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|Focus on Herbs: Basil
|by Lynne Latella
|As summer starts winding
down, basil is at its best. Now is the time to celebrate basil as
it reaches its peak of production. But basil not only stimulates
the taste buds, it also has a long history as an herbal remedy, as well.
The essential ingredient in pesto, basil is one of the most aromatic
members of the mint family. Native to India, it is not only
popular as a culinary staple, but also for thousands of years has been
a medicinal remedy for parasites and skin infections. Ancient
cultures had mixed feelings about basil, however. Greeks and
Romans sometimes equated basil with insanity and anger. They
shouted angrily while sowing basil seeds, believing that the plants
would be more fragrant as a result. Greeks were warned against
using basil because they believed it would cause insanity. The
French words for sowing basil means having a temper tantrum. In
Italy, however, basic is associated with love, and in India it is
considered a sacred herb. By the 1700s, basil was widely used in
Europe for numerous ailments.
Through the ages, basil has been widely respected as a remedy to purify
the mind and open the heart. It has been used to cure malaria,
ringworm, motion sickness, flatulence, diarrhea and nausea.
Because it relaxes bronchial spasms, it is helpful in treating
respiratory problems. As a stimulant for the immune system, it
increases the production of antibodies that can fight off bacteria and
infections. It is also known to be useful in promoting
menstruation, inducing labor, expelling afterbirth and encouraging
sleep. Although there has been research involving basil’s use in
treating cancer, the information is not conclusive at this time.
Basil oil is more powerful than the plant itself, and more concentrated
than strong tinctures and infusions. It is extremely useful in
stomach ailments, killing intestinal parasites, aiding digestion and
soothing cramps. The oil also destroys bacteria when applied to
skin problems such as acne.
Basil is found not only in medicinal and culinary preparations, but
also in cosmetics. Useful in hair preparations, it promotes hair
growth and reduces tangles. It can also be found in deodorants,
lotions, soaps and potpourri. As an added bonus, basil plants
help ward off flies and mosquitoes because they don’t like the scent.
Basil is best used fresh, as it loses much of its aroma and power once
it is cut or dried. It should be picked or cut shortly before use
to preserve its properties. For use within several days, submerge
branches or stems in water in a vase, and pick off the leaves as
needed. Fresh leaves can be stored in the refrigerator for a few
days, wrapped in paper towels in plastic bags. For longer
storage, cover the leaves with olive oil and refrigerate for up to two
weeks. Leaves can also be frozen by pureeing them and putting
them in ice cube trays or small containers with a little water or olive
oil to cover.
The Co-op carries basil as plants, fresh herbs, dried in bulk and in
soothe irritated or inflamed kidneys and bladder
Pour 1 cup boiling water over 2 tsp. each of fresh basil and birch
leaves. Steep about 10 minutes. Drink 1 cup three times a
day between meals, until symptoms disappear.
a small bunch of fresh basil in a bottle of white wine for 24
hours. Strain and refrigerate. Drink 4-6 oz. after a meal.
1 Tbs. of organic basil seeds—plants that have flowered and dropped
their flowers will yield seeds—with 1 cup of non-sparkling mineral
water. Let seeds soak for several minutes before using.
1 pint alcohol, 1 oz. lavender water, and 30 drops each of basil and
lavender oils. Steep several months, shaking periodically.
Use to perfume the hair and promote hair growth.
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