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Basil - Ociumum basilicum

A tender annual herb which grows wild all over the Mediterranean, the Basil has a number of varieties varying in height and leaf colour. The most commonly used is the French Basil (ocimum basilicum), which has very dark green ovate leaves, with a slightly greyish-green underside, growing up to 60 cms on an erect and rather square stem, bearing whorls of greenish, or pinky-white two-lipped flowers.

Sacred to Krishna and Vishnu, the Basil is considered capable of ‘opening the heart and mind’ and is second only to the lotus in the hierarchy of sacred plants. Indeed, folk lore long tells the tradition of keeping a pot of Basil in the home for its purifying and protective influences, and it is particularly useful in the kitchen for deterring flies and pests. Basil takes its name from the Greek word for king : ‘basilieum’ - and was an ingredient of an oil used for anointing kings, and in folklore has been referred to as ‘the king of herbs’.

By the 16th century Basil was being made into a powder and used like snuff to clear the head.

The anti-spasmodic qualities of Basil make it effective against headaches, migraines, and for relieving insomnia from stress or tension. In India, Basil is used as a tea with honey to promote clarity or the mind.

In the West, Basil is more commonly used for digestive upsets, and for clearing intestinal parasites. Fresh basil leaves can be applied topically to clear fungal infections of the skin, and the oil is often added to chest rubs for clearing coughs and congestion - it is also a good nerve tonic and anti-depressant, strengthens the mind, has a clarifying effect on the brain and helps with mental fatigue.

As a mouthwash Basil is effective on mouth ulcers and gum infections, and as a massage oil is excellent for tired, overworked, tight muscles! The oil is also good for insect bites (including wasp stings) and, like the plant itself, makes an effective insect repellent. It has also been reported to help with scanty periods, cramps, sinusitis and earache, and rheumatism.

! The essential oil should not be used during pregnancy - and can irritate sensitive skin !


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