Common names: Basil, sweet basil, garden basil
Latin name: Ocimum basilicum
Part used: Leaves and flowering tops
Medicinal uses: Basil can ease headaches, nervous tension, upset stomachs, nausea, sore throats and coughs. It is an excellent source of vitamins A and K; a good source of vitamin C and manganese; and rich in antioxidants and antibacterial properties.
Forms commonly used: Fresh herb, dried herb, extract, tincture and tea.
Side effects: In large doses, basil should be avoided by pregnant and nursing women, and is not recommended for infants or toddlers. It’s safe to enjoy basil in small amounts as a spice, however.
Notes: To make basil tea, steep 2 teaspoons dried leaves (4 teaspoons fresh leaves) in 1 cup boiling water for 20 minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey, if desired. Drink 2 to 3 cups daily.
More than 150 basil varieties are grown worldwide. The plant is thought to be native to India and is very popular in Mediterranean cooking.
Besides the joys of pesto, fresh basil can be enjoyed many ways. Add whole, fresh leaves to a cheese and tomato sandwich in place of lettuce. Arrange with tomatoes on a plate and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Add it to fish and chicken dishes, tomato sauce, pasta dishes or scrambled eggs. Tear fresh leaves into green salads.