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History of Basil and Other Tidbits

Basil, one of the oldest herbs, is believed to have originated in India and spread to Europe via the Middle East. Throughout history it has been regarded as having extraordinary powers, claiming fame in the realms of religion, medicine and cooking. Its name is derived from the Greek ‘basileus’ which means ‘king’.  It has been used as an antidote for snake bites, and to give ancient peoples a source of strength during religious fasting. It has been called the ‘herb of poverty’ and is supposed to provide protection to those who are in need and destitute.

Medicine

Basil is often overlooked as a remedy for common health problems, although various civilizations have been using it for thousands of years. A quick list of conditions that basil is supposed to help with include: poor digestion, flatulence, headaches, anxiety, vomiting, cramps, poor memory, travel sickness, common cold and high levels of cholesterol. Lastly, it has antiseptic properties. In India, the variety of herb called Basil Tulsi is used in Ayurvedic medicine and often made into tea. Here is a simple recipe for tea made from basil:

Basil Tea

Ingredients:
1 tbsp fresh (or 1 tsp dried) basil
1&1/4 cup of water

Directions: Chop the basil until the pieces are relatively small. Bring the water to a boil and then turn off the heat. Put the basil into the water and let it steep for five minutes. Strain out the leaves.

Other Uses

Here are some other ways in which basil can be used:

  • Indoor basil plants have been used to keep flies away
  • Different varieties of basil produce beautiful flowers and buds, the stems of which can be used in flower arrangements (Dark Opal, for example).
  • Some varieties of basil make good hedges or border plants for gardens
  • Can be used as an ingredient in potpourri
  • Can be used in the making of soaps and scented candles