Family: Lamiaceae

Genus & Species: Ocimum basilicum

Common Names: Sweet basil, garden basil

Overview:  “Basil” refers to over 150 different kinds of plants, all members of the mint family, many of which are used medicinally. [1] The most common representative of these aromatic siblings is Ocimum basilicum, a species native to tropical regions of Africa and Asia. [2] Basil’s relationship with humanity reaches far back into ancient history in regions like Egypt and Greece, where it was placed in the hands of the dead to assist their journey into the afterlife. It was also believed to have been seen outside Christ’s tomb following his resurrection, leading many Christian Orthodox groups to use basil in the preparation of holy water to this day. [1]

Basil has also drawn the attention of modern researchers, thanks to its exceptionally high activity as an antioxidant and antimicrobial. Within traditional herbal medicine, the herb is recognized as a cooling nervine, respiratory aid, and superb digestive. [1,3] As an herb that supports so many of the body’s systems, it’s no wonder that basil is so ubiquitous across the globe!

Therapeutic Properties: Nervine, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, decongestant, anti-depressant, digestive, antispasmodic, galactagogue [1,3]

Typical Uses: Basil is most frequently taken as an infusion, or tea, using either the fresh or dried leaves. Since many of its medicinal constituents are volatile oils, it’s best to keep the infusion covered while it's steeping. Infusions are a great way to experience basil’s supportive effects on the digestive and nervous system, or in instances where its benefits are needed throughout the body (such as mild generalized inflammation). [1,3] Another traditional way to use basil is as a poultice. Poultices are made by soaking a piece of cloth in a potent herbal infusion which is then applied directly on the body. A basil poultice placed on the forehead can serve as a fantastic remedy for foggy headedness or irritability. [1]

1. Basil | Richard Whelan Medical Herbalist 

2. Ocimum basilicum | Missouri Botanical Garden

3. Basil: Herb of the Week | Commonwealth Herbs

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