We are all ruled by our memories – good, bad, favorite and bitter ones all put together. An important part of our memory is the fragrance we have grown up with. The smell of our favorite dish probably reminds us of our mom. And it is the person or the occasion that steals our attention at that moment. A fragrance could be as powerful as time to give us a ride back to our fondest of times. Visiting Hindu temples was an important part of my childhood and growing years. And one such fragrance that calms me to this date is the aroma of holy basil or the famously called Tulsi. Apart from curing common cold and allergies, the holy basil and the whole basil oil family is known to have a lot of uses and manifestations. And that’s what encouraged me to delve into these herbs a little bit. And I am so glad I did this because this research let me unearth a lot of ancient practices and foods. And here is what I found . . .
The ‘King’ of herbs
Tulsi is known for purity, calmness and revered sacred. Tulsi comes from the family of basil herbs. Ocimum basilicum or the great basil is possibly native to India and I am guessing it should have travelled as far as Italy during the British times. To this day, it is considered very belonging to the European part of the world for it is the ‘King of Herbs’. The very name basil comes from the Greek βασιλικόν φυτόν (basilikón phutón) which means “royal/kingly”. The whole basil family is known for its medicinal and herbal uses. Yes. Be it the great basil which is widely recognized as the culinary herb in Europe or the holy basil worshipped down south in India, you will have come across some derivative of this herb at some point in life.
There are many varieties of Ocimum basilicum or the royal basil. Sweet basil (Genovese basil), Thai basil (Ocimum thyrsiflora), lemon basil (O. × citriodorum), and holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) are some of the prominent types. These are treated as annuals. It is amazing how every continent has had some form of basil since time immemorial. Basil plants tend to be extremely sensitive. The surroundings of a growing basic plant must be maintained hygienically. Once nurtured and grown, the presence of the leaves in a place could clean up the space from dirty flies and insects. Intuitively, the basil of that land has been the perfect antibiotic for that weather and geography.
The compounds found in basil essential oil come from fresh basil leaves, stems and flowers. The basil extract from these parts, are steam distilled to produce basil oil. These compounds are rich antioxidants. Monoterpenes and phenyl-propanoids are the key constituents of any basil’s oil. The character to each basil variety is infused by the genotype and percentage difference in the constituent chemical compounds.
Sweet basil oil is made up of d-linalool with 55 percent and estragole (methyl chavicol) with 70 percent. A variety of the essential oil contains methyl cinnamate of 28 percent.
Sweet basil oil contains other properties such as 1, 8-cineole, eugenol, borneol, ocimene, geraniol, anethol, 10-cadinols, B-caryophyllene, a-terpineol, camphor, 3-octanone, methyleugenol, safrole, sesquithujene, and 1-epibicyclosesqui-phellandrene. It also contains juvocimene 1 and juvocimene 2. Take note that variations of these chemical properties may exist depending on the source of the plant.
Basil is majorly considered a culinary ingredient. Nations and traditions have been playing around with the herb in all kinds of dishes from basil tea to basil flavored pastas and salads. Extremely rejuvenating drinks like basil raspberry water, holy basil water (in Indian temples) are considered healthy and cleansing. Basil oil is added in tomato ketchup, pickles, fancy vinegars and spiced meats and sausages. It is the signature ingredient of Italian cuisine.
The mild aroma of basil oil is known to effectively relieve sinus congestion, asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. It is believed to alleviate mental fatigue, migraine and depression. Its carminative properties culminate in aiding the digestive system by reducing indigestion, constipation, menstrual cramps and flatulence. It is generally recognized as safe for external and internal uses.
Ancient Chinese doctors used basil oil to treat epilepsy and as an antidote against snake poison. The oil soothed irritated skin, relieved pain caused by rheumatism, and nervous disorders.
Wow! Isn’t that a diverse manifestation for one small herb? I am super tempted to go with the basil pesto pasta with a walnut topped cranberry veggie salad in basil oil island for my dinner. So! What are you going to invent with this herb king?
Disclaimer – All of the above information have not been evaluated by the food and Drug Administration or any other qualifying entity. All of the content above is from various sources on the web. The medicines and the recipes discussed, are proven to be effective based on the experiences and other blogs on the internet. Not all of these have been personally tried and tested by me. I am no expert in this oil usage. Good luck trying!
This post has been written in collaboration with the IndianSuperHeroes. They have these oils purely extracted from the herbs. You can find them in their store right here.