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Common Name

Latin Name Family Country/Origin
Ocimum basilicum Lamiaceae (mint) India, Egypt, Mediterranean region

One of the most common and prolific herbs, basil is synonymous with hearty Italian fare. Yet, basil isn't restricted solely to pasta and pizza; whether used fresh or dry, it is extremely versatile and will almost always improve the flavor and taste of a dish.

Basil, whose name means 'to be fragrant', is revered by many cultures and in ancient times symbolized love, fertility, money, happiness, even madness. In ancient Rome basil was considered an aphrodisiac and as such was a feature ingredient in the preparation of many feasts.

Basil is considered sacred in India, where historically the herb was valued more than noblemen and royalty. Hindus believe basil brings happiness to the home. In Mexico basil is said to attract wealth.

The fragile, relatively small basil plant loves the heat and despises the cold. Growing up to 50cm in height, ocimum basilicum produces small white flowers and bright green, round leaves. There are many different types of basil including, sweet, cinnamon, lemon, bush, holy, licorice, clove, camphor, lettuce, leaf and purple.

In Thai cuisine, three different types of basil with three distinct flavors are used. For all types of basil, the aroma of the fresh leaves is lost once cooked and it should therefore be added right before serving. Dried basil can be added while cooking, as it has a somewhat different flavor from the fresh leaves.

Purported Medicinal Qualities*

Basil is a herb rich in reported medicinal qualities. Its volatile oils contain anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties as well as provide relief for digestive problems, acne and other skin irritations. Basil is rich in vitamin A and C, beta-carotene, magnesium, iron, calcium and potassium.

Historically, basil has been used to:

  • Improve circulation
  • Improve cardiovascular health
  • As an anti-oxidants
  • Relieve arthritis and sore muscles
  • Aid digestion
  • As a carminative
  • Remedy thrush - steep basil leaves in boiling water for 4-5 minutes.
  • Relieve pain and itch of insect bites and other skin irritations

*Always check with your healthcare provider before consuming, inhaling or otherwise ingesting any non-prescription or prescription natural or homeopathic substance or pharmaceutical. is not recommending, suggesting, inferring or otherwise endorsing the use of any herb or spice as a medication.

Culinary/Suggested Use

With over 60 different types of basil, it can be difficult deciding which type to purchase. Luckily sweet basil, the most common culinary type used, is also one of the most flavorful and fragrant. Commonly paired with tomatoes, basil is a versatile spice that will enhance any dish. Food for thought:

  • Sprinkle ground or whole fresh basil leaves on pizza or pasta before baking or serving
  • Prepare a simple tomato, bocconcini and basil salad: slice tomatoes and sprinkle with fresh basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar; add generous amounts of boccocini.
  • Freeze basil in an airtight container or freezer bag to preserve its flavor and freshness
  • Add basil to tomato sauces and other dishes shortly before serving
  • Add basil to fish and poultry dishes
  • Do not cut basil leaves as they bruise easily; use whole leaves or tear them
  • Remember to add basil just before serving
  • Add basil to any vegetable dish

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