Introduction of Basil:Sweet Basil herb or St.Josephwort.

Popular Herbs. ✵The article gives records of the herb Basil, its English name, Latin name, common names, property and flavor, its botanical source one plant species, ①.Ocinum basilicum L., with a detailed introduction to the botanical features of this plant species, the growth characteristics, and ecological environment of this plant species, the features of the herb Basil, its brief history and story, its pharmacological actions, medicinal efficacy, and administration guide.

Basil(Ocinum basilicum).

Ocinum basilicum:herb photo English Name: Basil.
 Latin Name: Ocinum basilicum L.
 Common Names: Common basil, Garden basil, St.Josephwort, Sweet Basil, Sweet Basil herb.
 Property and flavor: Basil has a characteristic odor and a sharp taste. In TCM books, it is recorded as nature warm, tasting pungent, and sweet.

 Brief introduction: The common sweet basil, Ocimum basilicum is an annual aromatic plant, it is widely grown because of its pleasant spicy odor and taste. Basil is a bushy aromatic annual with brittle branched stems and grows up to 60 cm tall. There are large and dwarf types of basil with oval, shiny, fleshy and fragile, dark green, or purple, variegated leaves, some of which are ornamentals. The fresh leaves are about 5 cm long and 2 cm wide. Creamy white flowers are in whorls. In Finland, basil is often used to season Mediterranean-type dishes, like tomato and pasta dishes, pizzas, and salads. Fresh basil has a pungent flavor that some describe as a cross between licorice and cloves. It's a key herb in Mediterranean cooking, essential to the delicious Italian Pesto, and is becoming more and more popular in American cuisine.

 Botanical source: Common herbal classics defined the herb Basil as the flowering tops and dried leaves of the species (1). Ocinum basilicum L. It is a plant species of the Ocimum genus, the Labiatae family (Lamiaceae, mint family). The dried stem and root bark are used medicinally in North America. In Europe, the fruit and the root bark are used medicinally. This commonly used species is introduced:

(1).Ocinum basilicum L.

 Ocinum basilicum:drawing picture of basil Botanical description: Ocinum basilicum is an annual plant, it grows up to 20~80 cm high. The whole plant is fragrant. The stem is upright, quadrangular, and the upper part is inverted puberulent, often reddish or purple. Leaves are opposite; Petiole is 0.7~1.5 cm long, puberulent; Leaves are ovate or ovate-lanceolate, 2.5~6 cm long and 1~3.5 cm wide, entire edge or sparsely serrate at the edge, almost glabrous on both surfaces, with glandular dots at the lower part. There are 6 cymes, bracts are small, oblanceolate, 5~8 mm long, the margin is ciliate, caducous; Calyx is bell-shaped, 4 mm long, pubescent on the outside, 5 calyx teeth, 3 upper lip teeth, the middle tooth is largest, nearly round, short pointed, oval lateral teeth, sharp apex, 2 lower lip teeth, triangular spikes, there are cilia on the edges of calyx teeth, and the calyx grows and persists in fruit; Corolla is lilac or white, about 6 mm long, protruding from calyx, the outer lip is puberulent, the upper lip is wide, 4-lobed, the lobes are nearly round, the lower lip is oblong, and inclines downward; 4 stamens, 2 are stronger, all protruding out of the corolla, with dentate appendages and puberulent on the base of the posterior stamen filament; Ovary is 4-lobed, style is nearly as long as stamens, stigma 2-lobed; The disk has 4 shallow teeth. Nuts are oblong-ovate, brown. The plant flowering from June to September and fruiting from July to October.

 Ocinum basilicum:growing plant of basil Ecological environment: Ocinum basilicum prefers a warm and humid climate and is not cold-resistant, drought-resistant, or waterlogging-resistant. Good drainage and fertile sandy loam or humus loam are preferred. It is native to tropical Asia, and also grows in warm regions of Asia, America, and Africa. Today, basil is cultivated in many Mediterranean and Asian countries, the main producing and supplying countries in Europe are France, Italy, Morocco, and Egypt. There is also significant basil production in California of USA(the United States of America).

 Ocinum basilicum:growing plant of basil Growth characteristics: Ocinum basilicum is native to tropical Asia, it is very sensitive to cold and grows well in hot and dry environments. Most varieties of basil have green leaves, but one, opal basil, is a beautiful purple color. Lemon basil and cinnamon basil have green leaves, but their perfumy fragrance and flavor match their respective names. Basil is a summer herb, but can be grown successfully inside during the winter in a sunny window. It's plentiful during the summer months, and available year-round in many markets. Basil is a highly fragrant and aromatic herb. There are numerous types of basil available. According to the variety, the color of the leaves may vary from green to purple, and the flavor may have a hint of lemon, cinnamon, jasmine, thyme, or camphor in it.

 The seeds should be planted early in spring in rich, moist soil in rows 90 cm apart at the rate of 12 to 15 for every 30 cm and covered with soil. Germination requires 5 to 7 days, and thinning the plants is not necessary. Growth is rapid, and no special care other than the usual cultivation practices is required. Flowering shoots are pinched out to extend the useful life of plants.

 When the plants begin to flower, they should be cut 15 to 20 cm above the ground to provide herbs for drying. Several cuttings may be made during the season. The green, tender leaves may be used fresh at any time. The herb can be tied in small bundles and hung in a well-ventilated dark room or spread thinly on a screen to dry. After thorough drying, the leaves and flowering tops may be stripped from the stems and packed in closed containers.

 Ocinum basilicum:growing plant of basil Characters of herbs: The stems are square, with different lengths, 1~4 mm in diameter, the surface is purple or yellowish purple, with longitudinal grooves and pilose appearance; The texture of the herb is hard, the fracture surface is fibrous, yellowish-white, with white pith in the middle. Many leaves fall off or are broken, the intact ones are oval or oval-shaped lanceolate after flattening, 2.5~5 cm long and 1~2.5 cm wide, with blunt or sharp apex, tapering base, irregular serrated edge or nearly complete edges, nearly hairless on both sides, and glandular spots on the bottom; Petiole is about 1.5 cm long, puberulent. Pseudoraceme is slightly hairy, corolla is shedding; Bracts are oblanceolate, the persistent calyx is bell-shaped, yellowish-brown, membranous, reticulate, externally pilose, and internally pilose. Calyx contains nutlets. After being crushed, it has a strong aroma, pungent taste, and cool feeling. The better-grade basil herb has thin stems and no roots.

 Basil herb consists of the dried, above-ground parts of Ocimum basilicum, oil of basil is the essential oil extracted from the dried aerial parts of Ocimum basilicum by steam distillation.

 Basil leaves could be harvested at any time during the growing season, the leaves are tastiest when the plants are young. Use scissors or a sharp knife when harvesting just a few leaves, as clean cuts do the least damage to the plant. The entire upper stem and leaves can be harvested, but leave at least 4 sets of leaves -about 13 cm (5 inches) -or the plant may die. To ensure freshness, re-cut stems and put them in a jug of water in a cool location. Avoid wetting the leaves as they will become discolored. Blanch leaves and then freeze in ice cubes for later use. Freezing is the best way to preserve basil's flavor. To dry basil, strip the leaves from the stem and dry in a dark, airy location. Store dried leaves whole in an airtight container.

 Ocinum basilicum:drawing picture of basil Brief History of Basil: Basil, Ocimum Basilicum, belongs to the family of Lamiaceae or Lamiales, its leaves show an intense green color on the upper side and a green-gray color on the bottom side. The term "basil" derives from the Greek word Basilikos meaning "herb worth of kings". It is cultivated in all the countries of the world, rich in volatile oils which vary according to the composition even in the same variety and according to growth factors. The most aromatic leaves, sweet and fragrant, are the ones picked soon before blossoming, as they contain a higher quantity of oily substances determining the aroma, whereas the elder leaves tend to have a more piquant taste.

 Basil was known since the times of Egyptians, who used it, together with other essences, during religious ceremonies. It seems it was also used as an ingredient for the preparation of the balms used for mummification. In the Middle Age (the Middle Ages: the period in European history from the collapse of Roman civilization in the 5th century CE to the period of the Renaissance), it was believed to have magic properties, it was used as a defense against "basilisk", a monster that looked like a poisonous serpent. The origins of Basil are from Asia. It was probably introduced in Europe by Greeks and Romans, coming from the commercial routes which crossed the Middle East. Ancient Romans considered it the symbol of lovers, and it was also used as an aromatic herb in cooking. Apicius mentioned basil in a recipe with peas. In England it was introduced around the sixteenth century, whereas in America it will be introduced in the seventeenth century.

 In the western world, basil is the sign of fertility. Boccaccio told the story of Lisabetta who, after having hidden the head of her lover in the soil of a basil vase, she watered him with her tears. A different opinion had Van Helmont (Jan Baptista van Helmont, 1577 or 1580-1644, Flemish physician, philosopher, mystic, and chemist who recognized the existence of discrete gases and identified carbon dioxide.), a Flemish doctor, who believed basil left between two bricks made the plant to get transformed into a scorpion.

 The name basil is derived from Greek basileus "king", because of the royal fragrance of this herb. The names of basil in almost all European languages are related, although they show some vowel variation: Icelandic basilika, Albanian bozilok, Hungarian bazsalikom, Czech bazalka, Romanian busuioc, Provenal baseli, Basque brasilla and Modern Greek Vasilikos. In the era of colonialism, that name was also transferred to a few African languages, e.g., Ewe bebusui and Amharic besobila.

 The Greek word basileus "king" means essentially "people's leader": bainein "go" and laos "people". The first element is indeed cognate to both English come and Latin venire (Indo-European root GWEM-), the second has no cognates in Modern English, for Old English leod has been abandoned in favour of Romance "people"; related are German Leute, Old French liode, Lithuanian liaudis "people" and Latin liber "free man" (Indo-European root LEUDH- "grow upwards").

 Names like Italian erba reale and French herbe royal "royal herb", or German Knigskraut and Dutch koningskruid "king's herb" are probably calqued from the Greek name. Despite its independent origin, the Quenya name asea aranion bears the same association: aran "king".

 Iberic names of basil (Spanish albahaca, Portuguese alfavaca, and Catalan alfabrega, also Basque albaraka) are Arabic loans, as might be inferred from the prefix al-. The original Arabic form is al-habaqa "the basil"; cf. also Maltese abaq and see caper for more examples of Arabic vocabulary in Spanish and Portuguese. In contemporary Arabic, as spoken in Asia and the Eastern Mediterranean, habaq has become rather uncommon and mostly supplanted by raihan. The latter name has close relatives in many languages of the Middle East, e.g., Turkish reyhan, Hebrew rehan, Georgian rehani, Kurdish dhaihan, and Farsi rihan.

 Raihan is derived from Arabic rih or riha "odour, fragrance", and originally did not mean basil but another aromatic Mediterranean plant, myrtle. This is still so in North African Arabic (and Maltese); moreover, the word has been transferred to medieval Spanish as arrayan "myrtle".

 The genus name Ocimum is a Latinized version of the Greek plant name okimon, by which basil is referred to in the work of Dioskurides. It derives from the verb ozein "smell" (cf. ozone "the smelling one" and English odor).

 Pharmacological actions: ①. Antimicrobial of basil and basil oil; ②. Basil essential oil fight intestinal parasites; ③.Antiulcer activity of basil leaf; ④.Bateria killing; ⑤. Antioxidant;

 Basil leaf has been found to show bacteria-killing effects for skin application, it is used in wound ointments, and the essential oil is used to treat acne, the antioxidant effect of basil leaf mainly comes from its antioxidant components vitamin A and vitamin C, which help scavenge toxic by-products which contribute to cancer cell formation, and it is a herb with protective property against carcinogenesis or cancer formation; Basil essential oil was found fight intestinal parasites and used in remedy for related stomach upset, laboratory mice study found basil leaf has anti-ulcer activity.

 Medicinal efficacy: Traditionally basil leaf tea is used for a wide range of ailments including intestinal parasites, congestive heart failure, alcoholism, and depression, to promote urine flow as a diuretic, stimulate the body's defense system to prevent chills, colds, nervous exhaustion, etc. In Mediterranean countries, basil is used as an appetite stimulant, digestive aid, and soothing agent for stomach cramps, nausea, constipation, and excess gas. Externally for wound healing, itching and swelling from snakebites, ringworms and warts, disinfect and calm throat inflammation. In folk medicine of Europe, basil herb preparations are used for supportive therapy for feelings of fullness and flatulence, stimulation of appetite and digestion, and as a diuretic, basil oil is traditionally used for wounds, rheumatic complaints, colds and chills, contusions, joint pains, and depression.

 In the TCM herbalism, basil herb is recorded with functions dispelling mild wind and relieving the exterior, eliminating dampness and harmonizing the middle energizer, promoting Qi and activating blood circulation; Detoxification, and detumescence. It is indicated for cold and headache, fever and cough, summer heat stroke, food accumulation, and indigestion, no appetite, abdominal distension and pain, vomiting and diarrhea dysentery, rheumatic arthralgia, spermatorrhea, irregular menstruation, toothache and halitosis, pterygium covers the eyes, skin wet sore, urticaria, and itching, injuries from falls, snakebite and insect sting, etc.

 Administration of Basil (Ocinum basilicum): 
Reference: Administration Guide of Basil (Ocinum basilicum)
Herbal classic books and TCM Books: To prepare basil tea, use 3 grams of herb with 150 mL of hot water. One should completely forgo the administration of basil oil until the final determination of its carcinogenic potential. Basil tea is made using 1 to 2 teaspoons of chopped herb per cup of water and is drunk two to three times daily between meals.
 In the TCM books, the herb is recommended internally as water decoction, 5~15 grams, or up to 30 grams for a big dose; or extract juice, or prepare into pills, or powder. Externally: proper amount, pound and apply a coating, or charred herb with its property retained and apply a coating, or wash with water decoction, or mouthwash.
 Contraindications, Precautions and Adverse Reactions: In Europe, the herb basil is recorded as No health hazards or side effects are known in conjunction with the proper administration of designated therapeutic dosages, but the herb should not be taken during pregnancy as it contains about 0.5% essential oil with up to 85% estragole. So, the basil essential oil should not be used during pregnancy or while nursing too for mutagenic effect in vitro and a carcinogenic effect in animal experiments has been demonstrated for its component estragole. And basil oil or leaf should not be given to infants or small children. In general, infants, toddlers, and pregnant and nursing women should not take basil herb or basil oil.
 In North America, the FDA continues to classify basil as safe food, but it was reported that its component estragole could cause liver tumors in mice, its another component safrole, is reportedly carcinogenic as well, but the medicinal concentrations of this herb have not caused apparent harm in traditional use, even the essential oil appears to be nontoxic.

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