One of my favorite things to do each June is set up our herb boxes on the porch, and plan what I want to grow. Despite pretending to “plan” I always plant the same things and to be completely honest I only did so because I thought they were pretty. I occasionally cut mint for our water, and Cory used basil when a recipe called for it but other than that we were clueless. It wasn’t until I started learning about Ayurvedic, and natural medicine that I actually paid attention to the herbs I was growing. I had no idea about potential uses of herbs for cooking, natural medicine, cleaning products, and even skincare.
Let’s start with basil.
Basil is pretty easy to grow, and keep alive even for me. If you plant basil you often end up with a lot which is why I thought it was a good starting point. According to a few herbalist encyclopedias basil is associated with love, trust, abundance, prosperity, luck and purification. In Ayurvedic medicine (which originated in India over 3,000 years ago) basil is considered hugely important. They emphasize “holy basil” which is slightly more grey than the basil you likely planted, but both do have similar benefits. Basil is used across many different cultures for cooking and medicinal purposes.
Cooking with basil.
Basil’s spicy and warm taste immediately evokes a sense of that love that herbalists describe. Basil is often used in tomato sauces, and pesto. In the United States we often associate basil with Mediterranean or Italian dishes but it’s actually used on a global scale. Basil is best left as a garnish as it tends to lose it flavor when heated but it is an option to use dried basil leaves if you don’t have access to fresh basil for cooking. We also recommend filling an ice cube tray with either water, coconut or olive oil (whichever you prefer) with a sprig of basil in each section. This will keep the basil pre-portioned out for your cooking, and keep it fairly fresh. You simply drop the ice cube into your favorite recipe.
Medicinal benefits of basil.
Basil has dozens of health benefits from calming an upset stomach to acting as natural bug repellent to being said to have antibiotic properties.
- Cough and Cold
If you’ve dried your basil (refer to this) or used the ice cube tray method to preserve it - add it to a cup of hot water to lessen coughs and colds. It’s said to have an overall calming effect, and can cut through mucus to open up your sinuses.
- Upset Stomach
Just like the homemade tea for coughs - you can add a little less than a teaspoon of dried basil to a cup of hot water or a sprig of fresh basil to soothe stomach pain.
- Stress Relief
It’s easy to create a relaxing spa treatment by adding a few small cups of dried basil leaves to a hot bath. Basil contains vitamin C with loads of anti-inflammatory benefits, and is said to be able to open up your pores.
- Migraines and Headaches
Boil water in a fairly large pot and add several cups of dried basil to it. Lean over the pot, and cover your head with a towel to trap the moisture in. Allow yourself to take deep breaths for about 10 minutes while setting a positive intention.
- Bee Stings and Bites
Unfortunately this one only works for fresh basil but you can either chew the basil up yourself or muddle it if you have the option and then press it to the bite. It will soothe the area, and act as a pain reliever.
Cleaning with basil.
One of my favorite ways to use basil is to clean. It is an antibacterial herb which makes it a great option for cleaning all surfaces with. Here is a really simple all natural cleaning spray recipe, and it can be used on windows as well. Working with fresh basil and lemon the spray should be used within a week or two.
Basil Lemon Natural Cleaning Spray
-2 cups filtered water
-1 cup distilled white vinegar
-1 cup of fresh basil or ½ cup dried basil leaves
-1 squeezed lemon juice
If you prefer to work with essential oils instead you can do 20+ drops of lemon, and 15+ of basil essential oil.
Share with us what you use basil for, or if you'll start using it for any of our suggestions?