Basil, holy basil
(Ocimum basilicum, Ocimum sanctum)
Family: Labiatae or Lamiaceae
Description: Basil is a tender, aromatic annual herb with green leaves and small white or pink flowers. The essential oil is steam-distilled from the leaves and flowering tops. Countries of origin: France, Egypt, Comoro Islands, India, Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary Characteristics: Basil has sweet, green, herbaceous top notes and spicy, liquorice/aniseed undertones. Holy basil has a similar aroma, but with more depth. Basil blends well with most other herbs, and also with lavender, geranium, bergamot, lime, lemon, frankincense and pine.
Main therapeutic properties: Antiseptic, anti-spasmodic, carminative, cephalic, digestive, emmenagogue, febrifuge, nervine, tonic.
Basil has a more subtle, less sharp cephalic effect than rosemary and is the first choice for relieving intellectual fatigue, when the mind is weak or indecisive. It is useful for nervous disorders, and for those in need of protection, and is especially suited to those suffering from debilitating illness. Overall, basil is restorative, fortifying and clearing.
Although basil’s properties can help with digestive and menstrual problems and provide a useful alternative to other essential oils, it is best used for its excellent tonic effect on the nerves and mind. This is because prolonged or over-use of basil is not recommended. Basil is also better blended to avoid associations with Italian cooking — you don’t want to end up smelling like a pizza!
Psychologically, basil is awakening, uplifting and strengthening. It is good in meditations to clear the mind and stimulate mental activity. It is a subtle psychic protector, and its gentle anti-depressive and tonic effects make it suitable for those with long-term psychic exhaustion.
Contraindications: Avoid throughout pregnancy and if you have very sensitive skin. Use in small amounts — no more than 2 per cent — and avoid prolonged use.