Basil is used in perfumery for its clear, sweet and mildly spicy aroma. In aromatherapy, it is used for sharpening concentration, for its uplifting effect on depression, and to relieve headaches and migraines. Basil oil has many chemotypes and some are known to be emmenagogues and should be avoided during pregnancy.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) of the Family Lamiaceae is also known as Sweet Basil. It is a tender low-growing herb that is grown as a perennial in warm, tropical climates. Basil is originally native to India and other tropical regions of Asia, having been cultivated there for more than 5,000 years. It is prominently featured in varied cuisines throughout the world including Italian, Thai, Vietnamese and Laotian. It grows to between 20–60 cm tall, with opposite, light green, silky leaves 1.5–5 cm long and 1–3 cm broad. The flowers are quite big, white in color and arranged in a terminal spike. Unusual among Lamiaceae, the four stamens and the pistil are not pushed under the upper lip of the corolla, but lay over the inferior.
Basil is most commonly recommended to be used fresh, and in cooked recipes, is generally added at the last moment, as cooking destroys the flavour quickly.
The fresh herb can be kept for a short time in plastic bags in the refrigerator, or for a longer period in the freezer, after being blanched quickly in boiling water.
The dried herb also loses most of its flavour, and what little flavour remains tastes very different, with a weak coumarin flavour, like hay.
Mediterranean and Indochinese cuisines frequently use basil, the former frequently combining it with tomato. Basil is one of the main ingredients in pesto — a green Italian oil-and-herb sauce from the city of Genoa, its other two main ingredients being olive oil and pine nuts. The most commonly used Mediterranean basil cultivars are 'Genovese', 'Purple Ruffles', 'Mammoth', 'Cinnamon', 'Lemon', 'Globe', and 'African Blue'.
Chinese also use fresh or dried basils in soups and other foods. In Taiwan, people add fresh basil leaves into thick soups. They also eat fried chicken with deep-fried basil leaves.
Basil is sometimes used with fresh fruit and in fruit jams and sauces — in particular with strawberries, but also raspberries or dark-colored plums.
Traditional Medicinal Uses: Traditionally, basil has been used as a medicinal plant in treatment of headaches, coughs, diarrhea, constipation, warts, worms, and kidney malfunctions. It is also thought to be an antispasmodic, stomachache, carminative, stimulant and insect repellent.
The oils of basil, especially the camphor-containing oil, have antibacterial properties. Volatile compounds produced by sweet basil have been shown to influence the composition, distribution, and spore germination of some fungal populations. The volatile terpenes camphor and 1,8-cineole present in basil and other members of the Lamiaceae have been suggested as agents in allelopathic reactions.
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