We know basil primarily as a herb of Italian cuisine, be it as a basil pesto or in combination with mozzarella and tomatoes. With parsley and chives, it is one of the herb pots on the windowsill and can be planted well on the balcony. The “king herb” has been known as a spice as well as a medicinal plant since ancient times.
- Scientific name: Ocimum basilicum
- Common names: Basil, king herb, basil, German pepper
- family: Lipflower
- distribution: Originally in tropical and subtropical Asia, probably northern India. Cultivated in ancient times first in Egypt, then throughout the Mediterranean, especially in Greece and Italy, southern France and Spain. In the field in Central Europe, basil is not hardy.
- Parts of plants used: Herb and seeds
- application areas:
- Worm infestation
- Gastrointestinal disorders
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling of fullness
Basil contains essential oil (0.02 to 0.5 percent) with methylchavicol (estragole) as the main component. Other ingredients are linalool, eugenol, geraniol, camphor, cineol, ocimen and pinene. There are also cinnamic acid esters, tannins and flavonoids. It also offers vitamins A, C, D and E and all B vitamins. Minerals include potassium, calcium, iron and magnesium.
The "classic" basil with the large green leaves contains especially linalool and cineol, Eastern European forms more eugenol. Lemon basil primarily offers citral, cinnamon basil cinnamic acid ester. The sweet taste of some shapes and a smell like licorice comes from a high content of estragole. This is especially true for Thai basil and anise basil.
Basil relieves cramps, inhibits inflammation and promotes digestion. The plant contains the same anti-inflammatory enzymes that are the basis for medicines such as ibuprofen. The high proportion of essential oils has a slightly antiseptic effect. The medicinal plant helps against diseases of the digestive tract, flatulence, diarrhea and feeling of fullness as well as against worms in the gastrointestinal tract.
Recent studies show that basil has antimicrobial, antioxidant, liver protection, heart stimulating and antidepressant effects. It also works against ulcers, on the one hand keeps insects away and on the other hand relieves the pain and swelling caused by insect bites. It also reduces the accumulation of fat in the blood.
The experiment showed a clear chemomodulatory effect, which promises potential in cancer medicine. Royal herb is also a pain reliever, it relieves stress, soothes the stomach and relieves joint pain. It helps against low blood pressure.
Basil as a medicinal plant relieves inflammation of the bladder and kidney and has an anesthetic effect on toothache (although less intense than cloves, for example). Eating fresh leaves reduces the swelling and inflammation associated with arthritis.
Basil against bacteria
Since the 19th century, basil has become less and less important as a medicinal plant in Germany, as other medicinal products trigger the desired effects to a greater extent. Today, however, it is coming back into the focus of medical research, as more and more bacteria become resistant to conventional antibiotics - but not to the antimicrobial effect of basil.
Basil oil and basil tea
In folk medicine, gargling with basil extract or chewing the leaves was used to treat mouth and throat inflammation. Used internally, i.e. as tea, chewed and eaten, it was (and still is) considered a remedy in folk medicine
- febrile diseases,
- Cramps in the abdomen,
- Intestinal inflammation,
- chronic diarrhea
- and nausea.
Basil oil also served as a remedy for colds and chronic fatigue.
Applied externally, a porridge made from fresh leaves and / or basil oil is a medicine to treat acne and rashes like eczema, to promote the healing of external wounds and to alleviate insect bites and snake bites. Pounded leaves, basil oil or tea placed on the temples are said to work against headaches. Chewing fresh leaves, where the essential oils develop in the airways, is also a method to combat headaches and migraines.
While basil leaves have traditionally been used to treat skin inflammation, today they are used less for the treatment of skin diseases than for cosmetic skin care. For example, distilled basil water is ideal for cleaning impure skin. Gargling with tea today is mainly used to eliminate bad breath.
The juice, tea or extract dripped into the ears is a means of eliminating hearing loss caused by ear infections. In Asia and Africa, oil dripped into the nose, anus or eyes (or tea or extract) is a medicine against the fly maggot disease, which is caused by infestation with larvae that live on tissue, body fluid or intestinal contents. Basil paralyzes the larvae, which are so easy to remove.
In Nigeria, a watery extract from the leaves is used to relieve pain caused by postnatal uterine contractions.
Risks and side effects
Basil is a food and has no known side effects in therapeutic doses. However, caution is required when extracting basil oil in large quantities. The tarragol and methyleugenol it contains has a mutagenic effect in animal experiments - it alters the genome. It is also suspected of causing cancer.
Under no circumstances should you take it for a long time - basil oil is taboo for pregnant women, nursing mothers and small children. Pregnant women should not consume basil in large quantities, as camphor can cause cramps in the uterus and cause labor pains.
The name of the herb already refers to the respect that ancient cultures showed to it. Basil comes from the Greek word basilicos, and that means "royal". The Greeks came into contact with this “king herb” when Alexander the Great in the 4th century BC. BC conquered Asia and Egypt. The Greek Dioskurides mentioned it as a powerful remedy for snake bites.
The ancient Greeks used basil, among other things, for eye diseases, pneumonia, flatulence and to stimulate the milk production of breastfeeding women. Already in the time of the pyramids it had found its way to Egypt, as found by wreaths of basil. It became a widely used medicinal and kitchen plant in the Roman Empire.
In India, basil has been handed down as a medicinal and spice plant even from much earlier writings. The “Sutna-sthana” under the name “Arjaka” already mentions it as a sacred plant in religious ceremonies.
Chinese medicine uses basil to treat stomach cramps, kidney problems, to treat gum ulcers and to stop bleeding during childbirth.
Basil is available in various cultivated forms today. The Genovese types with their large green leaves most closely correspond to the early cultivations in the Mediterranean. There are also red-leaved forms, plants with small leaves, with a mild or intense taste. Shrub basil is particularly chewy, lemon basil tastes sour and fruity and Thai basil is extremely spicy.
You can plant basil in the garden and on the terrace in summer. In case of night frost, however, you should give it a frost-free location. As a plant from hot countries, it is not hardy, but needs as much sun as possible. Even in early summer, cold protection is needed on cold nights.
Basil differs from native herbs in that it appreciates nutrient-rich soil. Rich compost or nutrient-rich potting soil works best. The green herb primarily needs nitrogen - horn chips are suitable for this. The earth must let the water through, and an earth-sand mixture also grows. Basil does not tolerate waterlogging.
In the garden, it is ideal as a neighbor for edible vegetables in the yield zone. The essential oils have an antimicrobial effect on humans because they fend off predators and germs in nature, including those that infect tomatoes, cabbage and cucumbers. Basil protects against the white fly and infestation with mildew.
From mid-May you can plant the krautweed outdoors in a sunny, warm and wind-protected place with a loose soil that allows water to pass through. You can sow directly from early May to June.
When watering, you should not wet the leaves. If it gets cold, pathogenic fungi could spread better. Against fungal infestation, you should always remove the old lower leaves and put them in the soil as compost.
Basil needs a lot of water because the large leaves evaporate a lot of liquid. It is best to water it in the pot from below using a saucer. If you do not use UV lamps, the plant will die in winter due to lack of light in the home. It shrivels outdoors in autumn, and leaves die off during short night frosts.
The small-leaved shrub basil withstands water shortage and cold temperatures much better than the large-leaved Genoese varieties.
If you plant basil on the balcony, terrace, in the apartment or in the garden, you can harvest as long as leaves grow. The rule of thumb is: regular, but moderate. You should only harvest enough leaves each time that the plant can regenerate. It is best to cut the tips above a leaf axil. Then new shoots grow out of the leaf axil, the plant becomes bushy and retains the intense taste for longer because the flower growth is delayed.
If possible, use fresh basil, as it will lose a lot of flavor when it dries. The bioactive substances also lose their intensity due to freezing, cooking, roasting or drying.
Large amounts of leaves that you do not use straight away can be quickly processed into a delicious basil pesto with olive oil, pine nuts and a little salt. Depending on your taste, you can also add garlic and / or freshly grated Parmesan. The pesto tastes great with pasta dishes, as a spread, soup and sauce flavoring.
Basil is widely used as a kitchen plant and is rightly valued as an important ingredient in a healthy Mediterranean diet. Culinary benefits and healing effects go hand in hand, and food supplements with basil are finding more and more buyers. However, basil oil as such is not without its problems, since if it is used continuously in higher doses it can damage the genome and possibly cause cancer. The consumption of basil in food and medication is safe.
Bioactive substances in the leaves help against indigestion such as diarrhea, flatulence and colic and at the same time ward off pathogenic pathogens - bacteria and worms. The classic pesto Genovese also spices and protects the stomach - no wonder that basil has been so popular since ancient times. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
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