Bewitching Basil (Ocimum Basilicum)

Basil makes a fantastic addition to food, smells amazing and can help support the body too.

The garden variety basil that we use in the UK is not the same as holy basil (ocimum tenuiflorum). This is because holy or sacred basil is native to the Indian Subcontinent and Australia. It also contains different biochemical compounds. Despite this our basil is still amazing!

Containing high levels of vitamins A & C basil is very useful because the body can’t utilize protein without vitamin A. Furthermore vitamin C is the most important vitamin for the immune system.

Basil is part of the mint family which also includes peppermint, spearmint, lavender, rosemary and thyme. Known as labiatae the mint family produce flowers and have square stems.

Other Names for Basil

Basil has many other names which include;

  • Alabahaca because its the Spanish term for Basil.
  • Sweet basil because it relates to its sweet clove like taste.
  • Witches’ herb maybe because some say that witches drank basil juice before flying on their brooms. Whereas the “flying” may actually relate to astral projection where the witches’ bodies remain inert while their minds “fly.”

Drinking Basil

Basil tea can be made with fresh or dry herbs and one-herb infusions are also known as simples.

I make a cup basil tea by;

  1. Bringing 600ml of bottled water to the boil. I prefer bottled water because it tastes better and does not contain the chemicals that tap water does.
  2. Measuring 2oz (50g) of fresh herbs or 1oz (25g) of dried using an electronic scale because of its accuracy.
  3. Adding the herbs to the boiled water.
  4. Covering the cups / teapot and leaving the mixture to infuse for 10 minutes

Trying both the dry and fresh basil tea I prefer the fresh. Dry basil tea is too overpowering in taste and smell for me. The fresh tea is milder and far better suited to my taste buds. However the dry basil tea produces a beautiful deep hue in colour.

Suggested uses where the tea may help support the body are;

  • Headaches
  • Indigestion
  • Fight mild depression
  • Poor memory and lack of concentration
  • As a mouthwash for bleeding gums
  • Compounds found in basil may even disrupt cell mutations leading to cancer development

Dairy and Gluten Free Basil Pesto

Pesto sauce is one of the most well known uses for basil.

Being dairy and gluten intolerant I like to put my own twist on basil pesto sauce. There are not many dairy free options available out there and you can’t beat a bit of home cooking even if there was!

Ingredients

  •  A cupful of fresh basil leaves – I use a set of aluminium cups in different sizes for my teas and other herbal concoctions.
  •  One garlic clove – because dairy free varieties of cheese tend to be milder in taste and adding too much garlic would overpower the dish.
  • One teaspoon of sea salt.
  •  25g / 10z of toasted pine nuts –  I prefer to toast my own pine nuts because its cheaper and easy to do. Putting the pine nuts into a small pan on medium heat I toss them every 30 seconds. There is no need to add oil because they can be toasted dry. Keeping a careful eye on them I remove them from the heat as soon as they turn brown. Its very important to keep an eye on them because they can burn very quickly.
  • 50g / 2oz dairy free cheese –  I use violife vegan cheese which is made with coconut oil. Its good to see that dairy free cheese has improved over the years because I couldn’t eat it years ago. The violife cheese has the same texture as edam cheese and a mild creamy taste.
  • 100ml of extra virgin olive oil
  • A handful of finely chopped mushrooms
  • 250g of gluten free pasta –  I love Tesco gluten free red lentil and brown rice fusilli pasta. Their gluten free pasta is a good price, tastes great and noone complains when I use it instead of wheat pasta.

You can substitute dairy cheese and wheat pasta into this dish if you prefer. If you do this you may need to add a little extra garlic because the cheese taste will be much stronger.

Preparation

  1. Finely chop the garlic and place it into a pestle and mortar along with the sea salt and crush. Then add and crush the toasted pine nuts too.
  2. Add the basil leaves and crush into a paste.
  3. Stir in the extra virgin olive oil.
  4. Grate the cheese and stir into the sauce.
  5. Cook the pasta as per packet instructions.
  6. Gently cook the chopped mushrooms in extra virgin olive oil and add grounded black pepper if desired.
  7. Strain the pasta and stir in the pesto sauce.
  8. Sprinkle the mushrooms over the top and serve.

This recipe is a lovely and tasty addition to my dairy and gluten free homecooked meals.

Insect Repellent

A basil plant has pride of place in my living room windowsill because it repels flies and mosquitoes . I buy my basil plants from the local supermarket because this is an inexpensive option.

To find out more useful herbal tips to deter flies and mosquitoes take a look at my “Natural Mosquito Repellents and Bite Relief” post;

http://theforagingherbalist.com/natural-mosquito-repellents-and-bite-relief-simple-rosemary-insect-repellent-dealing-with-insect-bite-scars-lavender-essential-oil-aloe-vera-plants-chickweed-sage-basil-plants/

Keeping my basil fresh and sweet smelling takes a little care. At this time of the year I need to water them daily because this stops their leaves wilting. I also prune them regularly because this encourages the basil to branch out and produce more leaves.

The pruned leaves do not go to waste because I put them in sealed freezer bags for future use.

This article from The Old Farmer’s Almanac was very useful with regards to growing and storing  basil;

https://www.almanac.com/plant/basil

Basil pure essential oil can also be used to repel mosquitoes and flies.

Basil Pure Essential Oil

 

Known as a relaxing essential oil basil may also support the body with regards to;

  • Asthmatic and bronchial conditions
  • Colds and flu
  • Depression and mental problems because its smell lifts the spirit
  • Vomiting

Basil oil can be used in an essential oil burner or as an ingredient in a massage oil.

Cautions

  • Do not use on sensitive skin because it will irritate it.
  • Do not use while pregnant because it may cause bleeding.

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Magical Basil

Possible magical uses for basil are;

  • Business success -try keeping a well cared for basil plant in your work place to attract customers. Sources even say that prostitutes wore basil in Spain to attract business!
  • Exorcism
  • Love and harmony – wear to avoid major clashes.
  • Money matters – try a sprig in your purse or wallet to attract money.
  • Protection – crush and sprinkle basil leaves around the home to bring peace, soothe bad tempers and bring luck into the home
  • Purification

 

Be aware that you never know if you’re intolerant to something new until you try it for the first time. In fact I believe its best to try a tiny amount first and wait a day or two to check that there is no adverse reaction. 

If you have any pre-existing medical conditions or are taking any medications, always check with your doctor to ensure that using any of these suggestions don’t contradict them.

 

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