Basil or sweet basil originally comes from the middle east and mediterranean regions. It is grown throughout the world as a culinary herb. Three important relatives with similar properties are Ocimum canum (hairy basil), O. gratissimum (basil), and O. sanctum (holy basil).
Basil has been a culinary herb in Europe and Central Asia since ancient times. In India the seeds were used for diarrhoea, mucous discharges, constipation, and as a general demulcent (soothes mucous membranes); the leaves were used for indigestion and skin diseases. In traditional Thai herbalism, the plant is used for coughs, skin diseases, and intestinal problems. The seed is used as a bulk-forming laxative and diuretic.
What it does
Basil leaf contains a potent volatile oil which consists of several terpenoids, thymol, estragole and eugenol. It is also a rich source of Vitamin C and other variable nutrients. the herb is said to be antispasmodic, carminative, mildly sedative, mildly diuretic, antibacterial, antiviral, anti fungal, anti-depressant and an adrenal stimulant. The fibre of the seeds act as a laxative.
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Some research into the effects of the leaf and seed of Holy Basil and Hairy Basil on blood sugar levels in non-insulin dependant diabetics showed a positive result. In some cultures basil tea is taken by nursing mothers to increase the flow of breast milk.
Avoid in pregnancy and whilst breastfeeding.
Basil aromatherapy oil is contra-indicated in pregnancy.
Avoid the use of potent preparations of basil if you have liver or kidney problems. Culinary use is safe.
Generally, there are no side effects or contra-indications from using basil.
At the time of writing there were no well known negative drug interactions with basil.