Herb of the Day: Sweet Basil

Sweet Basil
( Ocimum basilicum )

Parts used: leaves, flowering tops, essential.
Sweet basil is a strongly aromatic annual that grows to 20 inches. Has shiny oval leaves, a square stem, and small white flowers in whorls. Sweet basil, also known as basil, is probably native to India. Over 150 varieties are now grown around the world for their distinctive flavor and essential oil. The leaves and flowering tops are gathered as the plant comes to a flower.
It contains a volatile oil which consists principally of linalool and methyl chavicol, along with small quantities of methyl cinnamate, cineole, and other terpenes. In his 1st century AD Materia Medica, the Greek physician Dioscorides described the African belief that eating basil checks the pain of a scorpion’s sting. Ancient Romans used the herb to relieve gas, to counteract poisoning, as a diuretic, and to stimulate breast milk production. In the 17 century herbalist Nicholas Culpeper again evoked scorpions with his tale of a man who, after smelling basil, grew one of the beast in his brain.
Sweet Basil acts principally on the digestive and nervous systems, easing flatulence, stomach cramps, colic, and indigestion. It also can be used to prevent or relieve nausea and vomiting., and helps to kill intestinal worms. It has a mildly sedative action, proving useful in treating nervous irritability, fatigue, depression, anxiety, and insomnia. It may also be taken for epilepsy, migraine, and whooping cough. The herb has been traditionally taken to increase breast milk production. Applied externally, basil leaves act as a insect repellent. The juice from the leaves brings relief to insect bites. Sweet basil has an established antibacterial action.
The essential oil should not be taken internally.


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