There are around 60 varieties of basil, and it looks a little like peppermint since it belongs to the same family. It was indigenous to Asia and Africa earlier, but is now grown almost all over the world and used as a seasoning herb in many cuisines. The word ‘basil’ is derived from Greek ‘basilikohn’ meaning royal and sacred. Basil has been used as an embalming herb and a preservative, and was used to preserve mummies. It was variously a symbol of mourning in Greece and of love in Italy in ancient times, and was also used by churches to make holy water since it was found growing around Christ’s tomb after the resurrection. It is also known as St. Joseph’s Wort.
Basil is a revered herb in Hinduism, and is known as Holy Basil or Tulsi. It is still worshipped by many Hindus in the mornings and evenings since it is associated with Lord Krsna. According to Hindu legend, while weighing Lord Krsna against gold and jewels, the balance would not even up. One leaf of the holy basil equaled the balance. Basil is used in many ayurvedic medicines.
There are many benefits of Basil. It is used as a nerve tonic, and is also believed to sharpen memory. It removes phlegm from the bronchial tube, and is therefore widely used for treating colds, coughs, asthma, and congestions. Sore throats and respiratory disorders can also be treated with a concoction of basil, ginger, and honey boiled together. For many fevers, basil acts as a preventive and curative measure. It is usually boiled with cardamom to prepare tea, and this herbal tea delivers results.
Basil is also used for treating kidney stones, diabetes, and diarrhea. It helps in preventing and treating cardiac disorders by inhibiting cholesterol. Basil leaves and neem leaves help in curing and preventing the further spread of chicken pox and other diseases. It is also considered good for skin, teeth, eyes, the mouth and as an anti-stress agent since it relaxes muscles and improves blood flow. Flavonoids in basil protect cell structures from oxygen-based damage. Basically, it works as an anti-oxidating agent or antioxidant. Volatile oils in basil prevent bacterial growth that may trigger various ailments like diarrhea or skin diseases. Anti-inflammatory properties make basil work like aspirin with symptomatic relief from pains like headaches, arthritis and stomach aches.
In many cuisines, basil is added as seasoning. The fresh leaves not only add color to the dish, but also protect against a multitude of ailments. Basil and tomato go very well together, and if you have a tomato-based gravy or sauce, basil lends a perfecting taste and beauty to it. Basil is also preferred in chicken dishes and in pastas. Basil seeds are easily available at local gardening stores, and the perfect time for sowing them is the onset of rains. Fresh basil is always better than dried basil. Fresh basil can be stored in the fridge wrapped in a damp towel. Dried basil loses its properties and benefits after six months.
This article was supplied by Nidhi Varma.