This week we will carry on with our look at fresh herbs as medicines and health foods. There are so many choices out there and they are all so healthy and good for us! Today’s fresh herb is basil. Fresh basil is used around the world in countless delicious dishes. Italian food is a favorite, and sprigs of fresh basil in a sauce or on pizza are a delightful touch to a delicious dish. But, I’ll bet you didn’t realize how wonderful basil was for your health too!
Scientifically basil is called “Ocymum basilicum” (sweet basil), and also ” Ocymum minimum” (basil bush). Basil can actually be found growing all over the place here in Kuwait, and is next to homes and buildings, along the street sides, in public parks, and just everywhere! You can also buy fresh basil herb in most supermarkets in the green grocer section. If all else fails though, you can use it dried as well. In Arabic it is called “rayhaan”. While basil belongs to the mint family of plants, it doesn’t really resemble mint in taste or aroma.
Basil is one of the most versatile and beneficial fresh herbs. It has a wonderful strong aromatic aroma that is sweet yet powerful. If you are looking for it on the streets, it is a leafy bushy plant with lovely purple flowers growing up in spikes. Basil is practically indestructible once it gets started, and that is probably how it is able to grow all over the dry desert lands of Kuwait. Here in Kuwait the basil plant that you find outside in the “wild” is a bushy, woody type, but the leaves are the same, and extremely loaded with the essential oil that is what makes basil medicinally beneficial. It is the leaves of this plant that are used medicinally, but you might like putting the beautiful purple aromatic flowers in a vase, giving your home an aromatic spicy smell (and having the basil aroma flowing around in your home will keep it a healthier place as well).
If you suffer from digestive problems, particularly upset stomach, vomiting, nausea, or flatulence, just drink a light basil tea or eat a few basil leaves. You can make basil into a lovely tea by infusing it with plain steaming hot water for a few minutes. You can also just pop a few leaves right into your mouth! It is also great for aches and pains, and can be applied directly onto a painful area.
I will never forget the time a friend and I were preparing my first herbal clinic in Kuwait for opening back in 1994 and I was standing on a ladder, painting herbal names around the ceiling. I was busy painting and I reached back with my arm, when suddenly I felt a horrible searing pain! Without realizing it I had put my arm into the path of the ceiling fan, which hit my forearm with force. The pain was excruciating and I’m blessed that my arm wasn’t cut off. The only thing that we had around was some fresh basil that was growing coincidentally outside the front door of the place. My friend Renee, who was also into herbs, rushed out and picked some basil, crushed it, and immediately applied it to my arm, which, by then, I was incapable of moving and which was becoming blacker by the minute. The pain immediately eased when the basil was applied, and we wrapped it in gauze to keep the basil on, and continued working. Thanks to good ole’ basil, the day was saved, the basil helped the bruise to resolve itself in record time, and I was none the worse for wear!
Basil is also great for respiratory ailments such as bronchitis, or any other phlegmy ailment that causes coughing, because it helps to get the phlegm out of the system. If you have a fever basil can be applied directly to the head or body, in the form of hot packs (make an infusion and soak cloth or towels in it). It is also good for colds and the flu, and is noted to be great for earaches. Basil is know to strengthen the immune system, so if you are one of those people who seem to be sick all the time, basil might be just what you need!
Some people swear that basil can get rid of any migraine, and since most migraines are sinus related, that makes perfect sense. If you are having trouble with your menstrual cycle, basil can help to regulate it for you, and if your problem is that your cycle is too light it will solve that problem for you as well. If you suffer from skin problems, basil might be just what you are looking for. It is said to be antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal, thus, people who are suffering from acne and other inflammatory ailments can try applying fresh basil directly to the places where they have problems, and it should help.
The Chinese use basil for many purposes as well, including bladder and urinary problems, and blood diseases. Some people throughout history have even used basil to cure cancerous tumors! In Ayurvedic medicine basil is called “tulsi”, and is used widely in India for many purposes similar to how basil is used medicinally in the West and other Eastern lands.
For those who suffer from nervous disorders, such as anxiety attacks, basil is going to be your friend. Keep some with you wherever you go, if possible, and whenever you feel an anxiety attack coming on, just take out your sprig of basil leaves or basil flowers and take a big whiff of it. Inhale as deeply as you can, and you should feel better right away. Basil is relaxing and calming, and is certain to help you to forget why you were anxious in the first place! If you are prone to feeling tired, basil is also your friend. Again, just keep a sprig or two of basil with you and deeply inhale the refreshing aroma. The essential oils that are abundant in the fresh basil herb are great for reviving you and helping you to feel refreshed and revived. This can be particularly useful at the end of a long work day, when you are feeling like you can’t concentrate any longer. Just breathe in the lovely aroma of the basil and you will be able to continue with your day!
So, if you are suffering from any of the ailments we just talked about, carry a few sprigs of basil around with you and use them frequently! You will be glad that you did!
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