Monday, February 8, 2010

Herbal Allies #2 Basil

(Basil ( Ocimum basilicum)

Basil is one of our most common garden herbs. Who would suspect that it offers us so many healing benefits along with it's delicious addition to our pasta sauce? In old herbal lore basil is said to give courage and strength. Even today it is well known for its mood-enhancing properties. Pick up a bunch of fresh basil at the grocery store and breath in it's potent and amazing aroma. It's almost euphoric! You can enjoy basil's benefits by including it in your food, by using a few drop of the essential oil mixed with some olive oil in your bath, or just by having a potted plant in a sunny window in your house. For an easy way to add basil into your life try this simple recipe for basil infused olive oil. There are so many healing properties and uses for basil that many of us have never thought about. Some of these are listed below.

Basil has sedative and calming qualities.

Basil will help relieve the pain of tired and aching feet.

Basil is an antiseptic and antibacterial herb. Its healing properties can be used as a digestive aid to relieve nausea and an upset stomach.

Basil is antispasmodic, so aids in the healing and relief of headaches and migraines, vertigo and even colic.

As a culinary herb, basil is one of the most cleansing and helps with healing kidney and urinary problems.

Basil provides a source of beta-carotene, estragole, eugenol, borneol and Vitamin C.

Recently, there has been a lot of research regarding the health benefits of the aromatic oils found in basil. Scientific studies have established that compounds in basil oil have significant antioxidant, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, and anti-microbial properties. This supports the traditional uses of basil for the treatment of stress, asthma and diabetes in India. The volatile oils in basil that have been shown to provide protection against unwanted bacterial growth are estragole, linalool, cineole, eugenol, sabinene, myrcene, and limonene.

The eugenol component of basil's volatile oils has been the subject of extensive study, since this substance can block the activity of an enzyme in the body called cyclooxygenase. Several over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, and acetaminophen, work by inhibiting this same enzyme. These anti-inflammatory effects of basil can offer symptomatic relief for individuals with inflammatory health problems like rheumatoid arthritis or inflammatory bowel conditions.

Just for fun some of the magical aspects have been attributed to basil are:

The scent can be used to soothe tempers, especially between lovers.

Basil is often used in many love divinations.

To attract wealth, carry basil leaves in your pocket. For a prosperous business, place basil on the window sill or place some leaves in the cash register.

Basil is used to keep evil at bay. The basil plant offers good luck to the new home owners or renters.

So, as you can see Basil is truly a useful ally to have in your kitchen. Enjoy it in salads by tossing in a few shredded leaves, in pesto which makes a wonderful spread for wraps and sandwiches, in salad dressings or on pasta, we even love it blended into orange juice (strain out the pulp) for a delicious and refreshing beverage. Let your imagination run wild.