plants flower; once the blossoms fall off, you'll easily be able to gather them. To make the drink, mix 1 tbsp. of seeds with 1 cup of nonsparkling mineral water or another beverage. Let the seeds soak in the liquid for a few minutes before drinking.

Pour about ¼ cup of boiling water over 2 tsp. of the dried leaves. Steep for 10 minutes. Drink 1 cup of the infusion 2 times daily; after 8 days take a break for 2 weeks, and then repeat the treatment.

Essential Oil
Caution: Do not use the essential oil on sensitive skin or during pregnancy. Also, as with any essential oil, never take it internally.

Basil essential oil is used to make compresses and mild massage oils. It is a favored oil for treating arthritic conditions and may even be used as a hair tonic to encourage hair growth and to add highlights.

Pour boiling water onto fresh basil leaves and inhale to help relieve the symptoms of a head cold. To enhance the effect, position a towel tent-like over your head.

Basil Wine
Steep a small bunch of fresh basil in a bottle of white wine for 24 hours. Then strain the wine and refrigerate. Drink a 4-oz. glass after meals as a digestive aid.

For the bladder or kidneys
Basil tea can soothe an irritated and inflamed bladder or kidneys. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over 2 tsp. each of fresh basil and birch leaves; let it steep for about 10 minutes. Drink 1 cup 3 times a day between meals until the symptoms disappear.

Kitchen Hints

  • Basil is easy to grow, and indeed a container of it should be a fixture in every kitchen. Not only does the sweet herb help purify the air, it also protects against troublesome flies and mosquitoes, which shun its scent.
  • Try different types of basil. Interesting varieties include lemon, red, anise and cinnamon basil. Dwarf basil (O. minimum) has small leaves and is especially prized by chefs for its pleasant aroma and fine taste.
  • To store fresh leaves, wrap them in paper towels and place them in plastic bags in the refrigerator. for longer storage, put the leaves in a container, cover them with olive oil and refrigerate for 10-14 days.
  • To freeze the leaves, puree them in a blender or food processor. Place the basil puree in an ice-cube tray and add a little water to cover.
  • Store dried basil in a tightly closed container in a dark place at room temperature. This prevents any flavor loss. Use within a year.
  • Add fresh basil to foods just before serving. Basil complements pasta, mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, zucchini, rice, beans, meat, fish and poultry.
  • Use basil to season foods if you are sensitive to strong spices, such as pepper, paprika or garlic. It has a mildly spicy flavor.

Magickal Uses

Folk Names: Albahaca, American Dittany, 'Our Herb,' St. Joseph's Wort, Sweet Basil, Witches Herb
Gender: Masculine
Planet: Mars
Element: Fire
Deities: Vishnu, Erzulie
Powers: Love, Exorcism, Wealth, Flying, Protection

  • Basil is used to prevent inebriation
  • Do you want to know if someone is chaste or promiscuous? Simply lay a sprig of fresh basil on their hand. It will immediately wither if that person is 'light of love.'
  • Basil brings wealth to those who carry it in their pockets, and is used to attract customers to a place of business by placing some in the cash register or on the doorsill.
  • The scent of fresh basil is said to cause sympathy between two people, and this is why it is used to sooth tempers between two lovers.
  • It is added to love incenses and sachets, and the fresh leaves are rubbed against the skin as a kind of natural love perfume. In Eastern Europe it was once thought that a young man would love any woman from whose hand he accepted a sprig of basil.
  • Basil is also used in love divinations. Place two fresh basil leaves upon a live coal. If they lie where you put them and burn quickly to ashes, the marriage (or relationship) will be harmonious. If there is a certain amount of crackling, the life of the pair will be disturbed by quarrels. And if the leaves fly apart with fierce crackling, the projected relationship is undesirable.
  • Witches were said to drink about 1/2 cup of basil juice before flying off into the air.
  • Basil is strewn onto floors, because where it is, no evil can live. It is also used in exorcism incenses and in purification baths. Small amounts are sometimes placed in each room of the house to bring protection.
  • Basil given as a gift brings good luck to a new home.

    Confidentiality and Sources

    Confidentiality Statement: (for anyone who does not respect copyright and/or is confused regarding this issue) The information, data and schematics embodied in the document are confidential and proprietary, being exclusively owned by Ellen J. Lord (aka Purpleflame or Firefly). This document is being supplied on understanding that it and its contents shall not be used, reproduced, or disclosed to others except as specifically permitted with the prior written consent of Ellen J. Lord. The recipient of this document, by its retention and use, agrees to protect the same from loss, theft, or unauthorized use.
    All information provided in this article is the result of research using (but not limited to) the following books and guides: Herbs for Health and Healing, Rodale; Cunningham's Encyclopedia of Magical Herbs, Scott Cunningham; Magical Herbalism, Scott Cunningham; The Complete Guide to Natural Healing, International Masters Publishers; Earthway, Mary Summer Rain; Teach Yourself Herbs, Susie White; Natural Beauty from the Garden, Janice Cox; Nature's Prescriptions, Editors of FC&A Medical Publishing, and The People's Pharmacy Guide to Home and Herbal Remedies, Joe Graedon and Theresa Graedon, Ph.D


    Basil, Bronchial Spasms, Flatulence, Motion Sickness, Nausea, Respiratory Ailments

    Meet the author

    author avatar Ellen Lord
    Interested in herbs and their many uses. I believe that food is medicine. In my politics and religion, I am on the left of center.

    Share this page

    moderator Mark Gordon Brown moderated this page.
    If you have any complaints about this content, please let us know


    author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
    21st Apr 2015 (#)

    Thanks for this detailed and fact-filled share Ellen. Basil is an essential part of Indian household and Hindus revere this plant/herb. No religious function is complete without basil being part of it.

    It is sad that basil is being overlooked and being replaced by synthetic alternatives when it can be grown universally with minimum effort - siva

    Reply to this comment

    author avatar Ellen Lord
    21st Apr 2015 (#)

    Hi Siva,
    I was unaware that there was a synthetic for basil. sigh

    My sources didn't mention any religious significance within Hinduism. I'd be interested to know if any one God or Goddess has an special affinity for it.

    Reply to this comment

    author avatar Sivaramakrishnan A
    22nd Apr 2015 (#)

    I clarify as below to your response, Ellen:

    Quote from Wikipedia "Tulsi or Tulasi (Ocimum tenuiflorum) or Holy basil is a sacred plant in Hindu belief. Hindus regard it as an earthly manifestation of the goddess Tulsi, a consort of the god Vishnu. The offering of its leaves is mandatory in ritualistic worship of Vishnu and his forms like Krishna and Vithoba."

    What I meant by alluding to synthetic alternatives is many natural remedies are getting substituted by synthetic products that come with additives that can have harmful side effects - siva

    Many Hindus have tulsi plants growing in front of or near their home, often in special pots or special small masonry structures. Traditionally, Tulsi is planted in the center of the central courtyard of Hindu houses.

    The plant is cultivated for religious and medicinal purposes, and for its essential oil. It is widely known across the Indian Subcontinent as a medicinal plant and a herbal tea, commonly used in Ayurveda.

    Reply to this comment

    author avatar Ellen Lord
    22nd Apr 2015 (#)

    When I was doing the article on Basil Essential Oil I came across references to Vishnu, but not as detailed as what you have given me. TYVM

    Reply to this comment

    author avatar Nancy Austin
    23rd Apr 2015 (#)

    I really enjoy growing basil and other herbs too. Good job on your article.

    Reply to this comment

    author avatar Ellen Lord
    24th Apr 2015 (#)

    TY Nancy. This is the first in my Natural Health & Hygiene series. Check out my page for other herbal articles.

    Reply to this comment

    author avatar Nancy Austin
    24th Apr 2015 (#)

    I certainly will. Thanks.

    Reply to this comment

    author avatar Steve Kinsman
    27th Apr 2015 (#)

    I love basil. Lots of great useful information here. Thank you Ellen.

    Reply to this comment

    author avatar Ellen Lord
    28th Apr 2015 (#)

    Thank you Steve. Hope there was something new for you in the article.

    Reply to this comment

    Add a comment
    Can't login?