The Fragrant Basil: Basil Plant Benefits, Uses and Information

by | May 17, 2018

Basil Plant Benefits, Uses, and Information

Basil is a well-known culinary world that can be found in many home and professional kitchens. It is a standout for its rich flavor and aromatic scent. Basil plant benefits and uses stretch well beyond the kitchen and have been used in herbal medications and natural therapies.

Basil has generations of history as an herb to treat a wide variety of different conditions, from simple bug bites to an antidepressant.

Botanical Names:

Ocimum Basilicum, Ocimum basilicum var. citriodorum (lemon), Ocimum basilicum var. purpurascens (opal), Ocimum basilicum var. minimum (bush or Greek)

Common Names or Other Known Names:

St. Joseph Wort, Common Basil, Sweet Basil, Garden Basil, Luole, Thai basil, Tulsi, Arjakaand, Albahaca, and various sub-varieties

 

Basil Origin:

Native to India, Pakistan, and other warm climate regions of Asia. Introduced into Europe sometime in the sixteenth century.

Article Preview: Information About Basil – Identification, Uses, and Benefits


Basil Varieties:

There are many varieties of basil that are heirloom and hybrid types. This list is a general look at some of the popular types.

  • Sweet Basil or Genovese – Green type, typical garden variety, white flowers
  • Lettuce Leaf – Large crinkly style leaves, hardy grower, white flowers
  • Green Ruffles – Brighter green leaves with long rough edges, very ornamental
  • Spicy Globe – Compact bush type, with similar qualities to sweet basil
  • Lemon Basil – Delicate leaves less curled with a lemon scent undertone.
  • Thai Basil – Larger growing bush with dark purple stems and flower spikes. Spicier flavor and scent.
  • Cinnamon Basil – Dark green leaves and pink flower spikes. Distinct spicy flavor and added spice to the scent.
  • Red Rubin Basil – Red to purple-red color leaves. Slightly more bitter in flavor.
  • Holy Basil or Tulsi – Purple flowers with grayish green leaves.

Identifying Basil:

potted basilBasil is a green leafy plant with some unique traits that make identification easy. (Opal and Rubin varieties are purple to red in color) One of the easiest ways to identify Basil is by its scent. Even the multiple varieties will still carry a strong almost anise-like scent that is semi-sweet but pungent.

Basil leaves are oval-shaped with smooth or slight toothed edge with a shiny finish. The leaves tend to cup over slightly as they mature. Distinct types of basil cause leaf changes but most carry similar characteristics.

basil flower spikeAs part of the mint family, basil grows from a square type stem. The maturing stems become thicker and woody at the base of the plant and thin out towards the youngest growth. Basil has a bushy growth pattern that reaches a height of 2 to 2 ½ feet when untrimmed.

Flowers form on mature basil in the form of spikes from the center of the stem. Typically, they are purple or white in color.

 

Usable Parts of Basil:

Leaves, essential oil, flowering tops, and seeds

 

Basil Contains:

Eugenol, cintronellol, linalool, myrcene, camphor, estragol, pinene, rosemarinic acid and E-Beta-Caryophyllene.

Basil Plant Benefits & Uses:

Culinary:

There are many ways to use basil in cooking. I find it to be a staple in my kitchen fresh, dried and in extracts. This is a basic list.

  • Basil is commonly used in pairings with tomato dishes and other Italian and Greek food.
  • It also pairs well with many non-citrus fruits like peaches, and berries.
  • Pesto is a very common use of basil that has popularity across cultures.
  • Soups & Sauces.

Medicinal:

If you were to look up basil benefits for holistic treatment and natural therapy the list would be a lot longer than this. As most of the world has long recognized this wonderful herb as a major healing element. Here where I am from, the United States, it has been diminished sadly to a mere cooking herb.

  • Basil has been used as a common treatment for intestinal parasites and other intestinal ailments including diarrhea.
  • Increases immunity and disease-fighting antibodies.
  • Fights mental fatigue through scent stimulation and aromatherapy.
  • Brain stimulating to help improve memory and lift brain fog.
  • Basil is considered a natural anti-depressant. Stimulating hormones and the adrenal cortex to help regulate the body’s response to stress and lift the mood.
  • Induce labor and regulate menstruation.
  • Anti-inflammatory soothing arthritis and stimulate the body’s cannabinoid receptors that inhibit inflammation.
  • Lung congestion caused by colds, bronchitis can be relieved by the expectorant qualities of Basil.
  • Treat allergies, hay fever, and asthma-related symptoms through inhaling of oil or massage.
  • As poultices to treat rash related to bug bites and other allergic reactions.

 Religious:

  • Often used on the altars of Greek Orthodox Churches.
  • In India, basil leaves were placed in the hands of the dead to ensure a safe journey to the next world.
  • Jewish faith finds strength in fasting by holding basil in the hand.
  • In Mexico, planted in front of the home, Basil was said to ward off evil.

Basil Safety Precautions & Warnings:

  • Normal cooking amounts are considered safe and not harmful
  • Medicinal amounts and treatments should not be used for infants, small children, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding.
  • Those with diabetes should use this herb medicinally with caution

See additional potential cautions on WebMD

⇒Disclaimer: The information presented here by Inside Herb Gardens and Its Authors are intended for educational purposes only. These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, cure, treat or prevent disease. Individual results may vary. Before using any herbs, supplements or other natural treatments it is always advisable to consult your own doctor or medical professional.

Basil Gardening Information:

Basil is an easy grower that works both in indoor gardening and outdoor spaces. It can be grown from seeds and cuttings.

This is an annual plant that will need to be planted every year. In warm areas self-seeding is possible. Extended growth can be done by growing the plant indoors and keeping it from reaching flowering stage.

Read more about growing basil from the article below.

Final Thoughts on Basil

Basil has always been one of my favorite garden herbs to grow and use. Primarily for cooking but I enjoy the many other basil plant benefits as well. As such a versatile flavor in the kitchen, it can become quite easy to add a lot of the rich benefits of this herbal powerhouse to the foods you enjoy every day.

I have not enjoyed all the medicinal health benefits of basil personally. Bug bites are something that I was introduced to at a young age though and I would adamantly say it works. A macerated leaf rubbed on an insect bite I have found to be some of the best relief to itchy.

red arrow down rightI find it unique that where I live in the United States so little emphasis is put on the healing opportunities of herbs, basil is one of them. Although anyone would understand its use in the kitchen and likely have it in some form available. Many would not realize the potentials it has. As always I hope to grow that. Not only your gardens but your knowledge.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on Basil. Please share below!

Be well, happy and healthy!

6 Comments

  1. Pernilla

    Hello Christina,

    Basil is my favourite herb, I do like the taste so much. Basil pesto is delicious and I very often add the basil leaves to my salads. I use to keep a basil plant in a pot on my kitchen window sill. It looks nice, I can quickly check if it has enough water and it’s so practical to have it just nearby when cooking.

    I didn’t know that there are so many different sorts of basil – interesting! I’ll see if I can find other sorts to grow than the one we always have. It’s also fantastic how many health benefits there are to eat basil.

    I’m definitively going to check out your Basil pesto recipes, Christina! Thanks for the great information you are providing.

    Pernilla

    Reply
    • Christina

      Hi Pernilla,
      There are so many types of Basil. I have and do grow many because I love the versatility of flavor. Basil has always been one of my favorites to grow. I love to grow it indoors as well as outside. It is an easy grower inside throughout the winter and cooler months as long as you can provide it the proper lighting. A nice bright south window is usually enough. I use it so much in my cooking and fresh on salads that it makes a lot of sense to have around.
      I think you are UK. This seed pack has a nice variety of mix to try out if you are interested. Basil Mix If I am wrong and you are in the US like me, I like this mix .
      Let me know what you think of the basil pesto recipes! Summer is on the rise. The pistachio type with fruit is amazing! Recipes here.
      Thank you,
      Christina

      Reply
  2. Jeff

    Awesome post on basicl one of my favorite herbs to use for when I am preparing my meals, since autoimmune has entered my life I am using more herbs than ever before and I am feeling healthier than ever other than some flare-ups from time to time.

    I was out the other day and there were some herbs on a display in front of this shop, I am big on the mint family and I seen they had peppermint and a mint new to me by the name of Sweet mint. I was wondering if you knew much about sweet mint, I noticed it has much smaller leaves than the other mints?

    Jeff

    Reply
    • Christina

      hi Jeff,
      So glad to hear that you are finding some wonderful benefits for herbs in your life. I too have an autoimmune disease and herbs are an enormous part of my life and healthy diet. So much nutrition and beneficial compounds are packed in herbs, amazing little pieces of nature.
      Sweet mint causes some debate. Some herbalist would debate it is not even part of the mint family at all. However, it has all the characteristics that make it mint. The square stem and much of the same volatile oils. It has less of the menthol-like flavor and is lower in that rich flavor punch you would be used to in peppermint. I would compare it more closely to spearmint. If you are enjoying a nice mildly sweet tea mint this may still be a nice choice for you. I have not looked into the exact compounds and constituents as equivalents for making herbal medicines. It is a native of Isreal and a popular mint choice for making mojitos and other drinks. For flavoring, this seems like a nice choice. I personally have not grown this “sweet mint” and have stuck with the more traditional forms that I know and recognize. I may try it so I can be more personally familiar with it in the future.
      It was a great topic to bring up!
      Christina

      Reply
  3. Dena

    You always have such great articles and I love frequenting your site. I have a love of nature and enjoy the all the information you provide here such as this article on basil. I have always loved basil in cooking but did not realize how many medicinal qualities that it provides. I grow it quite often; however, I always have a problem with it flowering prematurely and have heard that is turns bitter after it flowers. I never realized that basil was part of the mint family that really surprised me. I do wonder as I suffer with allergies and asthma how well it works, as I am always looking for all natural ways of staying healthy. Do you happen to have any insight on how well basil works for asthma or allergies?

    Reply
    • Christina

      Hi Dena,
      I do not have serious complaints about allergies or asthma myself. So I do not have a lot of personal connection to basil for use with them. I am allergic to one thing in the air. That is cottonwood and have had many respiratory issues due to lower immunity (no spleen). When I was young basil was a common cooking herb. My grandmother cooked a lot of Italian dishes. This made it prevalent in anything and always available. I remember when having colds and congestions my Gram would take some basil put it in warm rice and wrap it up tight in a cloth, then into a pillowcase. She would have me place it on my chest at night. You could smell the basil in minutes. It penetrated the clogged up sinuses and chest congestion.
      I make heating pads at home today for a cough and colds based on this same concept. With microwaves using dried rice over and over makes this method reusable. I use basil essential oil and eucalyptus (like in Vicks vapor rub) Mix it in the dried rice. Allow it to soak in. Sew it up in a nice material. Give it a quick heat up in the microwave whenever in need. ( I will do a tutorial for this soon)
      I get my essential oils from Plant Therapy. They have great products. If you are interested in trying the oil I have a great opportunity I can share with you. I can Give a Friend $10 Off Their First Purchase of $25 or More at Plant Therapy and Get $10 on Your Next Order!
      Another good way to reap the benefits of basil is to condense the dose during high allergy times. Tinctures and extracts are an excellent way to do that. They can be added a boost to cooking, and to teas. Here is an introduction to Tinctures. I will be addressing specific basil tinctures and allergy tinctures in an upcoming article.
      I hope that helps. Any other questions. Please let me know!
      Christina

      Reply

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