A delicate plant growing up to 90cm in height, with light-green oval leaves and white flowers.
Once believed to possess magical powers, basil was
considered by ancient peoples to be an elixir of love and a charm.
Others, such as the Romans, recognized its healing properties and used
it to aid digestion and counteract poisons. It also enjoyed a royal history
having been buried with Egyptian kings in the great pyramids.

About 35 species of aromatic annuals, evergreen perennials and shrubs belong to this genus, which occurs in most warm and tropical regions, especially in Africa. All basils need ample warmth and light, and do not thrive outdoors in areas with cool summers. The most widely grown basil is Ocimum basilicum, a highly variable species in terms of both appearance and aroma. Purple-leafed variants, such as 'Dark Opal' and 'Purple Ruffles', are ornamental, and can be grown as container or bedding plants; they are also used for giving a purple tint to basil vinegar. Basils are rich in volatile oils, which often vary considerably within the same species and according to growing conditions. Some 20 or more constituents have been isolated, the main ones being methyl chavicol (anise), methyl cinnamate (cinnamon), eugenol (clove), citral (lemon), geraniol (rose), linalol (lilac/orange blossom), thymol (thyme), and camphor. Variants in which certain constituents predominate are known as chemotypes; O. americanum has three distinct chemotypes; floral-lemony, camphoraceous, and spicy. Its essential oil characteristically contains 70-88 percent methyl chavicol, an anise-scented compound, which in excess may be carcinogenic. The Mexican O. selloi (sometimes incorrectly given as O. sellowii) has an unusual scent resembling green peppers. In green peppers this characteristic aroma is due to pyrazines, which are difficul to detect in essential oil. Analysis of O. selloi shows that elemicin, methyl eugenol, alpha-copaene, and beta-caryophyllene predominate. The composition of oils in a particular plant affects its aroma, flavor and uses, though it may not differ in appearance from other plants of the same species. Mediterranean types of O. basillicum contain mainly linalol and methyl chavicol, with little or no camphor, which give the typical sweet basil flavor; E European types are characterized by methyl cinnamate; SE Asian types contain a high proportion of clove-scented eugenol; and, in Réunion or African types, camphor and methyl chavicol predominate. Hybridization in cultivation further complicates the picture. The most widely grown basils for commercial drying and oil extraction go under many different names, not necessarily recognized by botanists as distinct cultivars. Though mainly grown for their aromatic leaves, most basils also have seeds that are high in mucilage and have different uses from the foliage. Some basils are important in folklore and religion. The common name "basil" may be associated with the Basilisk (a mythical serpent-like creature whose glance and breath were fatal), as it was beleived that basil could turn into scorpions. Ocimum tenuiflorum, regarded in India as the most sacred plant after the Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera), is grown in most Hindu homes, and around temples, for its protective influence, holding basil root protects against thunder, and wearing a string of beads made from basil stems wards off infection and "induces religious tendency and longevity" (Indian Materia Medica, 1976). The tropical American duppy basil (O. campechianum syn. O. micranthum), also known as mosquito plant/bush or Peruvian basil, is crushed and hung in homes to repel mosquitoes; "duppy" is a word used in the Caribbean for a ghost or a mosquito. It also goes by the name "married man pork" and is used to flavor soups and stews. Ocimum is from the Greek okimon, used by Theophrastus for basil.

Today this savory herb is best known as a flavoring in spaghetti sauce, but well into the seventeenth century many believed that if you left a sprig of basil under a pot, in time it would turn into a scorpion. And smelling the herb would cause scorpions to nest in the brain!

Erect, much-branched, aromatic annual or short-lived perennial, woody at the base, with narrowly ovate to elliptic, entire or toothed, bright green leaves to 5cm (2in) long. Small, white, tubular flowers are borne in whorls to 2cm (¾in) apart.

Common Name:
Other Names:
Common Basil, Garden Basil, Sweet Basil, St. Josephwort, Tulsi.
Botanical Name:
Ocimum basilicum
Tropical Africa, India, Comoro Islands, Egypt, France, Madagascar, United States, Tropical Asia
Rich, light, well-drained to dry soil in sun, pH5-8. Pinch out growing tips to encourage bushiness and delay flowering. Ocimum x. citriodorum dislikes transplanting so is best sown in situ. Slugs, aphids, whitefly, spider mites, and Botrytis may attack plants. Basil is often used in companion planting because it is said to repel aphids, asparagus beetles, mites, and tomato hornworms, and to slow the growth of milkweed bugs.
By seed sown in spring at 13°C (55°F); by softwood cuttings in spring (perennials and shrubs).
Whole plants (O. americanum, O. basilicum, O. gratissimum, O. tenuiflorum) are cut just before flowering begins and dried or distilled for oil. Leaves are picked during the growing season and used fresh or juiced, or dried for infusions and decoctions. Ocimum tenuiflorum is prepared as powder adn medicated ghee. Seeds (O. americanum, O. basilicum, O. tenuiflorum) are collected when ripe and dried for decoctions. Roots are harvested and dried for decoctions.
Plant Facts:
A member of the labiate family, basil can grow to a height of 24 inches and is related to peppermint. Its leaves have a spicy scent and an aromatic taste.
Basil grows in North America as an annual garden herb, where it loves heat and hates frost. The herb does best in sunny areas that are protected from the wind. It is beleived to have been native to India, but today more than 150 varieties are grown worldwide.
30-60cm (12-24in)
15-30cm (6-15in)
Has purple-veined leaves, lavender-pink flowers, and a cinnamon like aroma. A hardier Mexican cultivar
Height: 60cm (24in)
Is vigorous, columnar, and hardier than the species, with small, light green leaves, and a spicy flavor.
Dark Opal
Has purple-black leaves, 5-7cm (2-3in) long, cerise-pink flowers, and a delicate aroma. Bred at the University of Connecticut in the 1950's
Height: 60cm (24in)
Width: 30cm (12in)
Syn. Perfume Basil

Has a tall, uniform habit, slightly wrinkled leaves, and is slow to bolt. An Italian strain, widely regarded as the best for pesto with tomato- and garlic-flavored dishes.
Height: 45-50cm (18-20in)
Green Globe
Forms a dense ball of tiny leaves, with a spicy flavor.
Height: 50-70cm (20-28in)
Width: 50-70cm (20-28in)
Green Bouquet
Is a rounded, bushy plant with small leaves, to 1.5cm (½in) long, and white flowers. It has a floral, spicy, clove-like flavor.
Height: 25-45cm (10-18in)
Green Ruffles
Has large, light green, crinkled, deeply toothed leaves.
syn. Anise, Glycyrrhiza, Licorice, Thai

Has purple-flushed, purple-veined, toothed leaves, light pink flowers with purple bracts, and a sweet anise-licorice aroma. Much used in SE Asian Cuisines.
Height: 60cm-1m (2-3ft)
Width: 30-45cm (12-18in)
syn. Monstruoso

Has very large leaves, 15cm (6in) long, with a fine flavor. Dries well and is good for wrapping foods.
Syn. var. crispum, var. difforme, Italian, Lettuce Leaf, Neopolitano, (Curly Basil)

Has large, light green, crinkled leaves with a sweet flavor. Originally from Naples, Italy; much used for pesto.
Height: 45cm (18in)
New Guinea
Has very narrow, purple-flushed leaves, small, pale violet flowers, and a strong licorice-cinnamon aroma.
Is a Genovese-type basil with high resistance to Fusarium wilt.
Has very dark purple leaves.
Height: 50cm (20in)
Purple Ruffles Has large, dark purple, crinkled leaves with deeply toothed margins, and pink flowers. May partially revert to green.
Height: 45-60cm (18-24in)
syn. Red Rubin

Has bronze-purple leaves and a fine flavor.
Siam Queen
Has red-purple stems, large leaves, 8-10cm (3-4in) long, 4-5cm (1½in) wide, and purple flowers. Similar in flavor to 'Horapha'
Height: 75cm-1m (30-36in)
Spicy Globe
Forms a compact mound of tiny, very fragrant leaves.
Height: 25cm (10in)
Width: 30-45cm (12-18in)
Sweet Dani
Is upright, well-branched, and uniform, with a strong lemon aroma.
Height: 65cm (26in)
Well-Sweep Miniature Purple
Syn. Mini Purpurescens Well-Sweep

Is compact, with small purple-flushed leaves and a spicy flavor.
Height: 20cm (8in)
Width: 15cm (6in)
Var. purpurescens
Has purple-flushed or -splashed leaves.
For centuries, basil has been held sacred as both a talisman against evil and an emblem of romantic love. In the Greek Orthodox religion, basil is used to decorate altars and to prepare holy water. In India, where it is known as tulasi, the leaves of holy basil (O. sanctum) were placed on the chests of the dead to ward off evil spirits and ensure entry into heaven. IN Egypt, grief-stricken women scattered the crushed herb around the graves of their loved ones. In Italy, a pot of basil placed on a woman's balcony would signal her readiness for romance. Basil is also one of the oldest of the culinary herbs. Its distinct peppery-mint aroma and sweet-spicy taste have made it the signature ingredient in a host of European, Mediterranean, and Asian dishes, most famous of which, of course, are the incomparable tomato sauces and pestos of Italy.
Symbolic Qualities
Integration, Discipline, and Dragon Force
Parts Used:
Whole plant, leaves, seeds, oil
Basil leaves are rich in an essential oil called estragol that is comprised primarily of methylchavicol. The oil is credited for basil's antispasmodic and germicidal effect. Basil also contains saponines, tannins, flavanoids, and a great deal of calcium.
A restorative, warming, aromatic herb that relaxes spasms, lowers fever, improves digestion, and is effective against bacterial infections and intestinal parasites. It has a mild sedative action.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for feverish illnesses (especially colds and influenza), poor digestion, nausea, abdominal cramps, gastroenteritis, migraine, insomnia, low spirits, anxiety and exhaustion. Externally for acne, loss of smell, insect stings, snakebite, and skin infections.
To treat flatulence and a feeling of fullness, earaches, malaria, menstrual problems, and rheumatoid arthritis; to stimulate the appetite and digestion; to help rid the body of excess fluid. Basil oil is used to treat joint pain, wounds, and depression.
Basil is a member of the mint family (Labiatae) and like all mints, it is a superb digestive aid, helping to relieve stomach cramps, indigestion, gastritis, nausea, and vomiting. Traditionally, basil is also used—internally and in aromatherapy—to relieve headaches, migraines, fevers, anxiety, depression, insomnia, and fatigue. Externally, basil oil is used for acne and other skin infections, insect bites, ringworm, and small wounds. Wine made from basil leaves is considered both a restorative tonic and an aphrodisiac. Chemical constituents in the herb stimulate the adrenal cortex. This gland controls the production of androgenic hormones such as testosterone, which increases sex drive.
When taken internally, basil is known to ease a nervous stomach, reduce intestinal gas and alleviate constipation and bloating. Its properties stimulate the appetite and digestive juices while soothing inflamed mucous membranes. Because of the herb's antibacterial properties, basil is favored as a supporting measure for a variety of infections, including gastrointestinal difficulties and urinary tract infections. Make a poultice from basil by simmering the herb for two minutes. Squeeze our the liquid, and apply to wounds that are slow to heal, as well as to fungal infections. Try basil for sleep disorders and headaches. Even a sore throat may be soothed by gargling a basil infusion.
Typical Dose:
A typical dose of basil is approximately 3gm of the herb combined with 150ml hot water.
Basil is available as fresh and dried herb and in oils, teas, and tinctures. To make a tea, pour 1 cup boiling water over 1 teaspoon dried herb and steep for 5 minutes. Strain, and drink up to 1½ cups a day, 2 tablespoons at a time.
Do not use basil if you are pregnant. Be cautious using basil externally if you have sensitive skin; the herb may cause a rash.
Possible Side Effects:
No side effects are known when basil herb or basil oil is taken in designated therapeutic doses.
Drug Interactions:
Taking basil with these drugs may disrupt blood sugar control:
Acarbose, (Prandase, Precose)
Acetohexamide, (Acetohexamide)
Chlorpropamide, (Diabinese, Novo-Propamide)
Gliclazide, (Diamicron, Novo-Gliclazide)
Glimepiride, (Amaryl)
Glipizide, (Glucotrol)
Glipizide and Metformin, (Metaglip)
Gliquidone, (Beglynor, Glurenorm)
Glyburide, (DiaBeta, Micronase)
Glyburide, and Metformin (Glucovance)
Insulin, (Humulin, Novolin R)
Metformin, (Glucophage, Riomet)
Miglitol, (Glyset)
Nateglinide, (Starlix)
Pioglitazone, (Actos)
Repaglinide, (GlucoNorm, Prandin)
Rosiglitazone, (Avandia)
Rosiglitazone and Metformin, (Avandamet)
Tolazamide, (Tolinase)
Tolbutamide, (Apo-Tolbutamide, Tol-Tab)
While basil dates back to biblical times when it was seen growing around Christ's tomb, some cultures associated it with hatred and misfortune; and others regarded it as a love token.
Two of Wands
Steam Distillation
Color and Odor:
The essential oil is colorless, having a very pleasant, rich, refreshing, sweet, spicy, green and piercing odor.
The name is derived from the Greek "basilicon", meaning royal. Basil has a long history of use in India, where it is known as "tulsi" and is held to be sacred to the Hindu gods Krishna and Vishnu.
The essential oil is best used in lower concentrations as it may cause irritation in sensitive people and may be over-stimulating.
Culinary Uses:
Leaves are added to salads, and used to flavor tomatoes and tomato-based dishes, pasta sauces (notable pesto), vegetables (especially beans, peppers, and eggplants), soups (soupe au pistou), and herb oils and vinegars. Seeds soaked in water make a refreshing drink.
Economic Uses:
Oil is sued in perfumery, aromatherapy, and commercial food flavoring; also in dental products and insect-repellents.
  • Digestive Sytem—Eases vomiting, abdominal cramps and swelling caused by indigestion and flatulence.
  • Respiratory System—Useful for sinus congestion, asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. Basil is also recommended for chronic colds and influenza as well as hiccups and whooping cough.
  • Reproductive Sytem—Will assist painful and/or scanty periods.
  • Nervous System—An excellent nerve tonic, basil is useful for all type of nervous disorders, especially those associated with weakness, indecision or hysteria. Also valuable for states of nervousness, anxiety and depression.
  • Muscular System—Basil is very good for tired or overworked muscles, especially after strenuous physical exercise. It strengthens tense or flacid muscles.
  • Emotions—Basil clears the head, strengthens memory, aids concentration, sharpens the intellect, relieves mental fatigue and is helpful in times of mental effort, promoting alertness in the morning and sound sleep at night.
Methods of Administration:
  • Juice of the leaf:
    Chope 3-4 cups of basil leaves. Form a bag from a piece of gauze, place the leaves in the bag and press, squeezing the juice from the leaves into a glass. Take 1 tsp. of the juice 3 times daily.

  • Infusion:
    Pour about ¼ cup of boiling water over 2 tsp. of the dried leaves. Steep for 10 min. Drink 1 cup of the infusion 2 times daily; after 8 days take a break for 2 weeks, and then repeat the treatment.

  • Essential Oil:
    Basil essential oil is used to make compresses and mild massage oils. It is a favored oil for treating arthritic conditions and may even be used as a hair tonic to encourage growth and to add highlights.

  • Inhalation:
    Pour boiling water onto fresh basil leaves and inhale to relieve the symptoms of a head cold. To enhance the effect, position a towl tent-like over your head.

  • Caution:
    Do not use the essential oil on sensitive skin or during pregnancy. Also, as with any essential oil, never take it internally.

Basil 5 Basil 6 Basil 5
Peppermint 3 Pine 3 Lavender 4
Chamomile (R) 3 Benzoin 3 Jasmine 3

Basil 5 Basil 6 Basil 4
Lavender 3 Marjoram 4 Lemon 4
Chamomile (R) 3 Rosemary 3 Juniper 4
Aromatherapy Blends and recipes by Franzesca Watson Copyright © 1995 Thorsons, Harper Parker Publishing Inc. Pp 56-57
The Complete Guide to Natural Healing Group 1 card 14
The Cherokee Herbal by J.T. Garret Copyright © 2003 J.T. Garret pps. 155, 266
The Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Bown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Ltd. pp.290-292
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. pg. 59
The Modern Herbal Primer by Nancy Burke Copyright©2000 Yankee Publishing, Inc. pp. 22-23
Animal Speak by Ted Andrews Copyright©1996 Llewellyn Publications pg. 49