Holy basil is an erect, stout and aromatic herb with tender, egg-shaped leaves, usually smooth, up to 2.5 cm in length. The plant has small, purplish or reddish flowers in small compact clusters on slender spikes, small fruits and yellowish or reddish seeds. The herb is bitter and pungent. It grows up to the height of about 75 cm.
The leaves of the herb yield an essential oil which contains eugenol, carvacrol, methyl eugenol and caryophyllene. It has the property of destroying bacteria and insects. The leaves have also been separated to yield ursolic acid, apigenin, luteolin, apigenin-7, glucuronid, orientin and molludistin.
Botanical Name: Ocimum sanctum
Indian Name: Tulsi
Below are some of the medicinal properties of holy basil:
- Holy basil leaves are specific for many fevers. During the rainy season, when malaria and dengue fever are widely prevalent, tender leaves, boiled with tea, act as a preventive against these diseases. In case of acute fevers, a decoction of the leaves boiled with powdered cardamom in half a liter of water and mixed with sugar and milk bring down the temperature.
- Water boiled with basil leaves can be taken as a drink in case of sore throat. This water can also be used as a gargle.
- Basil is beneficial in the treatment of respiratory system disorders. A decoction of the leaves, with honey and ginger is an effective remedy for bronchitis, asthma, influenza, cough and cold. A decoction of the leaves, cloves and common salt also gives immediate relief in case of influenza. They should be boiled in half a liter of water till only half the water is left and then taken.
- Common pediatric problems like cough, cold, fever, diarrhea and vomiting respond favorably to the juice of basil leaves. If pustules of chicken pox delay their appearance, basil leaves taken with saffron will hasten them.
- Its leaves are regarded as an adaptogen or anti-stress agent. Recent studies have shown that the leaves afford significant protection against stress. Even healthy persons can chew 12 leaves of basil, twice a day, to prevent stress. It purifies blood and helps prevent several common ailments.
- The leaves of the holy basil are nerve tonic and sharpen memory.
- Holy basil promotes the removal of catarrhal matter and phlegm from the bronchial tubes.
- The leaves are quite effective for the ulcers and infections in the mouth. A few leaves chewed will cure these conditions.
- Applied locally, basil juice is useful in the treatment of ringworm and other skin diseases. It has also been tried successfully by some naturopaths in the treatment of leucoderma.
- The herb makes a good medicine for headache. A decoction of the basil leaves can be given for this disorder. Pounded leaves mixed with sandalwood paste can also be applied on the forehead for getting relief from heat, headache and for providing coolness in general.
- Basil has strengthening effect on the kidney. In case of renal stones, the juice of basil leaves and honey, if taken regularly for six months, will expel them via the urinary tract.
- It has a beneficial effect in cardiac disease and the weakness resulting from them. It reduces the level of blood cholesterol.
- A decoction of the leaves can be given in gout and gonorrhea. This decoction is also beneficial in neuralgia. The juice of the leaves is a well-known remedy for earache and dullness of hearing. A few drops of the juice can be put in the ear for the treatment of these conditions. The powder of the leaves is used as snuff for expelling maggots from the nose.
- Basil seeds are effective in diarrhea, chronic dysentery, habitual constipation, gonorrhea, cough, kidney disorders, internal piles and fever. The mucilaginous jelly, formed by infusing 4 to 12 grams of the seeds in cold water for sometime, can be taken for relieving pain after childbirth. A poultice of the seeds is beneficial for sores and sinuses.
- Basil juice is a valuable remedy for sore eyes and night-blindness, which is generally caused by deficiency of vitamin A. Two drops of black basil juice should be put into the eyes daily at bedtime.
- It is a prophylactic or preventive and curative for insect sting or bites. A teaspoon of the juice of the leaves is taken and repeated after a few hours. Fresh juice must also be applied to the affected parts. A paste of the fresh roots is also effective in cases of bites of insects and leeches.
- It is beneficial in teeth disorders. Its leaves, dried in the sun and powdered, can be used for brushing teeth. It can also be mixed with mustard oil to make a paste and used as tooth paste. This is very good for maintaining dental health, counteracting bad breath and for massaging the gums. It is also useful in pyorrhea and other teeth disorders.